The upcoming Jewish New Year and Sukkot Holiday – What’s it all about?

Lire cet article en français "Qu’en est-il du prochain Nouvel An juif et de la fête de Souccot?"

A sukkah in Outremont

A sukkah in Outremont

This weekend is the start of what is referred to as The High Holidays. It begins with the onset of the new Jewish year, Rosh Hashana, and culminates with Yom Kippur.

Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 5-6th, 2013)

Rosh Hashanah – literally “Head of the Year” – is observed for two days beginning on 1 Tishrei, the first day of the Jewish year. It is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of mankind’s role in G‑d’s world.

What we do: The central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn, which represents the trumpet blast of a people’s coronation of their king (G-D). The cry of the shofar is also a call to repentance, for Rosh Hashanah is also first of the “Ten Days of Repentance” which culminate in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Additional Rosh Hashanah observances include:

  • Eating apple dipped in honey to symbolize our desire for a sweet year, and other special foods symbolic of the new year’s blessings.
  • Tashlich (literally “cast off”), a special prayer said near a body of water (an ocean, river, pond, etc.), in which previous year’s sins are symbolically “cast off” in evocation of the verse, “And You shall cast their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18)

Yom Kippur (Sept 14, 2013)

Yom Kippur – literally “Day of Atonement” – is the holiest the most solemn day of the year, yet it has an undertone of joy because it revels in spirituality and expresses confidence that G-d will accept our repentance, forgive our sins, and seal our verdict for a year of life, health and happiness.

What we do: For nearly twenty-six hours – from sunset on Tishrei 9 till after nightfall on Tishrei 10 – we abstain from food and drink, do not wash or balm our bodies, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from marital relations.

It is customary for men to dress in white garments and the women wear white head coverings. The white color is to symbolize purity as in the verse “our sins shall be made as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18)

After the fast we conduct a festive after-fast meal, making the evening after Yom Kippur a festival in its own right.

Sukkot (Sept 19 – 27th)

Following on the heels of the High Holidays is Sukkot, a eight-day festival characterized by the outdoor Sukkah-hut. It is intended to remind us of the type of fragile dwellings in which the Jews dwelt during their travel in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. We remember G-d’s kindness and reaffirm our trust in His providence by dwelling in a sukkah – a hut of temporary construction with a roof covering of only branches.

What we do: The sukkah (hut in Hebrew) is constructed prior the holiday with its roof made of organic material, such as leafy tree branches or bamboo. It is customary to decorate the interior of the sukkah with hanging decorations.

Throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the sukkah and some people sleep there as well.

For a more in depth look at the mystical Hassidic teachings of the High Holidays and Sukkot click here.

Wishing all of Outremont a happy and sweet new year and (the traditional Jewish New Year greeting) Shana Tova!


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  1. Gordon Martin
    September 4, 2013

    Thanks for this very lucid explanation of the holidays and their Biblical history.

  2. Kevin
    September 21, 2013

    Well, some hassid in our back alley has constructed not a hut but a palace, with a blue plastic tarp! it is really huge and ludicrous!