If you just started celebrating the Jewish holidays because now is the time, or because you just found out from a DNA test that you are Jewish, or perhaps because your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife is Jewish, then you are in the right place. You are also in the right place if you finally want to celebrate the Jewish New Year in a way that it is actually meaningful to you. 

It is not the best of times, of course, since this year was truly different from previous ones. Very much so. 

Nevertheless, the Jewish New Year can still be exciting, meaningful, and beautiful. On the following pages you will find texts, customs and methods that you can pick-and-choose from to create your own unique Rosh Hashanah experience, all the while maintaining its meaning. 

Rosh Hashanah (or, the ‘head of the year’, as the literal translation goes) is not like the traditional New Year celebration in December. If you so choose, of course you can wear your most elegant dress and enjoy alcoholic beverages, however, Rosh Hashanah is a more inward-looking holiday.

It is about sorting out the past and making room for the coming year. For the new connections, the new challenges, the external and internal travels. It is about starting with a clean slate. In light of this, it becomes evident why a big part of the holiday is the duality of apologizing and forgiving. 


All Jewish holidays and traditions are a type of travel as well. Throughout our lives, we pose different types of questions and give different types of answers. Depending on our age, our gender, our mental status, we all experience holidays and traditions in different ways. 

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, it is worth asking ourselves a few questions, discussing them with family and friends around the table. 



1. When do I feel most that my life has meaning?

2. What would cause the greatest happiness in my life? 

3. What are the three main things I achieved last year?

4. What mistakes did I make last year?

5. What goal of mine do I want to achieve by this time next year, or otherwise feel regretful?

6. If I knew that I would be successful, what would I try to achieve by next year?

7. What is the most important decision that I have to make this coming year?

8. What important decision did I postpone  last year?

9. Did my personal connections become stronger and deeper or did they stagnate?

10. How can I take better care of my personal connections next year?

11. If I could change one thing about myself, what would it be?

12. If I could relive my life, what would I change?


(which have been helping us humans, for thousands of years, to find our way to the essence of varying occasions)


The instrument made from the horn of a ram, whose sounds calls us to begin our introspection. The sound of the shofar is also an important component of Yom Kippur, on the day of atonement, not just on Rosh Hashanah.


One of the less known, yet indispensable, holiday traditions is the tashlich. 

Go down to a river or a stream and get rid of your burdens, the disposable events from your previous year, the shame, the conflicts, of everything that makes you feel wrong or guilty. You can also improvise by using a bathtub, but by no means miss this tradition because it feels very good to cast away your sins. It is best if you can actually throw bread crumbs into the water because it is a wonderful feeling to physically get rid of these bad things. 

Tashlich usually occurs after worship, but it is worth going even if you do not go to pray. 

Apple and honey

We dip the apple into the honey, because the honey symbolizes the coming of a sweet new year. In the past, our ancestors attributed healing powers to apples and of course, the apple also reminds us of the Garden of Eden. 

The round challah

It is round so that the coming year will also be round, full of all good and wholesome things. 

New year’s greetings

It can be as simple as “Shanah Tova!” or “Happy new year!”, or you can add on “Tikatevu”, which means “be inscribed”, since our names will be inscribed into a book and sealed on the day of Yom Kippur. It would be nice to get inscribed into the Book of Life, therefore we wish this for each other. During this time, it is customary to send all kinds of funny or nice new year’s greeting cards, emails, messages, or emojis.

Nice scents

An important part of every holiday is the delicious festive dinner, the chicken soup, the roast beef, the fish, the honey salad, the sweet challah, the fruits… 


So that our year will be round.


New flavors

It is customary to place a fruit on the table that we have not consumed for some time, and this can be an exciting challenge as we can choose from many exotic fruits in the store and then have your guests guess what it is. All of this, of course, in the spirit of renewal and a clean slate. 

Casting away of bread crumbs

Sins and shameful acts in the form of casting away bread crumbs, tashlich. It is a very sensual and powerful feeling to throw our regrets and sorrows into the water from the previous year. 

Sweet flavors

To make the near future sweet. 

The color white

The color of purity, innocence, and starting new.

Sound of the shofar

Its powerful and deep sound which calls upon us to look inwards and to reflect. 


We have to apologize. No excuses. That is the point. Therefore, you have to think about who were those people that you hurt, who you had a conflict with and who you became distant from these past few months. Only they can forgive you, and God will follow. That’s it. It is worth giving close friends, family members and acquaintances the opportunity to give you feedback. It might sound something like this, “I would like to apologize if I may have inadvertently offended you with something.” Of course, it is also a duty to forgive if the apology was sincere. 

Avinu Malkeinu 

Avinu Malkeinu = Our Father, Our King 

One of the most beautiful, touching poems of the festive liturgy, in which we confess our sins together and hope for forgiveness. A number of beautiful adaptations have been made, one of the most famous ones being performed by Barbra Streisand, the famous American singer, which you can listen to by clicking on the video above.

Leonard Cohen and Unetaneh Tokef

One of the most exalted and heartbreaking prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur also inspired Leonard Cohen’s song “Who by Fire”.

It will be written on New Year's Day and will be sealed on the day of Yom Kippur's fast, how many will fade out and how many will be born, who will survive and who will die, who in their time and who will prematurely, who in water and who in fire, who by sword and who by predators, who by hunger and who by thirst, who by earthquake and who by an epidemic, who by strangulation and who by stoning. Who will be in peace and who shall go on a journey, who shall live in silence and who shall not, who shall live in peace and who shall in suffering, who shall be poor and who shall be rich, who shall descend and who shall rise. But repentance (teshuvah), prayer (tefillah) and charity (tzedakah) can avert the wrong.

Torah portion  - Genesis 22:1-19 

Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test. He said to him, “Abraham,” and he answered, “Here I am.” And He said, “Take your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you.” So early next morning, Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He split the wood for the burnt offering, and he set out for the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his servants, “You stay here with the ass. The boy and I will go up there; we will worship and we will return to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac. He himself took the firestoneaLit. “fire.” and the knife; and the two walked off together. Then Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he answered, “Yes, my son.” And he said, “Here are the firestone and the wood; but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “God will see to the sheep for His burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them walked on together. They arrived at the place of which God had told him. Abraham built an altar there; he laid out the wood; he bound his son Isaac; he laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to slay his son. Then an angel of the LORD called to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham!” And he answered, “Here I am.” And he said, “Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from Me.” When Abraham looked up, his eye fell upon abReading ’eḥad with many Heb. mss. and ancient versions; text ’aḥar “after.” ram, caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son. And Abraham named that site Adonai-yireh,cI.e., “the Lord will see”; cf. v. 8. whence the present saying, “On the mount of the LORD there is vision.”dHeb. Behar Adonai yera’eh. The angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I swear, the LORD declares: Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your favored one, I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore; and your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed My command.” Abraham then returned to his servants, and they departed together for Beer-sheba; and Abraham stayed in Beer-sheba.


One of the most indigestible stories in the Torah is the binding of Isaac. Abraham receives a divine command to take his son Isaac to the mountain and offer him to the Eternal. Abraham’s striking hand is stopped at the last minute by an angel and a ram is sacrificed in the end.

One of the densest, most analyzed stories of the Torah is one of the parshah’s of Rosh Hashanah, which we read in the synagogue.

Why? What do you think? It is worth reading and discussing. We will give you one interpretation, but there are many more. The relationship between the ram’s horn and the shofar is also an answer to it.


In the process of the solemn self-examination and forgiveness, the traditional liturgy lists all the sins we have committed and could have committed. With each such line, we hit our chests with our fists to feel and experience the sin.

However, we also did a lot of good things last year. The following alternative prayer lists these. It can also be added. And it's worth beating our chests this time as well.


(this is the casting of the bread crumbs)

Rabbi David J. Wolpe

There was once a man who stood before God, his heart broken by the pain and injustice of the world. "Dear God!" he shouted. “Look at how much suffering, fear and unhappiness there is in the world! Why don't you send help? ” God replied, “I did. I sent you."

Alternative texts

Here you can also bring your own text, which you murmur quietly.

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