Laws and Customs
Sponsored by the Mendal Family in memory of their parents, Shmerel Moshe ben Haim, Yahrtzeit, 14 Elul, and Devorah Sheva bas Avrohom HaKohen, Yahrtzeit, 15 Cheshvan. May their neshamos have an Aliyah.
Parsha Halacha is underwritten by a grant from Dr. Stephen and Bella Brenner in loving memory of Stephen’s father, Shmuel Tzvi ben Pinchas, and Bella’s parents, Avraham ben Yitzchak and Leah bas HaRav Sholom Zev HaCohen
To sponsor or subscribe, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For a print version of this article click here
Rosh Hashana Campaign
As Rosh Hashana approaches I’m continuing to collect money for local families (South Florida) and several in Israel. Please give generously. You can participate in this Mitzvah in one of the following ways: (Please write “Rosh Hashanah Families” in the memo)
1) Online here
2) By Venmo to @Aryeh-Citron
3) By Cash app to https://cash.app/$AryehCitron
4) With Zelle to email@example.com
5) Paypal to paypal.me/aryehcitronsurfside
6) Check to The Surfside Minyan 8910 Carlyle Ave Surfside Fl 33154
Thank you to all those who participated in the summer campaign.
We reached our goal and, thank G-d, were able to help many families.
May Hashem bless you and your family with a good sweet year with good health, much nachas and plentiful parnassah.
Lulav and Esrog Sale
If you live in South Florida and would like to purchase a lulav and esrog, please reach out to Rabbi Aryeh Citron at 7863165934 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Times are taken from Chabad.org and are correct for Miami Beach, Fl.
For times in other locations, see here.
21- 29 Elul / Aug. 29- Sept. 6
Ashkenazim begin saying Selichot on Motzoei Shabbat Parshat Ki Tavo, the evening of 21 Elul.
- Ashkenazim always begin saying Selichot on Motzei Shabbat as this is an auspicious time.
- There are always at least four days of Selichot.
- The Chazan should wear a Talit for Selichot (even if he not married).
- It is best that the Chazzan borrow someone else’s Talit if he’s donning it while it’s still dark.
- Selichot should be recited while standing. One who is unable to stand for the entire Selichot should at least stand for Kel Melech, the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, and Shema Koleinu. If one is in a Shul where Selichot are recited before chatzot, he should not recite the Selichot with the congregation but should rather wait until the right time, even if it means he will have to recite them without a minyan (see below).
- One who is saying Selichot without a minyan should omit the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (Hashem, Hashem) and the paragraphs in Aramaic (e.g., Machei umasei).
- Sefardim say Selichot during the entire month of Elul (with the exception of Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat).
- From Monday, 22 Elul (Aug. 30), until Erev Rosh HaShana, Selichot are recited in the early morning. Traditionally, the time to begin reciting Selichot is before dawn or at least before sunrise, as the end of the night is an auspicious time. One may recite Selichot later in the morning, but they should be recited before the normal time for morning prayers.
- One who rises before dawn, may recite all of the morning blessings besides hanotein lasechvi vinah (who gives wisdom to the rooster) etc. which should be recited after dawn. It is preferable to wash one’s hands again in the manner of negel vasser (6 times alternately) after dawn.
Thursday, 25 Elul / Sep. 2
This day is the day on which G-d began creating the world 5782 years ago. Some have a custom to recite the section of the Torah corresponding to each day of creation for the next six days (Likutei Sichot 16:488). I.e., on Thursday to read the story of the 1st day of creation (Gen. 1:1-5), on Friday to read the story of the second day or creation (Gen. 1:6-8) and so on.
Shabbat Parshat Nitzavim
27 Elul / Sept. 3 – 4
We do not “bless” the month of Tishrei. But the Chabad custom is to recite Tehillim and have a Farbrengen as is customary on a Shabbat Mevarchim.
We do recite Av HaRachamim.
Erev Rosh Hashana
Monday, 29 Elul / Sept. 6
- This day is the birthday of the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe.
- No Tachnun (confessional prayer) is recited on Erev Rosh Hashana, but it is said in the morning Selichot as well as in Mincha of the preceding day. Because the Selichot are traditionally recited before daybreak, it is not yet “Erev Rosh Hashana” and therefore allowed.
- One should rise early and recite the Selichot of this day with emotion and tears in order to approach the King who is forgiving and to merit a positive judgment. One should recite the Selichot slowly, with humility and with a broken heart. The living should take to heart that it is a time to beseech G-d. We should remember that we are mere flesh, a wind that comes and does not return. One should remember the days they wasted in vanity. And realize that “If not now, when?”
- A mourner may go to Shul on Erev Rosh HaShana for Selichot and davening.
- The Shofar is not blown on Erev Rosh Hashana in order to differentiate between the obligatory blowing of the Shofar on Rosh Hashana and the customary blowing during the month of Elul. This is also to confuse the Satan so that he should think that the judgment of Rosh Hashana has passed. (This means that the Satan will think that we are already deemed meritorious by G-d and no longer need judgment.)
- It is preferable that even a Ba’al Toke’ah who blows the Shofar for the community not practice on this day. If he needs to do so, he may do so in private (so that others should not think that one may blow the Shofar on this day).
- The Chazzan (leader of the prayers) and Ba’al Toke’ah should distance themselves from any (spiritual) impurity for three days before Rosh Hashana. The Chazzanshould review the meaning of the prayers and, if possible, their mystical meanings. These can be found in Sidurim with commentaries, for example Siddur Otzar HaTefilot. This is a good practice for people who are not Chazzanim as well. See below regarding the Ba’al Toke’ah.
- If a Shul does not have a regular Chazzan, they should appoint one for the High Holidays who is (preferably) G-d-fearing, married, with children, at least 30 or 25 years old, and involved in communal affairs.
- If a certain person is usually the chazzan for a certain prayer, this mitzvah should not be given to someone else. Correspondingly, one who is usually a chazzan for a certain prayer should not relinquish this mitzvah. That being said, one should nevertheless not fight about it.
- Although one who is in mourning should generally not be a chazzan on Shabbat and Yom Tov, if a shul’s regular chazzan is in mourning (may G-d have mercy), he may continue to serve as chazzan on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as well. The same applies to a Ba’al Toke’ah (one who blows the Shofar).
Some have a custom to fast on Erev Rosh Hashana as an aid to Teshuvah before the great judgment day. Nevertheless, they should break the fast before Yom Tov begins so that they do not enter Yom Tov while still hungry.
The Annulment of Vows
After Shacharit (morning prayers), men recite Hatarat Nedarim, the Annulment of the Vows (page 358 in the new Chabad Siddur). It is preferable to have ten adult Jewish men for this ceremony, i.e., one man does it in front of ten people. The reason it is best to have 10 is in case one made a vow in a dream. Such vows may only be annulled in front of ten people. If this is difficult, one may do the Hatarat Nedarim with four people, i.e., one man in front of three.
- A relative may participate in annulling the vows of a relative.
- If one does not understand Hebrew, he should recite the Hatarat Nedarim in the language he understands.
- It is preferable for each person to recite this Hatarah individually. If this is not possible, several people may say it simultaneously in front of three or (preferably) ten people.
- One who did not recite it after Shacharit may do so later on in the day. One who did not do this on Erev Rosh Hashana may do it any time before Yom Kippur.
- It is not the custom for women to do the annulment of vows. If a woman has a specific vow that she wishes to annul, she may do so with a bait din (a court of three Jewish men) that includes a Torah scholar who is familiar with these laws (see below). Or she may send her husband to annul it on her behalf (on Erev Rosh HaShana or on any day).
- Children up until Bar Mitzvah need not do the annulment of the vows.
- Some say that this general annulment only works for vows which were forgotten. To annul a specific vow, one must inform one of the members of this court who is familiar with the laws of annulling vows as to specifics of the vow. Then, if according to the laws of annulling vows this vow may be nullified, the court may do so.
- One may do Hatarat Nedarim via Zoom. All three “judges” should be in one place.
Since this coming year is a Shemittah year during which all personal debts are annulled, it is proper to make a pruzbul, in which one gives over all of his outstanding loans to the Beit din. This allows one to collect his debts during and after this special year. See here for some background to this law.
- One can either do so verbally after the annulment of vows, or fill out this online pruzbul form.
- Most authorities rule that the pruzbul should be made at the end of the Shmittah year. The Alter Rebbe (author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch HaRav) writes (Choshen Mishpat, Hilchot Halva’ah 36) that one should also make a pruzbul before Shmittah begins in order to satisfy the opinions that, without one, it is forbidden to collect loans during Shemittah.
Providing for the Poor
The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged giving Tzedakah before Rosh HaShana in order to ensure that every family has what they need.
Length of the Year
This year is a leap year i.e., there are two Adars in it. It contains 384 days.
- The acronym to remember the significant calendar dates of this year is גכז – Gachaz. ג stands for the third day of the week on which Rosh HaShana falls. כ stands for כסדרן (in order) which indicates that there are 29 days in the month of Cheshvan and 30 days in Kislev. And ז stands for the seventh day of the week – Shabbat, which is the first day of Pesach this year.
- Due to the length of the year and the dates on which the Yamim Tovim fall, there are no double Torah portions in Israel this year. In the Diaspora (where the 8th day of Pesach will coincide with Shabbat) there will be one Shabbat with a double Torah portion – that of Matot and Masei.
- There will only be one Shabbat which coincides with Rosh Chodesh this year – that of Rosh Chodesh Elul.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe founded an innovative tzedaka fund called “Keren Hashanah, the Fund for the Year.” The Rebbe explained that this fund would ensure that everyone gives charity every day of the year. The fund disburses tzedaka twice every single day on behalf of all those who participate in the fund. The Rebbe said that donations should be made on behalf of all members of the family in the amount matching the number of days in the year. As mentioned above, this year it is 384 days.
You may donate to this fund here
Visiting the Graves of Tzadikim
Many have a custom to visit the graves of tzadikkim (righteous men) on Erev Rosh Hashana. This is in order to pray in a holy place. The prayers uttered in such a place are more readily accepted. In addition, it is customary to ask that the holy souls of the righteous intercede on our behalf in Heaven.
- One should pray to G-d when visiting these holy sites.
- Many authorities permit one to ask the soul of the tzadik to intercede with G-d on their behalf. Certainly, one may not pray to a deceased tzadik and ask for his assistance.
- It is customary not to eat before visiting the graves of tzadikim. But it is fine (and recommended) to drink.
- It is proper for a man to go to the Mikvah on the day he plans to go to a cemetery.
Haircuts and Bathing
It is customary to take a haircut (if necessary) and bathe on Erev Rosh HaShana. By grooming ourselves as one does at joyous times we are showing that we are confident that the Almighty will find us meritorious in judgment and we are showing our joy in advance of this judgment.
- We don our Shabbat garments in honor of Rosh Hashana, confident that G-d will bless all of us with a good and sweet year. However, some have a custom not to wear clothes on Rosh Hashana that are as nice as Shabbat and Yom Tov clothes.
Mikvah for Men
It is proper for men to immerse in a Mikvah on Erev Rosh Hashana to ensure that one is in a state of purity for the holiday. For this purpose, one may even use a swimming pool or other man-made body of water. If one does not have access to a mikvah or a pool, one should take a thorough shower for three or four minutes in lieu of immersion. One should ensure the water lands on their heads and on their entire body.
- The immersion in the mikvah should take place any time after the hour before midday (i.e. from the sixth hour of the day and on).
- One should immerse (at least) three times.
- The Kaf HaChaim recommends eight immersions on a regular Erev Rosh HaShana (and 13 on Erev Shabbat). During these eight immersions one should intend to 1) cleanse oneself from impurity, 2) cleanse oneself from anger, 3) fix that which one blemished in the 72-letter name of G-d, 4) and in the 63-letter name of G-d, 5) and in the 45-letter name of G-d, 6) and in the 52-letter name of G-d, (for Kabbalistic reasons, the 52 letter name comes after the 45 letter name.) 7) to remove one’s “weekday garments” from his soul, 8) and to accept on oneself the holiness of the holiday of Yom HaZikaron (the Day of Remembrance). [On Erev Shabbat one should replace the 8th immersion with another five corresponding to the five levels of the Shabbat soul (Nefesh, Ru’ach, Neshama, Chaya, and Yechidah).]
Every year, before (or during) Rosh HaShanah, the Rebbe Rashab would accept upon himself an additional Hiddur Mitzvah (an extra praiseworthy way of performing a Mitzvah, a zehirut in a lo ta’aseh (an extra precaution to distance himself from sin) and a hanhagah tovah (a good practice).
This practice is in line with the following teaching of the Baal Shem Tov: The verse says “Tiku BaChodesh Shofar, Blow the Shofar in the new month.” The word chodesh(month) can also mean renewal. Thus, the verse can be interpreted to mean: “Blow the shofar with renewed energy” and not simply like an old obligation. Since Rosh Hashanah is emblematic of the entire year, this lesson applies to our service to G-d throughout the year – that one should always serve Him with renewed vitality and excitement and not by rote.
Click here for for more on the Rosh HaShana – teshuvah connection.
The Mincha on Erev Rosh HaShanah is the last prayer of the year. It is important to recite this prayer with concentration. It is written in the sefarim (holy books) that one can fix all his prayers of that year which were recited without concentration (kavana) by reciting them once with concentration anytime that year. Thus, this Mincha is the very last opportunity.
- If one did not recite Hatarat Nedarim (annulment of vows) after Shacharit, one should recite it after Mincha.
First Night of Rosh Hashanah
Monday Evening, 1 Tishrei / September 6
Candle-lighting time is 7:16 p.m.
The two Brachot are: Baruch…L’hadlik Ner Shel Yom Hazikaron followed by the Shehechiyonu blessing.
If a man lights the candles, he should not recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu as he will recite this during Kiddush.
One who will need a pre-existing flame from which to light candles on the second night should light a 24-hour candle before sundown.
Praising the Jews
The Rebbe Maharash once remarked to his son the Rebbe Rashab, “Hundreds of angels wait on Rosh HaShanah for a Jew to praise another Jew because they (the angels) know that G-d desires the praise of a Jew even more than the prayers of the righteous.”
The minutes and hours of Rosh HaShanah are extremely precious and should not be wasted. This is a time which is more elevated than the rest of the year, both in quantity and quality, in the same way the brain is superior to the other limbs of the body.
It is appropriate to recite Tehillim during one’s spare time on Rosh HaShanah. Some people endeavor to complete the entire Tehillim twice. The number of chapters recited (300) is the gematriyah of kaper (atone). It is better to recite less quantity and have more kavanah (concentration).
No Smoking Zone
Even if one smokes during the year (this is strongly discouraged by doctors and rabbis), one should refrain from doing so on Rosh HaShana.
Children in Shul
“It is the Jewish custom, which is like Torah, to make an extremely strong effort (לעשות מאמצים גדולים ביותר) that every child be in shul for some time of the days of Rosh Hashanah and participate in an age-appropriate manner in the prayers and brachot, as well as hear the blowing of the Shofar and the answering of Amen and Amen Yehei Shemei Rabbah (Likutei Sichot 29:536).”
We say Oseh HaShalom at the end of the Amidah as well at the end of Kadish. This is continued all through the Ten Days of Repentance.
After the Amidah we recite Psalm 24 (LeDavid Mizmor). Saying this prayer with concentration is a segulah (spiritually propitious act) for parnassah (ample livelihood) throughout the year. One may also recite this prayer at home anytime during this night.
- During these judgment days, one should take care to recite every word of prayer clearly and not garble them.
- According to the Arizal, when one is moved to tears during the prayers on the High Holidays, it is a sign that he is being judged at that time. Therefore, one should pray with great kavana (concentration) at that time. If one doesn’t cry at all during these days, it is a sign that one’s neshama (soul) is blemished.
- Even if one was, G-d forbid, sealed for death in the book of the wicked, he can fix this and be written in the book of life for the tzadikim by doing teshuvah and praying with tears.
See below regarding the laws of the special insertions in the prayers during the Ten Days of Repentance.
- Some have a custom to wear a kittel (a white garment which resembles a shroud) for the Rosh Hashanah prayers.
- In some communities, only the Chazzan and Ba’al Toke’ah wear a kittel. This includes the chazzan for pesukei dezimrah, shachrit and musaf but not the chazzan for mincha and ma’ariv.
- The Chabad custom is not to wear a kittel. This applies to the Chazzan and Ba’al Toke’ah as well.
After Ma’ariv it is customary to greet one another in the following way:
- To a man, one should say: L’shana Tova Tikatev Vetaichatem.
- To a woman we say: L’shana Tova Tikatvi Vetaichatmi.
- Some add the words le’alter lechayim tovim uleshalom (immediately for good life and peace).
- The Chabad custom is to say this greeting in the singular, even when greeting an important person that one would normally address in third person.
- When greeting a group (of men or of men and women) one should say: L’shana Tova Tekataivu Veteichataimu.
- These greetings shouldn’t be given after midday (chatzot) of the (second) day of Yom Tov because by then the “inscribing” of Rosh Hashanah has (hopefully) been completed. Some say that these greetings should only be given on the first night of Rosh HaShanah.
- It is customary to use round Challot for Rosh Hashana. (Some continue with this custom until Hoshana Rabbah, the last day of Sukkot.)
- I have heard that a circle, which has no end, signifies a long life as well as the ongoing cycle of the calendar. It also resembles the crown with which we coronate G-d as our King on Rosh Hashanah.
- Following Hamotzi, one should dip the Challah (three times) in honey. It is customary to dip the Challah in honey during all the Rosh Hashanah meals as well as on Erev Yom Kippur, the night after Yom Kippur, the Yamim Tovim of Sukkot and Hoshana Rabbah. Some have the custom to dip the Challah in honey on all of the Shabbos and Yom Tov meals until Hoshana Rabbah. One should have salt on the table as well.
- It was customary for the Chabad Rebbes to mention all of their holy predecessors (i.e., the previous Chabad Rebbes) during the Rosh Hashanah meals.
During the meal of the first night of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to eat various foods that symbolize good things for the coming year. The prevalent custom is to eat these foods after saying the blessing of HaMotzie, but some eat them before HaMotzie.
- Apple Dipped in Honey
At the beginning of the meal (after eating the Challah), one should take a piece of apple, dip it into honey, recite the Bracha (Borei Pri Haetz), recite the Ye’hi Ratzon (Siddur pg. 277, Machzor page 39), and eat it. This is the Chabad custom.
Some have a custom to say the bracha, eat a little of the apple, say the Ye’hi Ratzon and then eat some more.
The Chabad custom is to make the blessing on the apple and eat it first although it is not one of the fruits of Israel (see below).
We eat pomegranates as a sign that we should have as many merits as a pomegranate has seeds.
One should say She’hechiyanu before eating the pomegranate if it is the first time of the season that one is eating it. Alternatively, one may place the pomegranate on the table before making kiddush and have in mind that the She’hechiyanu of kiddush also “count” for the pomegranate.
Please note, one should have a new fruit other than a pomegranate for the second night (see below).
- Fish head
We eat the head of a fish (or other kosher animal) as a symbol that we should be a head and not a tail. Some eat the head of a ram to invoke the merit of the Akeidah – the binding of Isaac.
We eat fish as a symbol that we should be fruitful and multiply like fish.
Ashkenazim eat carrots as the word for carrots in Yiddish is merrin which also means “to become more” (i.e., to be fruitful and multiply ,both in terms of family and in terms of good deeds).
In Hebrew, the word for leeks is karti, signifying that our enemies should be cut off.
The word for date, tamar, also means to finish off (tam). This symbolizes that our enemies should be finished off.
Selek means beets as well as “remove.” This symbolizes that our foes should be removed.
The word for pumpkin in Hebrew is kra indicating that our bad decrees should be torn up and our merits be read in front of Hashem (kra with an alef [קרא] means “read” while kera with an ayin [קרע] means “tear”).
Fenugreek is called rubia in Aramaic. We are asking that G-d increase our merits (rovmeans many.)
Some say that the “silka” of the Talmud, which is normally translated as beets, actually means cooked spinach, because the Arabic term for the spinach was “salk.”
and black-eyed peas.
The Arabic term for the black eyed peas was “lubia,” pronounced similar to “rubia” which means to increase.
The Brachot (Blessings)
As mentioned above, the Chabad custom is to make the ha’etz blessing on the apple.
The custom in Sefardic communities is to make the bracha of ha’etz on the date (or the pomegranate if one does not have a date) since it is one of the seven species of Israel.
- The Mishnah Berurah writes that one who wishes to make the bracha on the apple should remove the fruit that are from the species of the land of Israel from the table before doing so.
- One need not make the beracha of ha’adama on cooked vegetables (e.g., pumpkin and leeks) as these are foods that are normally eaten during the meal and are “covered” by the HaMotzie blessing on the challah.
The Vilna Ga’on’s custom was to not eat grapes on the nights of Rosh HaShana. Since the sin of eating from the Eitz HaDa’at took place on Rosh Hashanah and some say it was a grape vine, it is inappropriate to eat grapes on these days. Even according to those who keep this custom, one may eat raisins that are mixed into other foods.
Prayers on the Foods
There are particular prayers that accompany each food and are printed in the Machzor.
According to the Shela (Rabbi Isaiah HaLevi Horowitz, 1565 – 1630), the main objective in eating these foods is that the person should be inspired when reciting these prayers.
- Although eating these foods have significance, certainly doing Teshuva and increasing in mitzvot is more important.
- If one does not like any of these foods, he may recite these prayers (or think them) while simply looking at the foods. In fact, the Talmud (Horayot, 12a) says that one should “see” these food items on Rosh Hashana.
- Chabad custom is not to recite these prayers with the exception of the yehi ratzonon the apple. (It would seem, though, that one should have these intentions “in mind.”)
On the Second Night
Sefardim and some Ashkenazim have the custom to eat the above symbolic foods on the second night of Rosh HaShana as well. The Chabad custom is to eat these foods on the first night only.
The Mishna Berurah says that in addition to all of the above “signs” for a good year, it is obvious that one should refrain from getting angry during these days. Rather, one should be glad in his heart and trust in G-d together with (doing) teshuvah (repentance) and mitzvot.
Off the Menu
On Rosh HaShana it is customary not to eat sour or bitter foods, e.g., pickles or horseradish. This symbolizes that we shouldn’t have a “sour” year but rather a sweet one. Drinking hard liquor is acceptable (in moderation obviously).
It is also customary to refrain from eating nuts as eating nuts increases one’s saliva which may disturb one’s concentration in prayer. In addition, the Gematriyah (numerical value) of Egoz /nut is 17, the same numerical value as Chet/sin (not counting the “alef” which is not vocalized). Some refrain from eating these foods until after Hoshana Rabbah.
Grace After Meals
If one forgot to add Ya’aleh Veyavo (the holiday insertion) when saying Birkat HaMazon(Grace after Meals) after a night meal of Rosh HaShana, one should repeat the Birkat HaMazon. If one forgot to say Ya’aleh Veyavo during the Birkat HaMazon after a day meal, one need not repeat the Birkat HaMazon.
- Near the conclusion of the Birkat HaMazon, after Mimarom (Siddur pg. 93), we add the Harachaman for Yom Tov, and then the one for Rosh Hashana.
- We say Oseh Shalom and not Oseh HaShalom at the end of Birkat HaMazon.
It is best for one to refrain from marital relations on both nights of Rosh HaShana. As this is not forbidden by the letter of the law, it is permissible for a woman to immerse in the Mikveh if this is the correct the time for it.
The First Day of Rosh Hashana
Tuesday, 1 Tishrei/Sept. 7
It is best to rise before dawn on Rosh Hashana (5:50 a.m.) or at least before sunrise (7:03 a.m.).
Melodies in the Prayers
The chazzan should not deviate from any of the nigunim (songs) that are customary in the community by singing melodies that he believes are nicer. This would disturb the concentration of the congregants and cause them to not pray properly. On this awesome day, one should not try to show off. The main thing for the chazzan is to have kavana(concentration) in his heart.
One who is praying alone is not obligated to recite the piyutim (poems) that are normally recited during the repetition of the Amidah but may do so if they wish.
When reciting Psalm 130 after Yishtabach during the Ten Days of Repentance, it is customary in some communities to open the ark and recite the verses responsively after the Chazzan. This is not the Chabad custom (i.e., it is recited but not responsively and the ark is not opened).
Taking out the Torah
When taking out the Torah we recite the 13 Attributes of Divine Mercy (Hashem Hashem Keil Rachum etc.) three times.
These 13 Attributes should not be recited if praying without a minyan. But the paragraph following it (Ribono Shel Olam) may be said.
We read about the birth of Isaac on this day as Sarah was “remembered” by G-d on this day regarding the birth of Isaac, meaning that G-d decreed on Rosh HaShana that Sara would give birth to Isaac in the coming year. The Haftorah discusses the birth of the prophet Samuel for the same reason.
- Some communities have the custom of giving an aliyah to the Ba’al Toke’ah (on the second day) and to the Musaf Chazzan. This is not necessary if they are being paid for their services.
- It is a merit to receive an aliyah on the High Holy Days. One should try to receive one even if he has to pay for it. The payment makes the mitzvah more precious.
- There are five aliyot on each of the days of Rosh Hashanah this year, in addition to the Maftir.
- The Torah is read with a tune that is unique to the Torah readings of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This special tune is also used for the calling of the aliyot, the mi shebeirach, and for the blessings on the Torah.
Hallel is not recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because these are days of judgment.
In many communities, it is customary for the rabbi to speak before the blowing of the Shofar. He should speak words that move the heart, engender humility, and move the hearers to Teshuvah.
If there is a brit on Rosh HaShanah, it should be performed before the blowing of the Shofar.
Eating Before Hearing the Shofar
- It is best not to eat or drink before hearing the Shofar blowing.
- Although generally one should not fast past midday on Shabbat and Yom Tov, on Rosh Hashanah (that falls during the week) when we are pleading for our lives, this is permissible.
- One may drink water before davening (praying). Some are particular not even to drink water.
- One who is weak may have a small snack. If eating after Shacharit, one must first make Kiddush. Some say that if one is weak, it is better to hear the Shofar blasts in the morning before davening in order that he not eat before fulfilling the mitzvah of the Shofar.
The Baal Toke’ah
- The one who blows the Shofar (Ba’al Toke’ah) should be a righteous and learned person. He should review the Halachic and (if possible) Kabbalistic aspects of blowing the Shofar beforehand (see below). In addition, the Ba’al Makri (the one who points [or reads] to the Ba’al Toke’ah as to what sound to blow) should be a righteous man who is fluent in the laws and meanings of the blowing of the Shofar.
The shofar should preferably be a ram’s horn. The horns of other kosher domestic animals are also acceptable except for those of a bull or ox.
- Non-Yemenites should not use shofars made from the horns of Kudus if there is a ram’s horn shofar available.
- The shofar must be longer than a Tefach (handbreadth) so that it is visible on both sides of the ba’al toke’a’s hand when he is blowing it.
- A cracked shofar may be disqualified. One should not use it unless he ascertains its precise Halachic status.
The entire congregation should listen to the brachot and the blowing of the Shofar and keep in mind that they are fulfilling the Mitzvah. One should not say Boruch Hu Uvaruch Shemo during the recitation of the brachot.
- The brachot of the Shofar extend to and include the Shofar-blowing during the Amidah and the repetition of the Amidah. It is therefore proper not to talk until the end of the Shofar-blowing at the conclusion of Musaf (unless it is necessary for the Davening or the Shofar-blowing).
During the pauses in between the three sets of Shofar notes, one should think thoughts of Teshuvah. (It is not the Chabad custom to articulate any words at this time.)
Standing vs. Sitting
The Ashkenaz custom is for the community to stand for all of the tekiot. The Sefardic custom is for the community to sit for the first 30 blasts. In fact, these blasts are called tekiot demeyushav (the sitting tekiot). According to all opinions, the community should stand while the brachot are being recited. The one blowing the Shofar must stand during the brachot and the blowing.
- The Chassidic and Sefardic custom is to blow the Shofar during the silent Amidah.
- The custom of many Ashkenazim is not to blow during the silent Amidah.
- It is customary in many communities that the one who blows the shofar during Musaf need not be the same person who blew the first 30 blasts.
- In addition, although the baal toke’a stands by the Bimah (table for the Torah reading) when blowing the first 30 blasts, he need not stand there when blowing during Musaf. Rather, he may blow from wherever he usually stands during the prayers.
- The Baal Makri only points to the sounds (or says them) during the Shachris blowing of the Shofar and not afterwards.
- When blowing during Musaf, there are various customs as to which notes to blow. Every community should follow its custom.
- The total number of blasts during the course of davening should equal at least 100.
- If one is in the middle of the Amidah while the Shofar is being blown, one should stop and listen.
- One who is praying Musaf without a Minyan should not interrupt to blow the Shofar. Nor should he ask someone else to blow for him so that he can hear them during his prayers. Since blowing the shofar when davening privately was not instituted by the sages it is considered an unnecessary interruption during the Amidah.
- One who is davening privately should (preferably) blow an additional 70 blasts after Musaf to reach the customary 100 blasts.
- After the repetition of Musaf, it is the Chabad custom to blow an additional 30 Shofar blasts in order to confuse the Satan. Similarly, in shuls where the shofar is not sounded during the silent Amidah of Musaf, additional blasts are sounded at this time to reach the number of 100 blasts. One who came late and missed (some) of the other blasts should pay special attention at this time.
- One may not blow extra Shofar blasts on Rosh Hashana as it is similar to playing an instrument, but one need not stop a child who is blowing extra Shofar blasts.
How to Blow the Shofar
- The Shofar should be covered while the baal toke’a (shofar-blower) says the brachot and whenever he’s not actually blowing the Shofar. This is to evoke the merit of the binding of Isaac who was kept hidden while Abraham built the altar.
- One should blow from the right side of his mouth (if possible). This is because one’s left side is already protected by one’s Tefillin. A lefty should blow from the left side of his mouth.
- The shofar blasts are kosher whether the sounds are “thick” or “thin.” All types of sound are acceptable.
Length of Each Sound
- The tekiah (long sound) should be as long as the middle sound of that set, i.e., for the first set, it should be as long as a shevarim and teruah combined (about six seconds), for the second and third set, it should be as long as a shevarim or a teruah (approximately three seconds).
- Each of the shevarim should last for approximately one second.
- The baal makri (one who points to the correct note in the siddur for the ba’al toke’ah to blow) should keep his finger pointed to the note for as long as that note should be sounded.
- One must take a breath in between each complete note.
- One should not take a breath in the middle of a note (e.g. shevarim or teruah).
- There is an argument as to whether one should breathe in between shevarim- teruah. The custom is to take a quick breath in between.
- In a place that does not have a specific custom, it is better to do the shevarim-teruah in the first group of tekiot (before Musaf) without a breath in between (but with a small pause) and during the tekiot during Musaf with a quick breath in between.
- If one blew the wrong note, he may have to begin from the beginning of the series he’s in the middle of (e.g., tekiah- shevarim-tekiah). The Baal Makri (the one who points to the correct note) should know the laws in this regard so he can instruct the Baal Toke’ah as to how to proceed.
- If the ba’al toke’a was unable to complete the shofar blasts and someone else came up to complete them, he need not make the brachot (blessings) again, provided that he heard them when they were recited beforehand.
Blowing for Other Jews
The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged those who are able to blow the Shofar to seek out Jews who did not hear the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah and blow for them.
- When blowing for those who were not in Shul, it is sufficient to blow the first 30 sounds that are sounded in Shul after the brachot. It is best to pause slightly between the Shevarim and Teruah but not to actually breathe in between.
- If, for whatever reason, one is unable to blow all 30 sounds, he should repeat the sequence of Tekiah Shevarim Teruah Tekiah three times. He should bear in mind that if either the Shevarim or Teruah is not necessary, it should be considered as if he is blowing them simply as music and not as a mitzvah. He should not take a breath in between the Shevarim and the Teruah but should only make a slight pause.
- If one is blowing for other men who do not know how to say a bracha, he may say a bracha for them even if he already heard the shofar and made the brachot.
- If a man who already heard the shofar is blowing for women, he should have one of the women say the bracha, as he may not say it for them.
- According to the Sefardic custom, women should not make this bracha. If the man blowing the Shofar for them has already performed the mitzvah, he should blow it without a bracha.
- A child who knows how to blow the Shofar may blow the Shofar for other children.
- One who knows how to blow the Shofar may fulfill the mitzvah by hearing the blasts from someone else. The fact that he is not blowing it does not diminish the mitzvah since the main mitzvah is the hearing of the sounds and not the actual blowing.
Davening and shofar blowing in private – a Covid Guide
Although in most countries there is freedom to pray with a minyan, since in some (Australia for example) it is “forbidden,” I am including the following halachot.
- One may do Hatarat Nedarim via Zoom. All three “judges” should be in one place.
- One who will need to blow the Shofar should learn the halachot and practice blowing before Yom Tov.
- One should not daven Musaf before the third hour of the day when davening without a minyan.
- During the Ten Days of Repentance (of which Rosh Hashana is the first) G-d accepts prayers uttered privately as if they were said with a minyan.
- When davening privately one may (but is not obligated to) recite the piytuim (poems that are normally recited during the repetition of the Amidah.)
- One should blow the 30 shofar blasts before Musaf and another 70 blasts after Musaf.
It is proper to bow down on one’s knees when reciting Aleinu during the repetition of Musaf. One should bow until one’s head touches the floor. Before beginning the repetition, the Chazan should position himself in such a way that he will be able to bow without having to uproot his feet from their place. To the best of my knowledge it is not customary for women to bow to the floor.
- If the shul’s floor is stone, tile, cement or concrete, one should place a towel or the like on the floor before bowing to make a separation between himself and the floor. This is because the Torah forbids bowing down on a stone floor (except in the Bait HaMikdash) as this was a pagan practice.
In the Afternoon
It is proper not to nap during the day of Rosh Hashana because the Jerusalem Talmud says that one who sleeps on Rosh Hashanah will have a sleepy mazal that year. One should rather occupy oneself with reciting Tehillim and studying Torah.
- Some say that one may nap after midday. It is certainly better to nap than to waste time.
- The main interpretation of the teaching that “one who sleeps on Rosh Hashanah will have a sleepy mazal that year” is that one who is sleepy and does not pray with strength, his mazal, i.e., his defending angel, will not have the strength to speak in his merit.
- One should be careful to pray Mincha (the afternoon prayer) with concentration. Elijah, the prophet, was answered when he prayed Mincha. On Rosh Hashanah this prayer is especially significant since Mincha was established by our patriarch Isaac, and on Rosh Hashanah we are trying to evoke the merit of Isaac’s being bound on the akeidah in order to transform G-d’s judgment into mercy.
In the afternoon (after Mincha but, preferably, before sunset), it is customary to go to a river or lake in which there are live fish and say Tashlich (pg. 200 in the Machzor).
There are several reasons for this custom:
- Water represents Divine kindness.
- The water recalls the merit of the Akeidah (binding of Isaac) before which Abraham had to wade through a deep river.
- Fish represent the ever-open eye of G-d.
- We pray that we multiply like fish and that the “evil eye” not affect us just as it does not affect fish.
- Those unable to do Tashlich on Rosh Hashanah may do so up until Hoshana Raba. (Some have the custom of specifically doing Tashlich on the 8th day of Tishrei.)
- Although there was a custom to feed challah to the fish when doing Tashlich, the poskim (Halachic deciders) write that on Yom Tov one should not do so as one may not feed wild animals on Yom Tov. Some defend this custom.
- It is customary to shake one’s Talit Kattan after Tashlich. This has Kabbalistic significance. In addition, this reminds us to clean our garments (thought, speech, and action) and ensure that they are clean and free of sin.
One may not prepare for the second night (or day) of Yom Tov until after candle-lighting time.
Second night of Rosh Hashanah
Tuesday night , September 7/ Tishrei 2
Candle-lighting time is after 8:06 p.m. The candles must be lit from a pre-existing flame.
The Blessing of She’hechiyanu and a New Fruit
There is a doubt as to whether the blessing of She’hechiyanu should be recited on the second night. In some regards, the two days of Rosh Hashanah are considered one long day, while in other ways they are considered separate. For this reason, one should prepare a new fruit or new garment in order to be able to say the She’hechiyanu without any question.
- One should bring a new fruit to the table before candle-lighting on the second night. This is in order for the women who light the candles to say the blessing of Shehechiyanu while having that in mind. The women should light immediately prior to Kiddush so that they will be able to eat the fruit soon after saying shehechiyanu. Some say that it isn’t necessary for women to light just prior to Kiddush.
- When lighting the candles, the brachot of Lehadlik Ner Shel Yom Hazikaron and Shehechiyanu are recited.
- When a man makes the Shehechiyanu blessing in Kiddush, he should have in mind the new fruit (which should be in front of him) or a new article of clothing (that he is wearing).
- The Chabad custom is to eat a kezayit (the size of an olive, approx. 1 oz.) of the new fruit following Kiddush and make a Bracha Achrona (after-Bracha) on the fruit before washing for bread. Some are particular to eat less than a kezayit. Others have the custom to eat the new fruit after the Hamotzie.
- If one does not have a new fruit or garment, one should still recite Shehechiyanu.
- A man who lights candles shouldn’t recite Shehechiyanu during candle-lighting but rather during Kiddush.
Second Day of Rosh Hashanah
Wednesday, September 8/ 2 Tishrei
The order of the prayers is similar to the first day.
Shehechiyanu for the Blowing of the Shofar
There is a doubt as to whether the Ba’al Toke’a should recite Shehechiyanu when blowing the shofar on the second day of Rosh HaShana. As such, it is best that he wear a new article of clothing and have in mind that the blessing covers this as well. If he does not have such an article he should recite Shehechiyanu in any case.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe would customarily lead a farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) which would begin on the second day of Rosh Hashanah after Mincha and continue on into the night. This is in order to draw the holiness of the Yom Tov into the rest of the year. During the farbrengen, the assembled would sing the songs associated with the Ba’al Shem Tov, the Magid of Mezritch, and all of the Chabad Rebbes. The Rebbe would customarily recite a ma’amar in which he quoted the Ba’al Shem Tov, the Maggid of Mezritch, and all of the Chabad Rebbeim.
Yom Tov ends at 8:06 p.m.
Havdalah is made on wine. No spices or candle are used.
Thursday, September 9 / 3 Tishrei
We fast on this day to commemorate the assassination of Gedalyah, who was the righteous governor of the Jews after the destruction of the first Temple. Although he was killed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the fast was established on the third of Tishrei as it is best not to fast on Rosh Hashanah.
- The fast begins at dawn (5:51 am).
- One who intends to wake up early and eat must have this intention before going to sleep. Otherwise, it is forbidden to eat.
- All healthy men and women are obligated to fast. Pregnant and nursing women and people who are ill are not obligated. If in doubt, one should consult a Rabbi.
Selichot and Avinu Malkeinu (Siddur pg. 454) are recited and the Torah is read.
The Chazzan adds Aneinu in the repetition of the Amidah (page 48). Three people who are fasting should be called to the Torah.
- Before the Mincha Amidah, the Torah is read. Three people who are fasting should be called to the Torah. The third person also reads the Haftorah. Sefardim do not read a Haftorah on the afternoon of a fast day.
- In the Amidah, those who are fasting say the paragraph beginning Aneinu in the Shma Koleinu blessing (Siddur pg. 108).
- One who forgot to say aneinu may add it to Elokai netzor, (before the final verse of Yihiyu leratzon etc.) if one remembers it before he completed that paragraph.
- If one forgot aneinu and remembered after finishing the Amidah, he need not repeat the Amidah.
- We recite Tachnun and Avinu Malkeinu.
- In Avinu Malkeinu we say “chadesh” and “katveinu” (as during the ten days of repentance) and not “bareich” and “zachreinu” (as during the other fast days).
The fast concludes at 7:55 p.m.
The Ten Days of Repentance
1 Tishrei to 10 Tishrei / Sep 7 to 16
Special Insertions in Prayer
- Throughout the Aseret Yemai Teshuva (Ten Days of Repentance – days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), various insertions are added in the Amida (standing prayer recited quietly).
- These insertions are Zochreinu l’chaim etc., Mi Chamocha etc., HaMelech Hakadosh , HaMelech Hamishpat , Uchtov etc., Uvesefer etc., and HaShalominstead of Shalom (at the end of the Amidah). This last insertion is added during the Kadish as well (but not in the Grace after Meals).
- In addition, on Friday night the Chazan should say Hamelech Hakadosh in the mini repetition of the Amidah (page 172).
- In many communities, it is customary to repeat the word Le’eilah in the Kadish. The Chabad custom is to not repeat this word until the kadeishim recited during Ne’ilah during which it is repeated. Whenever the word is repeated, one should contract the words min and kol into one word – mikol. This is in order to ensure that there only be 28 words in the first half of kadish.
Here are the laws of what to do if one forgot to insert the prayers for the Ten Days of Repentance.
- Ha-kel Hakadosh
If one mistakenly said Ha-kel Hakadosh instead of Hamelech Hakadosh:
If one realized immediately (within 2 seconds), then the person can immediately correct it by saying Hamelech Hakadosh.
If one did not realize the mistake right away, or already began the following Bracha, he must repeat the Amidah from the beginning. This also applies if one realized the mistake after completing the Amidah.
If one is unsure as to whether or not he said HaMelech HaKadosh or not, he must repeat the Amidah.
- Uvchen ten pachdecha
If one forgot to add the insertion Uvchen ten pachdecha etc. on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, if they at least finished the bracha with the words HaMelech Hakadosh, they need not to repeat the Amidah.
- HaMelech HaMishpat
If one forgot and said Melech Ohev Tzedaka Umishpat instead of HaMelech HaMishpat; if one realized immediately (within 2 seconds), one can immediately correct it by sayingHaMelech HaMishpat.
If one did not realize the mistake right away, or already began the following Bracha one should first complete the Amidah. It is considered praiseworthy (although not mandatory) to then repeat the Amidah. (One should have in mind that this is not an obligatory prayer but rather a “volunteer” prayer.)
- Other Insertions
If one omitted any of the other insertions, he need not repeat the Amidah. However, if one realized his omission before saying the name of G-d at the end of that bracha, he should add that insertion and continue from where he previously had reached.
If a chazzan mistakenly omits the appropriate insertions during the repetition of the Amidah, the same laws that are explained below apply to him.
One who made a mistake and is in the middle of the Amidah but does not know the law may walk and find a sefer (book) which will clarify the law. Some permit even asking a Rav (who has already completed the Amidah) in the middle of the Amidah.
During the Repetition
During the repetition of the Amidah, the community should say the additions of Uchtovand Uvesefer out loud before the Chazzan says them.
Shir Hama’alot Mima’amakim
During these days, we also add Shir Hama’alot Mima’amakim (Psalm 130) during shachrit after Yishtabach (as mentioned above). If one is not holding with the minyan, he may skip ahead in order to say this with the minyan. If he wishes, he may also repeat it in its proper place.
During these days, one should spend time doing Teshuva and correcting anything that needs to be corrected.
- Even a working man should minimize his business during these days and only work as needed. He should spend most of his time studying Torah.
- During these days, one should spend time learning the seforim (holy books) that inspire one to teshuvah (repentance) and/or listening to shiurim (classes) that motivate one to serve G-d better.
- It is especially important to rectify sins towards one’s fellow man during this time as Yom Kippur doesn’t atone for these sins unless one seeks forgiveness from one’s fellow.
- Click here for some teshuvah inspiration
One who makes an honest reckoning of his behavior will realize that there are many sins that he may be transgressing regularly. He may have become so habituated to these transgressions that he no longer pays them attention. These may include:
- Praying or saying blessings without kavana (concentration).
- Hatred towards a fellow-Jew
- (Men) gazing at women
- Speaking lashon hara (slander) or devarim beteilim (empty words)
- Wasting time that should be spent studying Torah
- Seeking honor
- Embarrassing others
- Not paying workers on the same day (or on the designated payday).
- Flattering the wicked
- In addition, one should work on rooting out negative character-traits and lifestyles which are the source of bad behaviors. Specifically, haughtiness, pursuing pleasures, excessive talking, and depression. These are the “fathers of impurity” which produce many “children.”
One should be extra careful about keeping the highest standard of Mitzvot during these days. For example, if one is not normally careful to eat Pat Yisrael (bread baked by a Jewish baker) or Chalav Yisrael (milk that is milked in the presence of a Jew), one should be particular about these matters in these days.
- Some have the exemplary custom of writing down their good resolutions and then checking them the following year to see if they kept them. If they did, they then add another good resolution. In any case, one should bear in mind that these resolutions are without the force of a vow (i.e., bli neder).
- Some have a custom to purchase a beautiful Etrog, Lulav, and Hadassim in these days in order that this be a merit for them on the judgment day.
- It is preferable for the Yeshivot not to give vacation time between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur as this time is best spent studying Torah.
- Throughout the Aseret Yemai Teshuva we recite Avinu Malkeinu (Siddur pg. 454) in Shacharit and Mincha.
Shabbat Teshuvah – Parshat VaYelech
Tishrei 5, Sep. 10 – 11
One should say Hamelech Hakadosh in the Amidah this Shabbat. In addition, the Chazzan says Hemelech Hakadosh in his mini repetition of the Friday night Amidah.
Shabbat Teshuva Derasha
It is customary amongst Jewish communities around the world that the Rav of the community says a Shabbat Teshuvah Derasha (speech) on the Shabbat between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.
Although this speech may contain other components, the main objective is that it should inspire the community to reflect upon their deeds, better their ways, and do teshuvah. The speaker should not speak negative or disparaging words about the Jewish people. On the contrary, one should take every opportunity to speak positively about them.
One should do Teshuvah b’simcha (with joy) as doing Teshuvah is a Mitzvah and all Mitzvot have to be done with joy.
Sunday – Tishrei 6, Sept. 11 and 12
Today is the Yohrtzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s mother.
May we be blessed among all the Jewish people with a good, sweet year, a year of peace and security, a year of health and success, a year of happiness and holiness, a year of shidduchim for those who need one, a year of refuah sheleimah for those who need it. and, most importantly, a year of Moshiach!