A Rosh Hashanah meal. Jews will often begin the first day of Rosh Hashanah with a family dinner that usually consists of kiddush (a prayer recited over a cup of wine or grape juice), new fruit and challah. EDSEL LITTLE/FLICKR VIA CC BY SA 2.0

Shanah Tovah Um’tuka literally translates to, “A good and sweet year” but is more commonly used to say “May you have a good and sweet new year.”

Most schools in the United States give their students off for the Jewish Holiday, Rosh Hashanah. Time off from school could be spent by sleeping in until 12 and binge-watching Netflix shows; however, some Jewish students spend it very differently.

For some students at Stony Brook University, this time of year is a special time. “Rosh Hashanah symbolizes a time to remove yourself of any toxicity in your life and look forward to a new year that is filled with blessings and opportunity,” sophomore pre-nursing major Tatiana Sameyah said. “It is a time of reflection, and during this time, I like to look back at what I have done in the past year and brainstorm resolutions to better myself in the year to come.”

Rosh Hashanah, which started on Sunday, Sept. 29 and ended after sundown on Tuesday, Oct. 1, started in the Jewish year 5780. The holiday has different dates on the Gregorian calendar every year as Rosh Hashanah is based on the Jewish Calendar which is based on a lunar, not solar, year. Every year Rosh Hashanah starts on the first day of the seventh month — Tishrei. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, which in Hebrew means “Head of the Year.”

Although Rosh Hashanah is a very sacred and popular holiday, it is not mentioned by that name in the Torah, it is referred to as a “day of remembrance with shofar blasts” (Leviticus 23:25). The name Rosh Hashanah first appears in a Mishnah, a Jewish code of law compiled in the year 3949 on the Jewish calendar. It represents the start of Tishrei when God is said to have created the world. It is essentially a celebration of the birth of the earth and the creation of man. 

The first night of Rosh Hashanah starts a 10-day period known as Aseret Yemei Teshuva, which means “10 days of repentance”, and ends at the conclusion of the fast of Yom Kippur. During that period, special prayers are said in an attempt to be inscribed in the “book of life”.

After returning from evening prayer at synagogue, many Jews partake in a few traditions that are hundreds of years old. A family dinner that usually consists of kiddush which is a prayer recited over a cup of wine or grape juice, an apple dipped in honey, a new fruit and challah drizzled with honey. Pomegranates are also served, due to the belief that every pomegranate has exactly 613 seeds inside, the same number of commandments in the Torah.

During Rosh Hashanah daytime services, a curved ram’s horn called shofar is blown a total of 100 or 101 times, due to varying beliefs within Judaism. 

Starting on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and lasting until Yom Kippur, Jews are able to practice the custom of Tashlich, an act in which one says a prayer and throws a piece of bread which symbolizes their past year’s sins, into an open body of water to be eaten by fish or birds. 

Heath Kalb, a sophomore journalism major, talked about how he and his family celebrate Rosh Hashanah. “I attend my temple for Rosh Hashanah service on Sunday night and Monday morning. I have a Rosh Hashanah meal with my family with traditional foods like apple and honey and challah bread among some of my other favorite Jewish foods — like matzo ball soup.”

Stony Brook baseball pitcher Ben Fero, a sophomore applied math major said, “It is a new beginning and a chance to work on yourself.” 

Although students do not officially get the day off for Rosh Hashana, Stony Brook encourages students to take off for religious holidays. It states on the website that “all student absences in order to practice their faith will be viewed as an ‘excused absence’, with no negative consequence.”

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