Rosh Hashanah starts tonight, and here’s what you need to know

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Grab your Manischewitz (a popular Jewish wine brand) and drink up, because Rosh Hashanah is tonight! Were there unfamiliar words in that sentence? Let us explain.

Rosh Hashanah — “head of the year” in Hebrew — commemorates the start of the Jewish New Year. But, because nothing in life is simple, Rosh Hashanah isn’t about watching the ball drop and kissing the random person next to you at midnight. Are you picturing raging parties and second-day hangover you regret? Replace that image with two consecutive days of synagogue attendance, and you’re right on the nose.

Synagogue attendance spikes on Rosh Hashanah, because the holiday kicks off a 10-day period called the “Ten Days of Awe” — also known as the “Ten Days of Repentance,” depending on how cynical you are. Jewish tradition states that during these ten days, God decides which people to inscribe in the book of life: he judges who will live and who will die. If you fall in between these two categories, you have the “Ten Days of Awe” to reflect and repent. And you thought “Game of Thrones” was the most intense thing you’ve ever encountered.

If for some reason you forget your mission of repentance during the “Ten Days of Awe,” you will be rudely awakened, quite literally, by a central Rosh Hashanah tradition. Each Rosh Hashanah, synagogue goers hear the mellow sounds of the shofar — an instrument usually made out of a ram’s horn — 100 times. The instrument looks like an oversized pipe, plays the most annoying sound you’ve ever heard (see for yourself) and is a call to awakening and repentance. If that doesn’t wake you up, nothing will.

In the true Jewish spirit, furthermore, Rosh Hashanah also has its edible traditions. Another important — and, let’s be honest, delicious — Rosh Hashanah tradition is the dipping of apples into honey. This combination symbolizes hope for a sweet new year, and if you’re not singing, you’re not doing it right. Although this tradition seems mild in comparison to the craziness of the shofar blasts, Jewish tradition holds that Rosh Hashanah is more than just the “Ten Days of Repentance.” It’s also a time to sit back and celebrate the new year. Relax, invite your family over and gorge on apples and honey. We won’t judge you.

For those too far away to snack on apples with the family, Berkeley Hillel is hosting Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur events Sept. 24 and Oct. 3, respectively. Rosh Hashanah amenities include a reform service, conservative service and lunch. Tickets are free, but students must RSVP in advance to reserve their spot.

Contact Emma Schiffer at [email protected].

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