Rosh HaShanah-Sabbath Holiday, Wed. Night thru Sat. Night
The Jewish People begin nearly a month of holidays Wednesday evening: Two days of Rosh Hashanah, followed immediately by the Sabbath of Repentance. Sunday will be the Fast of Gedaliah, commemorating the end of Jewish rule in the Land of Israel following the destruction of the First Holy Temple some 2,500 years ago.
This coming week, until Yom Kippur (Sabbath, Sep. 22), marks the bulk of the Ten Days of Repentance, in which Jews take upon themselves to more carefully fulfill the Torah's commandments, vis-a-vis both G-d and fellow man.
Five days after Yom Kippur, the holiday of Sukkot begins. In Israel, the holiday is seven days long - one day of a Sabbath-like holiday, followed by six days of Chol HaMoed, on which many every-day activities are permitted. Immediately afterwards, on Thursday, Oct. 4, is the one-day Sabbath-like holiday of Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, known as the Rejoicing of the Law. Thursday night will see post-holiday Hakafot Shniyot celebrations - a continuation of the day's singing and dancing in honor of the Torah - all around the country.
Outside Israel, the holidays are celebrated slightly differently. Sukkot begins with a two-day Sabbath-like holiday, followed immediately by the Sabbath and then four days of Chol HaMoed, on which many every-day activities are permitted. Immediately afterwards, on Thursday, Oct. 4, are two days of Sabbath-like holidays: Shmini Atzeret, and then Simchat Torah, known as the Rejoicing of the Law, followed once again immediately by the Sabbath.
The Rosh HaShanah prayers - longer, more melodious, and more intense and inspirational than usual - concentrate on G-d's Kingship and His judgment of all creatures. Based on the commandment in Numbers 29:1, one hundred shofar blasts are dramatically sounded throughout the prayers, "awakening" us to improve our ways. The Tashlikh prayer is recited on Thursday afternoon, preferably by a live stream of water in which we ask G-d to "throw away" our sins.
Upon returning home, special foods are served, especially sweet ones for a sweet year, as well as fruits (such as pomegranates) that require a special Shehecheyanu blessing in honor of their being eaten for the first time since the previous season.
As many as 30,000 Jews of all stripes, mainly Breslover Hassidim, are already in Uman, in Ukraine, to spend the holiday at the gravesite synagogues of their spiritual leader, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, who passed away in Tishrei of 1810. Many say that their "Rosh HaShanah in Uman" is a life-changing experience, or at least provides them the spiritual replenishment they need for the coming year. Some rabbis, however, oppose the idea of leaving the Holy Land to spend holy days in the Diaspora.