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Erev Rosh Hashanah falls this year in my country on public holiday.

We would like to have a celebration with some other families (and a lot of kids) - it was great success last year - but we are afraid a lot of people will be out of the city due to the public holiday. So, the plan is to do the celebration another day - probably one day later (so actually on Rosh Hashanah day itself).

So, the question:

  • if we do it during Rosh Hashanah day itself, would it be as good as to do it on Erev Rosh Hashanah?
  • if not, are we allowed to perform non-religious customs, like eating honey and apples (and which ones)?
  • and also are we allowed (or not) to perform religious based customs, like saying blessings etc.

Note: it is about family celebration at home (call it "party" if you want), not religious service, like in synagogue...

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Tom Burger, welcome to judaism.stackexchange.com and thank you for your question; I hope you stick around and enjoy. –  msh210 Aug 31 '11 at 14:59
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This question is not about Jewish Life and Learning. It is an advice question on how to throw a party with a Jewish theme, but that is not on topic. –  Seth J Sep 1 '11 at 12:44
    
@Seth, there are some Halachic questions embedded therein, including some misconceptions. I think it's valuable that we were able to address some misconceptions and provide pointers to information about the related Halachic issues. –  Isaac Moses Sep 6 '11 at 17:51
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@Seth, last I looked, I by myself don't count as a majority. :) –  Isaac Moses Sep 6 '11 at 20:32
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@Seth, Isaac: Perhaps we are not as religious as we are supposed to be, but we are trying to keep our Jewish identity, which has certainly also non-religious traditional part. It is hard to find decent hints for non-frum family, so I thank you for your help given below. –  Tom Burger Sep 7 '11 at 19:57

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There is no Jewish custom of celebrating on erev Rosh Hashana that I'm aware of. It's a day when many supplications are added to the prayers, when many people fast, and when we are all supposed to repent our misdeeds and make plans to do better in the coming year. Rosh Hashana itself, on the other hand, is a time when families get together for festive holiday meals. That is when people at apples and honey, say special blessings, etc. See this page for a good synopsis of Rosh Hashana observances (and this one for more on erev Rosh Hashana, though the latter page mentions several Chabad-specific customs).

Incidentally, although the question characterizes eating apples and honey as a "non-religious" custom, it is mentioned in halacha, which I think qualifies it as "religious".

Note that the evening preceding the day of Rosh Hashana, from sunset, is considered part of Rosh Hashana (and happens to be when we eat the apples and honey). The same is true in almost all cases that one is considering a day in Judaism: it starts at sunset.

I'm adding the following is in case I've misunderstood your question, and by "Erev Rosh Hashanah" you actually meant the night of (i.e., at the start of) Rosh Hashana: A family meal is good for the night of Rosh Hashana or its day (for lunch, say). Indeed, since Rosh Hashana is two days long, the second night, the night which starts the second day of Rosh Hashana, is still Rosh Hashana, and a good time for a family meal also (and it's customary to eat apples and honey at that time). Apples and honey can be eaten during the day, also: there's no harm in so doing AFAICT, and I've heard that some people do. Also, the blessings that should have been said the night before should be said by day (SA OC 271:8).

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I suspect that by "Erev Rosh Hashanah," Tom meant "the night of Rosh Hashanah." –  Isaac Moses Aug 31 '11 at 16:00

For specific guidance about what you should do, I recommend that you consult your rabbi.

Here's something you may not be aware of, which you might find helpful: Rosh Hashana is a two-day holiday, starting this year (5772/2011) on the evening of September 28th and ending on the evening of September 30th. So, there are in fact two "Rosh Hashana Night"s (what I think you mean by "Erev Rosh Hashanah"): the evening of the 28th and the evening of the 29th. The rituals observed on the second night are essentially identical to those observed on the first night, with the addition of making a "Shehechayanu" blessing over a new fruit. So, as the rituals are supposed to be observed on both nights, either night is equally eligible for your event.

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Actually, it is quite common for families to celebrate the first evening with one part of the family (say, the wife's family) and the second evening and/or over lunch with another part of the family (say, the husband's family). So you can have an intimate celebration the first evening and a larger one the next day.

Family tradition often shapes the differences between these two celebrations.

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Itamar, welcome to judaism.stackexchange.com, and thanks for sharing your perspective. I hope you enjoy the site. –  msh210 Aug 31 '11 at 20:39

You could sanctify the weekday by adding from the profaneness of the regular day onto the sacredness of the holiday, and thereby observe Rosh Hashanah on that day as well. This is based on the principle of mosif min ha-chol al ha-kodesh.

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You can only be mosif back to plag so I don't think this answer is very useful. –  Double AA Jul 16 '12 at 2:03
    
@DoubleAA - If so, then how would one who goes according to the opinion that shkiat ha-chammah starts at plag observe the precept of mosif min ha-chol al ha-kodesh? The holiday would start immediately and there would be no opportunity to be mosif! –  Adam Mosheh Jul 16 '12 at 2:05
    
He would indeed be in trouble. Good thing such an opinion doesn't exist. –  Double AA Jul 16 '12 at 2:06
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I worry that English is about as cryptic as the Hebrew was. –  Double AA Jul 16 '12 at 2:10
    
@DoubleAA - Not true. That is Rabbi Yehudah's opinion in the mishnah of the fourth chapter of Tractate Berachoth. They are arguing on when shkiah is. –  Adam Mosheh Jul 16 '12 at 2:13

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