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Tuesday, Elul 26, 5783 (Hakhel Year) / September 12, 2023


The two-day holiday of Rosh Hashana will begin this Friday night. Being that the first day Rosh Hashana is Shabbat we do not blow the shofar on the first day, only the second day – on Sunday.


Q.   The first thirty sounds of the Shofar on Rosh Hashana are blown after the Torah reading. Why are they done from the Bimah (the altar), the place where the Torah is read?


A.   One of the reasons for the blowing of the Shofar is to remind us of the special day when G-d gave us the Torah, which was accompanied by the sound of the Shofar.  It reminds us that we should adhere to the ways of the Torah.  Because the sounding of the Shofar is a reminder of the Giving of the Torah, we blow the Shofar on the Bimah - the place where the Torah was just read.


Q.  Why is there a “long sound,” called, “Tekiah Gedolah” at the conclusion of the Shofar blowing?


A.  As mentioned, the Shofar reminds us of the Giving of the Torah. Before giving the Torah on Mount Sinai, G-d told Moshe to warn the Jewish people not to ascend or even touch the mountain during the Giving of the Torah; “Only when the Shofar sounds a long, drawn-out blast may they ascend the mountain” (Exodus 19:13). 


Just like the Giving of the Torah ended with the drawn-out blast, so too, each segment of the Shofar blowing ends with a long blast.


Q.  Why is it customary to eat fish at Rosh Hashana meals?


A. The Torah tells us that at the time of creation, G-d blessed the fish with a special blessing to be “fruitful and multiply.”  Children are the greatest blessing we can ask for.  Every blessing in the Torah which G-d gave to the Jewish people includes a blessing to be fruitful – a blessing for children. 


On Rosh Hashana we eat fish, which is distinguished with the blessing of being fruitful, as a symbolic gesture that we too should be fruitful and multiply. 


Q.  Why is it customary that the Rosh Hashana Chalot (breads) are shaped round?


A.  One reason is that on Rosh Hashana we crown G-d as the King of the Universe.  The round Chalah symbolizes a crown which is used for the coronation of a king.


Another reason: On Rosh Hashana G-d judges the universe. The round Chalah represents the shape of the world which is judged on this day.


Q.  Why do we dip the Chalah in honey on Rosh Hashana?


A.  As mentioned, the round Chalah represents the world being judged on this day. Dipping the Chalah in honey is our way of requesting G-d to judge us favorably and grant us a sweet year.