I'd like to wish everyone a beautiful new year.
Tonight begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year - 5770. L'Shana Tovah Tikateivu means may you be inscribed for a good year.
On Yom Kippur, next Monday, the 28th, the Day of Atonement, we say L'Shana Tovah Tikateimu - may you be sealed for a good year.
One of my kids' favorite traditions is the blowing of the shofar, or the ram's horn, during synagogue. Why do we do it? Here's some explanations, courtesy of AskMoses.com (yes, there really is an Ask Moses.com - what will they think of next?):
There are many meanings to the Shofar-blowing. In fact, the leading Jewish sage in the tenth century CE, Saddia Gaon, listed ten major ones, each with a scriptural basis. Rabbi Saddia explained that the sound of the shofar should call to mind: 1) the creation of the world; 2) the beginning of the new year; 3) the Mt. Sinai experience; 4) the inspiring words of the prophets; 5) the destruction of the Holy Temples; and 6) the Binding of Isaac, when his father was prepared to offer him as a sacrifice. It should also arouse and increase in us 7) fear and awe of G-d Almighty; 8) fear and awe of the Day of Judgment; 9) belief in the future ingathering of the exiles and ultimate redemption through Moshiach, and inspire our yearning for it; and 10) belief in the future Resurrection of the Dead.
Maimonidies explains that it is a call for Teshuvah, awaking us from our spiritual slumber and reminding us to return to G-d's ways. Another common explanation is that the Shofar-blowing is symbolic of a coronation, and on Rosh Hashanah we invoke G-d's desire to be our King again for the new year.
Keep in mind that while all of these are true and excellent interpretations, and are good to have in mind before or during the actual moments of the shofar-blowing, we cannot single out one of them or even all of them collectively as the real reason why the shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah. The ultimate reason is quite simple; G-d instructed in the Torah that the shofar should be blown “on the first day of the seventh month.”
Frankly, my kids just think it sounds really cool. And the cantor lets them come up after the service and try it themselves.
There's your Jewish education for this year - more than you ever wanted to know, I'm sure :)
It's customary on Rosh Hashanah to eat apples and honey together (if you haven't tried it - yum!). So I wish everyone a sweet, healthy, beautiful new year. You all make my life rich and wonderful. May it be inscribed and sealed.