High Holidays Laws & Customs


Shana Tova - On the first night of Rosh Hashana (Monday, 9/6), we bless one another to be inscribed and sealed for a good year. The text of this blessing is printed in the Machzor. 

First Meal - At the Yom Tov meal on the first night of Rosh Hashana (9/6), we make Kiddush for Rosh Hashana (printed in the Machzor). We then begin the meal by dipping the challah in honey. Immediately thereafter we dip an apple in honey, say the appropriate blessing of Borei Pri HaEtz and recite a short prayer. Then we eat a number of symbolic foods, which, according to various customs, can include any or all of the following: a fish or ram’s head, pomegranates, figs, dates, carrots and leeks. All of these foods are eaten exclusively on the first night of Rosh Hashana, with the exception of dipping the challah in honey, which is done at all holiday and Shabbat meals until after Hoshana Rabba.

Shofar - Everyone must hear the shofar blown on both days of Rosh Hashana. In Shul, the shofar is blown a total of 100 times (according to Chabad custom, 130 times). Those who cannot make it to Shul should arrange to hear the shofar blown for the minimum requirement of 30 sounds.

Tashlich - On the first day of Rosh Hashanna (9/7), we say Tashlich. After Mincha, we go to a body of water that contains fish and recite the Tashlich prayers which discuss G‑d's 13 attributes of mercy.

Second Day Preparations - Preparations for the second day of Rosh Hashana should not be done until after nightfall on Tuesday evening, 9/7 at 7:59 PM. Preparations include: lighting Yom Tov candles from a pre-existing flame, cooking and setting the table.

New Fruit  - At the evening meal for the second day of Rosh Hashana, Tuesday evening, 9/7, a fruit that has not been eaten in the past year should be placed on the table during Kiddush. Since there is a concern as to whether the Shehecheyanu blessing should be recited at the Kiddush of the second day of Rosh Hashana, the presence of the new fruit will require the Shehecheyanu to be recited without any question. Immediately after Kiddush, before the blessing on bread is recited, an ounce or more of the new fruit should be eaten. The after blessing on the fruit (but not for the wine of Kiddush) is then recited.

Fast of Gedalia - The fast is observed on Thursday, 9/9. The fast begins at 5:02 AM and ends at 7:43 PM. Nursing and pregnant women do not need to fast. 

Shabbat Shuva - The Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of Return. Shuva is the first word of the week's Haftorah. The combination of Shabbat and Teshuvah reflects the desire that our return to G‑d be in a peaceful and pleasant spirit. 


KapparotFor those unable to do the holy and age-old custom of Kapparot with a live chicken, Chabad is offering the opportunity to do Kapparot online. Chabad will distribute your Kapparot donation to needy families.

Honey Cake- It is a holy and well established custom to request of one another a piece of “Lekach,” honey cake, on Erev (the eve of) Yom Kippur Sunday, 9/15.

Mikvah- Men and boys customarily go to the Mikvah before Yom Kippur.

Food- on Erev (the eve of) Yom Kippur On Erev Yom Kippur, only light and easily digestible food should be eaten. It is also customary to avoid eating garlic, eggs and sesame seeds. Chicken is eaten but not red meat. 

Festive Meals- Erev Yom Kippur is considered a Yom Tov and two meat (chicken) meals should be eaten on that day. Kreplach are traditionally eaten and the Challah is dipped in honey. 

Tzedakah- We increase in the giving of Tzedakah on Erev Yom Kippur, especially in the afternoon before Mincha, more than every other day of the year. 

Early Mincha- Mincha is prayed early in the afternoon, leaving time for the final meal to be eaten afterwards. The service is the regular weekday Minchah service with the Viduy (confession) added to it. 

Candle for the Living- Many people light a "Lebedike Licht,” a 24-hour candle, for one’s own soul before the onset of Yom Kippur. This should not be confused at all with the Yahrzeit candles that some people light on Erev Yom Kippur for those that have passed away. 

Extra Viduy- The Viduy, confession, is said again immediately before sundown on Erev Yom Kippur.

Kittel- Married men wear a Kittel and daven with a Talit for all services on Yom Kippur, beginning with Kol Nidrei. If one wants to say a Bracha on his Talit, care should be taken that it be put on before sundown, 7:04 PM. 

Baruch Shem- Whenever we say the Shema during Yom Kippur, we also say the second verse, Baruch Shem, aloud. (During the rest of the year, this verse is intentionally said in an undertone.) 

Five Prohibitions- The five prohibitions of Yom Kippur are: eating and drinking, wearing leather shoes, washing, anointing oneself with oil and marital relations. 

Washing Hands- When washing hands after using the bathroom and in the morning upon arising, wash only until the point where the fingers meet the palm of the hand. The blessing of Al Netilat Yadayim is still recited. After the fast, hands must be completely washed until the wrist, as is done every morning throughout the year. A blessing is not recited at that point. 

Last Blast- The Shofar is blown after Neilah right before the end of the fast. The Shofar can be blown any time after sundown. It does not symbolize the end of Yom Kippur and one must continue to fast until after Havdala. Similarly, no work or Melachah may be done until after nightfall, though one may have already heard the Shofar. 

Kiddush Levana- Kiddush Levana is traditionally said immediately after Yom Kippur. 

Break Fast- After Yom Kippur, a festive meat meal is eaten. The challah is dipped in honey at this meal. 

First Mitzvah- Many people begin building their Sukkah, or at least begin discussing building their Sukkah, right after Yom Kippur.

May the entire Jewish community be inscribed for a good and sweet year, Ketivah VaChatimah Tova, both materially and spiritually!