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Good Question: What’s The Story Behind Rosh Hashanah?

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(credit: CBS) Heather Brown
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s estimated about 40,000 to 50,000 Minnesotans are Jewish. And on Thursday, many of them went to services or spent time with family to celebrate an important holiday – Rosh Hashanah.

“It’s our new year. It’s the start of a new beginning,” said Madeline Grolnick just after she attended services at Temple Israel in uptown Minneapolis.

Senior Temple Israel Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman talked with WCCO about the meaning behind the holiday.

“Rosh means head, literally, your head,” she said. “Hashanah means the year, so it’s the head of the year. It’s the new year.”

She said Jews track their time from the creation of the universe and humanity.

“We believe 5,774 years ago, creation happened, so that’s Rosh Hashanah,” she said.

The holiday falls on Sept. 5 in 2013, the earliest it can fall, she said. The Jewish religion goes by the lunar calendar and Rosh Hashanah falls on the new moon of the month of Tishrei – the first is the new year.

“It’s the beginning of the opportunity to start anew, to start fresh, to ask for forgiveness for things you’ve done in the past and start with a clean slate,” said Janet Feldman of St. Louis Park.

Rabbi Zimmerman said many Jewish holidays have an historical and agricultural basis, but Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are more spiritual. Many people attend services on those holidays. Yom Kippur, a day of atonement, falls 10 days after Rosh Hashanah.

“This is a very contemplative new year,” Rabbi Zimmerman said. “It really is to contemplate and to look at the year that has passed in order for us to move through these 10 days and look at our actions and behavior and know that we can change them if we need to.”

Some of the big Rosh Hashanah traditions are dipping apples in honey to signify the new year and blowing the shofar, a ram’s horn.

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