Must-Know Rosh Hashanah Words and Phrases

Your glossary for the Jewish New Year.

Here are some important Hebrew words and terms you may encounter over the High Holiday season.

Akedah — Literally “binding”, the Akedah refers to the biblical story of the binding of Isaac, which is read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah

Elul —The final month of the Jewish calendar, it is designated as a time of reflection, introspection and repentance.

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Het (Chet) — Sin, or wrongdoing

L’shana tovah u’metukah — A Hebrew greeting for the High Holiday season that means, “For a good and sweet year.”

Mahzor (machzor) — Literally “cycle” the mahzor is the special prayer book for the High Holidays, containing all the special High Holiday liturgy

Selichot (Selihot) — Literally “forgivenesses”, selichot are prayers for forgiveness. Selichot refers to two related types of penitential prayers. The first are the prayers that are customarily recited daily at early morning services during the month of Elul. This is also the name of the service that takes place late at night on the Saturday preceding Rosh Hashanah and consists of a longer series of these penitential prayers.

Shofar — The ram’s horn that is sounded during the month of Elul, on Rosh Hashanah, and at the end of Yom Kippur. It is mentioned numerous times in the Bible, in reference to its ceremonial use in the Temple and to its function as a signal-horn of war.

Tashlikh (Tashlich) —Literally “cast away,” tashlikh is a ceremony observed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, in which sins are symbolically cast away into a natural body of water. The term and custom are derived from a verse in the Book of Micah (Micah 7:19).

Teshuva (teshuvah) — Literally “return”, referring to the “return to God” teshuvah is often translated as “repentance.” It is one of the most significant themes and spiritual components of the High Holidays.

Tishrei — The first month in the Hebrew calendar, during which Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot all occur.

Unetaneh Tokef
— Literally, “we shall ascribe”, a religious poem recited before the repetition of the musaf Amidah that is meant to strike fear in us.

Yamim Noraim — Literally “Days of Awe”, a term that refers to the High Holiday season. Sometimes it is used to refer to the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, which are also known as the Aseret Yimei Teshuva, or the Ten Days of Repentence.

Yom Tov — Holiday

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