Rosh Hashanah Celebrated During Religious Freedom Week

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This week marks the beginning of both Religious Freedom Week and Rosh Hashanah.

Religious Freedom Week commemorates the constitutionally guaranteed right to practice and observe the religion of one's choice, free from government force or prohibition. In this way, it commemorates the First Amendment of the Constitution. It runs from September 22 to October 2, 2006.

Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset on September 22, and lasts until nightfall of September 24, 2006, or the year 5767 of the Jewish lunar calendar and is the only Jewish holiday that occurs on the first day of the Hebrew month. The words mean "head or first of the year" and is known as the Jewish New Year.

The American and Jewish New Years have some common traits, although the Jewish celebration, while festive, is more solemn. Both occasions are a time of introspection, looking back at the past year and making resolutions for improvement or goals for the year to come. Rosh Hashanah is also a time for remembrance, prayer and spiritual growth.

An important part of Rosh Hashanah is the shofar or ram's horn that is sounded every morning, except the day before Rosh Hashanah, to proclaim the day and summon the people to services. The shofar is not blown if the holiday falls on Shabbat. A traditional greeting after the service is "May you be inscribed in the Book of Life" and wishes for a good year.

Work is not permitted on Rosh Hashanah, the same work that is prohibited on Shabbat. The exceptions are baking, cooking and carrying, which are permitted. If the day coincides with Shabbat, the full restrictions apply. In the secular world this can pose a problem, so it is considerate to remember the holiday begins at sunset the night before, and it is thoughtful not to schedule an important meeting or work late on that day. Although it is traditionally a two day celebration, depending on the person's branch of Judaism, it may be celebrated only the first day.

Another popular custom is eating apples dipped in honey as a symbol of the wish for a sweet year. A circular bread, Challah, as well as carrots are served. These symbolize abundance and hope. Often pieces of the bread are dipped in the honey.

So this week, we wish our Jewish friends and co-workers a Happy New Year and we celebrate the right for each to worship in their chosen way, under the freedom granted to us all by the Constitution of the United States.

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