Why Did Rosh Hashanah Become So Important?

Quick Comment: Parashat Emor, (Leviticus 21-24)

In the Torah where Holy days and festivals are listed (Leviticus 23), there are only two sentences about Rosh Hashanah. Why does such an important occasion in Jewish life get so little space?

It is fair to assume that when writing involved engraving words into stone or writing each letter on parchment that the amount of space a subject received was indicative of its importance. Clearly, Rosh Hashanah was once a minor observance.

But now, Wow! Architects designed many of our sanctuaries to expand to provide more space for the Rosh Hashanah (and, Yom Kippur) crowds.

We rabbis do everything we can to lure people in during the year. But on Rosh Hashanah many communities print tickets to keep non-members out.

Two Historical Events

Our liturgy indicates why Rosh Hashanah has become so important. Our daily and Shabbat services mention only two historical events: the creation of the world and the Exodus from Egypt. Kiddush (Shabbat blessing over wine) also only mentions the creation and the Exodus.

Now Passover in which more Jews participate than any other event during the year grandly celebrates the Exodus.

But we also needed a big occasion to celebrate the ideals taught in Genesis’ magnificent Story of Creation.

The story tells us nothing scientific about HOW the world was created but so much about WHY!

God created the world with purpose and meaning and set us human beings to be in charge of and responsible for the world.

God gave us awesome power. We are the only creatures who can do brain surgery, but we are the only ones who make bombs and bullets to kill and maim.

Our Sages wisely perceived that we needed an event to remind us to use our power prudently. That is why Rosh Hashanah became the important festival that it is!

4 thoughts on “Why Did Rosh Hashanah Become So Important?

  1. Many messages are inserted in the text of the Hebrew Bible and expect the right time to be understood. One is about Rosh ha-Shana, the Jewish New Year Eve. Of course it is in Hebrew, but it can be explained.
    Scholars are debating in which calendar date did Creation began. Several solutions have been offered, all deducted by logic or experience. However, we can find the date in the very first word of Genesis! People know that the Hebrew letters have a numerical value and in calculations, 2×3=6, but also 3×2=6 Therefore, if we change the orders of the letters (in arithmetics “the factors”) the result does not change. It is called anagram, a new word out from all the letters of the first one.
    The first word of the Hebrew Bible is “בראשית” pronounced beresheet. But, changing the order of the letters we can also obtain “אבתשרי” alef be Tishrei!!! the first of Tishrei = Rosh ha Shana!!!!!!!
    Wait a minute, the word Tishrei is a Babylonian word that the Jews did not know when the Hebrew Bible was written. It was used to indicate a month more than 1,000 years after! And there are those who ask who wrote the Bible…..
    This is the importance of Rosh haShana! It is the date of the beginning of Creation and should be an anniversary to be celebrated by the entire humanity.
    Dr. Edoardo Shmuel Recanati


  2. Thank you for your observation that , if I understand it, Dr. Recanati, underscores the point of my essay although it does not address my essay directly.


  3. “God gave us awesome power. We are the only creatures who can do brain surgery, but we are the only ones who make bombs and bullets to kill and maim.”

    Heartrending, Stephen.

    Liked by 1 person

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