For my Jewish friends- Happy New Year.
For my non Jewish friends Rosh Hashanah starts on sundown September 12 or on the 29th of Elul. The next day is the 1st of Tishreh, the first day of the Jewish Year 5768. This means that the Jews have had an additional 3,761 years to create customs and rituals that makes being Jewish nearly a full time job for the really orthodox who want to observe everything.
This leaves the majority of the Jews, who are substantially more secular, attached with a sense of guilt for not being fully observant, creating a need to repent.
Rosh Hashana is commemorated with spritual reflection and long services, the high point is the heralding in of the new year when we blow the shofar with a specifically prescribed series of blasts. These customs date back well before the Christian era. Eight days after Rosh Hashanah on the evening (we start things at sundown) of the 9th of Tishrei is Yom Kippur. This is the holiest day of the year. It is a wholesale act of repentence, involving a full day of fasting. It is one of the few holidays or occasions that is not centered around food, although breaking the fast is taken fairly seriously.
Remember the Yom Kippur War in 1973 when Egypt and Syria pulled a sneak attack on Israel on their holiest day, because they knew the soldiers would be in the synagogues praying? Well everytime someone thinks we should hold off on any military actions in the middle east during Ramadan out of repsect for Muslim sensibilities, the Jews have a good laugh. Not a sinister laugh, but one of those “you have to be kidding” laughs.
Less than a week after Yom Kippur is Sukkot and then the holidays keep coming. There are more holidays than most Jews can keep up with. You can sum up most of the Jewish holidays with the three statements;
They tried to kill us,
we won,
let’s eat.