A basic summary of Yom Tov Halachos in a clear and simple Style by Rabbi Yochanan Schnall.
Erev Rosh Hashanah
- In anticipation of Yom Tov, it is a good idea to spend a few minutes and find a good machzor. Taking the time
to find one that appeals to you can make all the difference for meaningful Rosh Hashanah davening.
- Remember to buy the different symbolic foods that are customarily eaten on Rosh Hashanah evening (see
your machzor for a list of them). Additionally, be sure to obtain a new fruit, which will be used on the second
night of Rosh Hashanah.
On Yom Tov, it is only permitted to light a flame using an existing flame and this can be a challenge when
lighting candles on the second evening of Yom Tov. A flame can be obtained from a gas, or red-hot electric,
stove that has remained on throughout the Yom Tov. Otherwise, a practical suggestion is to light a 24-hour
candle at the beginning of Yom Tov and use its flame for lighting on the second evening. (Tip: this candle might
not last long enough so add some olive oil to it and it will last longer)
- In the evening we extend special greetings to each other1. These greetings are found in the machzor.
- In most communities, these greetings are only shared the first night of Rosh Hashanah2
Since the way we act on Rosh Hashanah influences our judgment, one should try very hard not to get angry
throughout the Yom Tov3. Additionally, one should try not to nap during the daytime of Rosh Hashanah at
least until midday4.
There is an obligation to have a festive meal each evening and day of Rosh Hashanah5
- This year, since the first day of Rosh Hashana is Shabbos, additional texts are mentioned in Kiddush.
- During the meals, the challah is customarily dipped in honey6. Customs vary if this is a substitute, or an addition to, salt.
- This custom continues through Shmini Atzeres (the eighth day of Sukkos).
- At the evening meal, symbolic foods are eaten and each food is accompanied with a specific tefillah7 A list of the foods with their appropriate tefillos can be found in a machzor.o
- It is important to note that even though the Ha’motzee over bread has been recited, the brachah of
Ha’etz is still necessary before eating the first symbolic fruit8Immediately after the brachah, a bit of the fruit is eaten before continuing with its specific prayer9.
- If any of The Seven Species is present, (such as a date or pomegranate,) it should be eaten first so that the brachah of Ha’etz is primarily recited over it10.
- If the symbolic vegetables are a type of food that is often eaten during a meal, they do not require a Ho’adamah11.
- It is important to note that even though the Ha’motzee over bread has been recited, the brachah of
- It is customary to avoid eating nuts12 or sour foods13 throughout Rosh Hashanah.
- No restrictions apply if these foods are an insignificant ingredient in a prepared food14.
- Since these food restrictions are just customary, one who is eating at a meal where these foods are
served is completely permitted to eat them if a possibility exists that the host/hostess may otherwise
Hearing the Shofar
One hundred shofar blasts are blown in shul: thirty before musaf, thirty during musaf and forty after musaf.
15 This year, the shofar is not blown on the first day of Rosh Hashana since it falls on Shabbos.
- For someone who is unable to come to shul, one set of thirty blasts is sufficient16
- Boys over bar mitzvah have a Torah obligation to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah17
- Although women do not have the same obligation to hear the shofar as men do, they should still try if at all possible to hear at least one set of thirty blasts18
- Children under bar/ bas mitzvah that are old enough to comprehend the concept of hearing the shofar must be trained to fulfill this mitzvah in manner similar to an adult19
- Children who could become disruptive are not to be brought to shul at this time20
- While listening to the blasts one should have in mind to fulfill the Torah commandment to hear the shofar.
- Two brachos are recited by the shofar-blower before he blows the shofar. Someone who did not hear the
brachos as they were recited should say them on her own prior to hearing the shofar. 21
- Throughout the second set of shofar blasts (those blown in the middle of musaf) all who are physically capable
must stand without leaning on anything. It is proper to stand for the other blasts as well22
- Similarly, one who is listening to only thirty blasts must try to stand for them23
- This mitzvah may not be interrupted with unnecessary speech starting from when the brachos are recited
before the first set of shofar blasts through the very last blast24
Tashlich is a unique tefillah that we recite while standing next to a body of water25. It is customarily said on the first day of Rosh Hashanah during the afternoon and many shuls say it after mincha.26 But this year, since the first day falls on Shabbos, it is customarily said on the second day.
- Some have a custom to recite tashlich specifically next to a body of water that contains fish27. (Note that it is
forbidden to feed these fish on Yom Tov28.)
- Although there are many additional supplications written in the machzor, the main phrase that is recited is
“Mi keil kamocha…v’sashlich b’mitzulos yam kol chatosam”. Who is a G-d like You who pardons sins… and You
will cast into the depths of the sea all their sins.”
- Saying Tashlich is a minhag. If for whatever reason one finds it difficult to say it during Rosh Hashanah, it may
be said any time through Aseres Yemei Teshuvah.
Preparations for the Second Day
It is forbidden to do activity on the first night/day of Rosh Hashanah that is clearly in preparation for the second
night/day29. Some examples of preparing are washing dishes, setting a table, cooking, and lighting the candles for
Yom Tov. Only after the first day concludes – at least fifty minutes after sunset – are these activities permitted.
If this is difficult, a rabbi may be able to suggest some methods that avoid this prohibition30
The Second Day of Rosh Hashanah
It is noteworthy to mention that the second day of Rosh Hashanah is not merely a repetition of the first. Kabbalah
teaches us that on each day of Rosh Hashanah different aspects of the world are judged. In fact, the judgment
that affects us most as individuals occurs on the second day.31
As noted above, this may only be done a minimum of fifty minutes after sunset. On Yom Tov one may not ignite a new flame, but rather one must take fire from an existing flame. It is also
forbidden to light anything unnecessarily on Yom Tov. Therefore, instead of using a match etc. to take the fire, it is appropriate to use one of the candles that will anyway be lit for Yom Tov and use it to light the rest of the candles.
This year, on the second night of Rosh Hashana, a special Havdalah text is added to Kiddush to mark the conclusion of Shabbos. Spices are not used32 but a brocha is recited on the flames of the candles that were lit for Yom Tov. There are different opinions of whether it is better to leave the candles separate, or whether the two flames should be joined when the brocha is recited. 33
- A cursory glance at one’s fingernails is sufficient and it is not necessary to gaze at them as is usually done by
- When women recite havdallah, they are supposed to drink the wine afterwards. This is of course, the case
here as well.
On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, a new fruit is eaten35. This is a seasonal fruit or vegetable that one enjoys
eating and has not yet tasted it since its season began36. The new fruit should be placed on the table before
Kiddush. This way, the brachah of Shehechiyanu that is recited will refer to the fruit as well37.
If one has a custom to recite Shehechiyanu during candle lighting, the fruit should be present while it is recited.
- The fruit is eaten right after the challah38. Even though the Hamotzee has been recited over the challah, a
Ha’etz (or Ha’adomah) is still required3.
- Even when a new fruit is unavailable, the Shehechiyanu is still recited in Kiddush and in candle lighting (for
those who recite it then)40
- There are varying customs whether the symbolic foods are eaten and their tefillos recited (see above) on the
second night of Rosh Hashanah41.
Havdallah is recited at the end of Rosh Hashanah.
- The introductory phrases are omitted, and one begins with the brochah of Ha’gafen42
- The brochos over spices and fire are skipped.43
- The final brochah hamavdil bein kodesh lechol is recited and the wine is consumed.
- If at least three ounces of wine have been drunk, an al hagefen is recited.
Aseres Yemei Teshuvah
Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the balance of Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. It is an auspicious time to
make amends for all we have done wrong. Hashem only forgives interpersonal sins if the injured party also grants
forgiveness and it is essential for people to seek forgiveness from each other. It is also important to increase in
Torah study during this time as this is the most effective way to connect with Hashem.44
Throughout the year, two halachos apply to the bread that we may eat: It must be made from kosher ingredients and it must also be baked by a Jewish person. 45 (Bread baked by Jewish person is referred to as pas yisroel.)
A leniency exists that permits bread baked by a non-Jew when it is commercially baked46 (referred to as pas palter). This leniency is usually acceptable47 but it should not be relied upon during Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. Therefore, even if commercially baked breads cakes and cookies are certified kosher, they should only be consumed during this time if they are also pas yisroel. (This is often indicated on the packaging.)
Changes in Davening
Special changes and additions are made to the Shmoneh Esrei during these days.
- The third brachah (הקדוש ל- הא (concludes differently than usual.
- If this was forgotten, one must repeat the Shmoneh Esrei48. Of all the changes during this time, only this mistake could require one to repeat the Shmoneh Esrei.
- One who is unsure what was said should assume that a mistake was made unless she was davening from a machzor49
- The eleventh brachah (ומשפט צדקה אוהב מלך (also concludes differently than usual50
- Phrases are added to the first two and last two brachos of Shmoneh Esrei. When the chazzan repeats the Shmoneh Esrei, these phrases are said aloud by the congregation51.
- During the weekdays, avinu malkeinu is recited after Shmoneh Esrei of shacharis and mincha52.
Tzom Gedalyah is a fast-day that commemorates the final blow in the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdosh.53
- The fast begins at dawn and should conclude no earlier than fifty minutes after sunset. In instances of
significant need, it may be concluded forty-one minutes after sunset.54
- Tasteless medicine may be taken with whatever amount of water is necessary. Regarding medicine that has a taste, a rabbi should be consulted.55
- As a general rule, pregnant, nursing, elderly or infirm people do not fast but a rabbi should always be consulted.56
- Even those who are exempt from fasting may not eat particularly tasty foods or treats.57
On the Shabbos between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is customary for the rabbi of the shul to deliver a
sermon focused on repentance58.