You might have noticed that every year at around this time, your Jewish coworkers are absent from work for a day or two. This happens not because they’re attending an annual summit in which all the Jews gather to discuss how they’re going to take over the world, because that’s a different holiday called “Chash Vanasha Chah.” No, the Hebrew holiday going on this week is called “Rosh Hashanah,” and it’s a celebration of sweetness, new beginnings, and wearing a wrinkled suit that hasn’t been washed since your freshman year of college.
Rosh Hashanah, which literally translates to “The Calendar’s Foot,” is the Jewish New Year, or “Jew Year,” as it is commonly known. Rosh Hashanah is always celebrated in the fall, but is always a different date. This is because in Judaism it is a sin to repeat the same thing twice, whether it’s holidays, prayers, or even jokes.
The story behind Rosh Hashanah dates back to the year 400 B.C.E. The Jews at this time were a group of nomadic shepherds and television producers. They found that as they traveled around places like Mesopotamia and New Jersey, the temperature would consistently change over the course of a year. The first day when it became chilly enough to wear a scarf was signified as the first day of the New Year. Many Jews still wear a scarf, or “tallit,” that their ancestors wore to show that they’re unsatisfied with the current temperature. It is also tradition among the Jewish people to inquire about whether or not the temperature of a room can be changed every five minutes or so.
There are many fun and exciting ways to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. Jews gather at their local “synagogue,” which is a place of worship and not a business term that means something about teamwork, where they sing prayers, worship their deity, and get an aerobics workout by periodically standing and sitting at seemingly random times and for unclear reasons throughout the service. The service is lead by a rabbi who spends the rest of the year hibernating in a giant jar of kosher goo. The length of the service varies every year depending on the day of the week, and certain prayers will change in importance, as well. This is because in Judaism it is a sin to repeat the same thing twice, whether it’s holidays, prayers, or even jokes.
Rosh Hashanah is notable as being one of the few Jewish holidays that does not celebrate overcoming some sort of persecution. Instead it is a time for the Jews to take part in hopeful activities such as reflecting on the past year, making plans for the new year, and reading words from a book aloud in unison. Many American Jews have also integrated modern-day New Years celebrations into their Rosh Hashanah traditions by getting drunk and making out with a stranger.
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