Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and lasts for two days, falling at the beginning of the Jewish month of Tishrei. The festival is already in the conscience of Jewish people from the preceding month of Elul which is a time of preparation for the upcoming solemn days of Rosh Hashanah. The day before Rosh Hashanah often goes unnoticed but it has its own interesting prayers and customs and it is a shame to not pay attention to it
Morning Services on the day before Rosh Hashanah
- A series of penitential prayers and liturgy called Selichot are recited throughout the month of Elul in preparation for the High Holy Days that begin with the festival of Rosh Hashanah. The Selichot reach their climax on the day before Rosh Hashanah with the recitation of a section called Zechor Brit (Remember Your Covenant). Selichot on the day before Rosh Hashanah are slightly longer than those said throughout Elul and are customarily said in the very early hours of the morning, often followed by the morning prayers.
- There is a confessional section of prayer that is called Tachanun and perhaps counter-intuitively, it is omitted on the day before Rosh Hashanah. This is the practice with all festivals in the Jewish calendar. Despite the fact that Rosh Hashanah is a Day of Judgment it is still a festival and we approach it in confidence that G-d will judge us favorably.
- The Shofar is blown every day throughout the month of Elul, yet on the day before Rosh Hashanah it is not. This is so as to make a separation between the customary soundings of the Shofar of the month of Elul and the biblically-ordained soundings of the Shofar of Rosh Hashanah.
- It is customary to perform the Hatarat Nedarim (annulment of the vows) ceremony after the morning prayers on the day before Rosh Hashanah- this is so as to repeal vows that one took upon himself during the previous year so as to begin Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, free from the sin of unfulfilled vows.
Visiting the Graves of Righteous People
It is customary to visit the graves of righteous people on the day before Rosh Hashanah, asking them to “intercede” on our behalf, praying to G-d that in the merit of the righteous people he will have mercy on us.
It is customary for men to visit a ritual pool (called a Mikvah in Hebrew) on the day before Rosh Hashanah so as to enter the holy day of Rosh Hashanah in a purified state.
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