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Halachot for Rosh Hashanah

Rabbi Dovid Horwitz


Erev Rosh Hashanah

1. It is customary on Erev Rosh Hashanah to do Hatarat Nedarim in front of three men over the age of bar mitzvah. Because it is difficult for the beit din to hear more than one voice clearly at the same time, each person should recite it separately. This is also the reason why we don’t rely on the communal recitation of Kol Nidrei alone.

2. Hatarat Nedarim works only for nedarim that one has forgotten, not on those that he still remembers.

3. Women are also obligated to request Hatarat Nedarim. Their custom is to rely on the communal recitation of Kol Nidrei on Yom Kippur. It is suggested that a married woman appoint her husband as her agent to do Hatarat Nedarim for her on Erev Rosh Hashanah. Before doing his hatarah, he shouldspecify to the judges that his request is also on behalf of his wife.

4. We relate to Rosh Hashanah as a joyous Yom Tov and therefore we bathe and groom ourselves beforehand. Although a person being led to trial for a serious crime is not concerned over his physical appearance, we have faith in Hashem’s mercy and therefore we approach Rosh Hashanah with a joyous heart and positive attitude.

5. As we also relate to the Day of Judgment with an element of sobriety, our clothing should not be as elegant and festive as that which we wear on other Yamim Tovim.

6. It is customary for men to immerse in a mikvah on erev Rosh Hashanah and to pray at the graves of Tzaddikim, beseeching Hashem for mercy in their merit.




Rosh Hashanah Prayers

1.For the entire period from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur we insert the phrase HaMelech HaKadosh in the third brachah of theShemoneh Esrei in place of Ha’El HaKadosh.

2. If one forgot to say HaMelech HaKadosh, and instead used the regular formula, he must begin again from the beginning of the Shemoneh Esrei.

3. Likewise, we substitute the phrase “HaMelech HaMishpat” in the eleventh brachah of the Shemoneh Esrei. In this case, if one forgot and used the regular formula, according to Sefardic custom, he should resume his prayer from the beginning of this brachah. If he only remembered after having completed the Shemoneh Esrei, he should begin again from the beginning. According to the Ashkenazic custom, one need not go back at all, even if he has not yet completed the Shemoneh Esrei.

4. Also during this time, we include several other pleas for Divine mercy in our Shemoneh Esrei. However, since these phrases constitute later additions to the prayers and are not obligatory, one who forgot to mention them need not go back.

5. Although a person is allowed to pray aloud in order to increase his level of concentration, the consensus of most Poskim is to discourage this practice. The Zohar even goes so far as to say that prayers that are offered by one who prays out loud are not accepted in Heaven.

Rosh Hashanah Greetings

After the prayer services on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to greet our friends with the special blessing of, “May you be written and sealed for a good year!” After this time, we greet each other with the regular “Gut Yom Tov” or “Chag Samayach” wishes.

Good Omens

1. On both nights of Rosh Hashanah, there is a custom to eat special foods as a good omen for the year to come. Apples and honey are universally eaten. Other signs include dates, beets, pomegranates, pumpkin, fish, fish heads, leeks, and carrots.

2. Many have the custom to eat the apple first, even though the dates and pomegranates should take precedence since they are from the seven fruits of Eretz Yisrael. They reason that since the apple is dearer to them at this time, it precedes the dates. Others maintain that one should eat the dates first, then the pomegranate, and only afterwards the apple.

3. Before eating any of the fruits, a brachah of Borei Pri Ha’Eitz needs to be made. Even though we have already made the brachah on the bread and are now in the middle of a meal, since these fruits are not being eaten as an integral part of the meal, they are not exempted by the brachah of Ha’Motzi.

4. After reciting the brachah on the first fruit, one should first take a small bite, and only afterward recite the special tefillah, Ye’hi Ratzon, which is appropriate for that fruit.

5. Likewise, one should make a brachah on the first one of the vegetables that he eats as well.  Even though vegetables are normally considered an integral part of the meal and are therefore exempted by the Ha’Motzi, since in this case they are being eaten merely as a sign and not as part of the meal, a brachah is required.

6. Here as well, a small bite should be taken after making the brachah and before reciting the special tefillah appropriate to that vegetable.

7. The Mishnah Berurah writes that in addition to dipping the apple into honey, there is also a custom to dip one’s bread into honey.

8. We continue this custom until Simchat Torah as a symbol of a sweet year.

9.  Nevertheless, the custom of dipping the bread in salt should not be forgotten during this time. The best way to observe both these customs is to dip each piece of bread into honey on one side and salt on the other. The part with the salt should be eaten first.

10.It is customary not to eat foods that are sour or prepared with vinegar on Rosh Hashanah, including pickles, salad dressings with vinegar, and the like.

11. It is also customary not to eat nuts on Rosh Hashanah, since the Hebrew word for nut, egoz, has the same numerical value as chait, transgression. According to one custom, nuts are not eaten again until after Simchat Torah.


Tashlich

1. There is a beautiful custom to walk to a river or stream and recite Tashlich, additional supplications to Hashem. This commemorates the Akeidat Yitzchak, when Avraham Avinu walked through a raging river to carry out his test of offering up his son as a sacrifice to Hashem.

2. In the absence of a flowing natural body of water, any body of water is sufficient.

3. Tashlich should preferably be recited after Minchah, but before sunset on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Nowadays, since there isn’t much time after Minchah, Tashlich is usually recited before Minchah.

4. When the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, many have the custom to say Tashlich on the second day, lest people  carry their machzorim to areas where there is no eiruv.

Rosh Hashanah Morning

Since it is a day of Divine judgment, the poskim write that it is not appropriate that one sleep during the day on Rosh Hashanah. The Mishnah Berurah writes that since the Arizal permits sleeping after midday, if a person is sleepy and will not be able to do anything constructive anyway, he can take a nap in the afternoon.

Blowing of the Shofar

1. Just as it is forbidden to eat before one shakes the lulav or hears the reading of the Megilla, it is likewise forbidden to eat before one fulfills the mitzvah of hearing the shofar.

2. There are some shuls that provide a Kiddush before Tekiat Shofar. They reason that since we are of weak constitution, the lack of food and drink may adversely affect our health and our concentration in prayer.

3. Since this leniency is quite controversial, it should only be relied upon in cases of great need.

4. Nevertheless, one is allowed to drink water, tea and coffee before he or she davens Shacharit on Rosh Hashanah morning.

5. One should take care to hear every word of the brachot that the shofar blower recites, as we fulfill our obligation by listening to him. For this reason, we do not answer Baruch Hu U’Varuch Sh’mo during these brachot.

6. If one missed hearing even one word of a brachah, he or she should quickly recite it himself making sure to complete one’s recitation before the shofar blowing begins.

7. Likewise, one must concentrate on hearing each shofar blast from beginning to end.

8. One should refrain from making any noise during the blowing because it can cause others to lose their concentration or miss part of a blast.

9. Although women are not technically obligated to hear the shofar, over the generations they have taken upon themselves the obligation to fulfill the mitzvah. Therefore, they must make an effort to come to shul and hear the shofar.

10. The prevailing custom is to hear one hundred shofar blasts on each day of Rosh Hashanah. However, women do not need to hear all one hundred, since they are not halachically obligated in this mitzvah. It suffices for them to hear the thirty tekiot before Musaf, during Musaf, or after Musaf.

11. The Ashkenazic custom is to blow thirty blasts before Musaf, thirty blasts during the Chazzan’s repetition of Musaf, thirty blasts after Musaf, and ten blasts after Aleinu, totaling one hundred blasts.

12. Since all 100 blasts are considered to be part of the mitzvah of Tekiat Shofar, one is not allowed to talk from the brachah of “Tekiat Shofar” until after the last of the one hundred blasts at the end of the prayers.

13. Nevertheless, if one went to the restroom, he is allowed to recite the brachah of Asher Yatzar, and it is not considered an interruption in the tekiot.

The Second Night of Rosh Hashanah

1. It is questionable whether one should recite the brachah of Sh’hechiyanu again on the second night of Rosh Hashanah. Therefore one should try to have a new fruit on the table during Kiddush so that the brachah will at least be warranted for the fruit if not for the day itself.

2. Some of this fruit should be eaten immediately after Kiddush, before washing the hands for bread.


May we merit as one a good, sweet New Year!

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