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    Rosh HaShanah in history – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. I know all about the other festivals because of the events they commemorate. Can you tell me what history there is behind Rosh HaShanah?

    A. The main event is the creation of the world, more precisely the creation of Adam on the sixth day. Hence the liturgy says, Hayom harat olam, “This is the birthday of the world”.

    Other events which are said to have occurred on Rosh HaShanah are:
    • Cain and Abel bringing their sacrifices;
    • the Binding of Isaac (the Akedah);
    • Jacob’s arrival at Bet-El and his dream of the ladder;
    • God hearing the prayers of three childless women, Sarah, Rachel and Hannah;
    • Joseph’s release from prison in Egypt; and
    • the great assembly of the people called by Ezra and Nechemiah.

    Other events in medieval and modern times also occurred on Rosh HaShanah.

    With all this background, there is ample reason to regard it as a historical commemoration, but Jewish tradition has chosen only one main event to focus on – the creation of the world, in order to invest Rosh HaShanah with the significance of a Divine Day of Judgment on which the whole of creation comes under scrutiny.

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