The Halachos and Minhagim of Rosh Hashanah: A Review


By Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski

The following is meant as a convenient review of Halachos pertaining to Rosh Hashana. The Piskei Din for the most part are based purely on the Sugyos, Shulchan Aruch and Ramah, and the Mishna Berura, unless stated otherwise. They are based on my understanding of the aforementioned texts through the teachings of my Rebeim. As individual circumstances are often important in determining the psak in specific cases, and as there may be different approaches to some of the issues, one should always check with one’s Rov first.

Hilchos Uminhagei Rosh Hashana:


Erev Rosh Hashana:

  • Fasting Erev Rosh Hashana: Some people have a Minhag to fast on Erev Rosh Hashana.
    1. A person does not have to accept the fast upon himself at Mincha the day before (as is nescesary by other voluntary fasts), but rather can choose to fast upon awakening on Erev Rosh Hashana.
      1. Nowadays many don’t fast at all, but many of those who fast do so only until after Chatzos.
        • If someone fasts until after davening Mincha, he should say “Aneinu” in the Mincha Shmonei Esrei.
      2. There are those that fast until close to the beginning of Rosh Hashana. They end their fast before Rosh Hashana so as not to come into the Yom-Tov fasting (as this may be forbidden).
    2. Women do not fast on Erev Rosh Hashana.
    3. As this fast isn’t obligatory there is no need to educate (be Mechanech) children to fast.
  • There are those that are Noheg to go to Jewish cemeteries Erev Rosh Hashana.
    1. If this is someone’s Minhag, the person should go and be careful not to daven to the deceased but rather to daven to Hashem in the zechus (merit) of the deceased.
      1. There are those that maintain it is also alright to beseech the deceased to be meilitz yosher for them.
    2. After going to the Kevarim the Minhag is to give Tzedaka.
    3. If this is not one’s Minhag, one should not start to do so.
  • We are noheg that men go to the mikvah Erev Rosh Hashana.
    1. If one isn’t noheg to do so, it may nevertheless be worth taking it on as there isn’t any Halachik argument against it, and it is a highly accepted and widespread Minhag.
      1. It is prohibited for fathers and sons to go to the Mikvah together; this includes the changing areas and any other areas in which there is no privacy. As this is not an issue of Kibud Av (respect for the father), but rather a matter of tznius (modesty/self-respect), the father is not at liberty to be ‘mochel’ (to forgo such privacy).
        • If a father requires the assistance ofa son then the son may come with him for the purpose of assisting his father (e.g. a father who is old or handicapped etc.).
      2. For the same reason, it is likewise prohibited for brothers-in-law to go to the Mikvah together.
    2. As the reason for this minhag is to purify everyone even from doubt as to possible minor impurities (Tumas Keri), the issue of educating children who are not of age does not arise.
    3. Taking into account both 3a and 3b above, young boys – especially those too young to go without their father’s supervision – shouldn’t be brought to the Mikvah. This applies not only to Erev Rosh Hashana, but to all other times as well.
    4. When getting undressed before immersing in the mikva one should first remove their shirt/(undershirt) and then their underpants unless they are wearing a very long shirt that covers the mila (see Meseches Derech Eretz Rabba and Zuta).
    5. If someone who has taken on the minhag of going to the Mikvah, cannot do so, that individual should try to pour 9 kabin of water upon himself (there is some argument among the authorities as to what this corresponds within our system of measures, but the equivalent of 8 gallons should suffice).
      1. Some maintain that even if this water isn’t contained within a vessel but rather flows from a steady stream such as a shower that it is sufficient.
        • For Erev Rosh Hashana purposes one may be lenient (regarding flowing water), but for other purposes (such as burial preparations (Taharas Hameis) one should not.


1) The Gemorah tells us that “Simana Milsa” (symbolism works).  In keeping with that dictum     Chazal tell us that we should eat foods on the night of Rosh Hashana that have a positive connotation associated with them (and likewise not to eat things that have a negative connotation to them). These connotations may be caused by taste or name of the food.

  1. a) There are many such foods mentioned in the Gemorah and more that are mentioned by the various Mefarshim and Poskim. The Meforshim and Poskim also explain that we may create our own symbolic foods.
  2. i) There is no right or wrong number of symbolic foods to eat. There is no obligation per say to eat any of these foods in particular, but the more the better.

As it is a matter of debate amongst the Meforshim as to how symbolism works it is therefore crucial to say some sort of Yehi Ratzon upon eating these symbolic foods. Should one wish to introduce his own symbolic food, he should also create a Yehi Ratzon to go along with it. This may be done in any language.

  1. As many of these foods (such as random fruits) are not generally consumed at the beginning of a meal (as an integral part of the meal) we must recite a bracha prior to eating them (even though we already made a Hamotzi).
  2. i) If both Haetz and Haadama need to be recited Haetz should be recited first.
  3. ii) Although personal preference is often a factor influencing which fruit we select to say the bracha on first, the situation here is different. Since we are eating these foods mainly for symbolic purposes, and not based on our personal preferences, we should make the Bracha on a Shivas Haminim (the Seven species of Israel) item first.
  4. Most people are Noheg to dip Chalah in honey instead of salt.
    1. Some Acharonim say that we should still place salt on the table during Hamotzi (this is because of lo tashbis melach…).
  5. There are those who say, based on mystical sources (Al pi Kabbolah) that one should dip the Chalah in salt even if one dips it in honey.
  6. Just as what we eat may have some sort of symbolic power – so too how we act and what we do can also have an impact on our new year.

Tekias Shofar (Shofar Blowing): 

  • Biblically all men (above Bar Mitzva) are obligated to hear the sound of the Shofar.
    1. Chazal tell us that all women accepted Tekias Shofar upon themselves and are therefore also required to hear Tekias Shofar.
  • Halachically speaking, although we blow the Tekios during Shmoneh Esrei [there are various Minhagim as to whether we do so during the silent Shmoneh Esrei or during the repetition (Chazoras Hashatz)] whether or not one has heard or said the brachos doesn’t affect one’s fulfillment of hearing the Shofar.
    1. However, some of the Acharonim (see for instance the Pnei Yehoshua) maintain that it does affect one’s (at least optimum) fulfillment of Tekias Shofar. Therefore it is best to try to listen to every word (and at least to answer amen to every Bracha) of the Shatz, or in Kehilos that blow during the silent Amida to keep up with the Shatz/Baal Toke’a.
      1. If the above interferes with one’s concentration on the davening, one need not worry about it.
    2. Women do not need to hear Tekias Shofar with Shmoneh Esrei.
      • If women are fulfilling their Tekias Shofar obligation by listening to someone blow the Shofar for them who has already fulfilled his own obligation, this latter should not recite the bracha, but should rather let one of the women do so.
      • If a man who already fulfilled his obligation is blowing for another male he may say the bracha. In such a case, it is preferable that the individual now fulfilling his obligation should recite the blessing – not the Toke’a. The Toke’a should, however, recite the blessing if he is helping an entire group to fulfill their obligation.


  • Tashlich is a minhag and not an obligation (Chiyuv).
    1. While it is preferable to do Tashlich on Rosh Hashana, one can also do so during the entire Aseres Yemei Teshuva – Ten Days of Repentance (and perhaps even until Hoshana Rabba).
    2. The preferred locale for Tashlich is a natural body of water.
      1. There is an additional preference for saying Tashlich near a body of water in which there are fish. Fish, from a mystical (Kabalistic) perspective, are seen as protecting from the Ayin Horah.
        • The Poskim are strongly opposed (for Halachik reasons) to throwing bread crumbs into the water on Yom-Tov.
      2. In Yerushalayim the Minhag is to say Tashlich at the communal wells (even though they have already been sealed for many years.
      3. It is has been said (see Maaseh Rav) that The Vilna Gaon didn’t go to say Tashlich. It isn’t clear whether he didn’t say Tashlich at all, or whether he simply didn’t go to a body of water to say it (Reb Elya Ber Wachtfogel).
        1. If one cannot easily make it to a body of water to recite Tashlich it is recommended to say Tashlich wherever one happens to be.
        2. If someone won’t be able to say Tashlich on a body of water on Rosh Hashana it is recommended to say Tashlich on Rosh Hashana anyway and then again during Aseres Yemei Teshuva, or until Hoshana Rabba (Rabbi Elya Ber Wachtfogel Shlita – see earlier mention).

Second Night Rosh Hashana: 


  1. As Rosh Hashana is a two day Yom-Tov everywhere (even in Eretz-Yisroel) both days are considered by Chazal to be the same Yom-Tov – the Talmudic expression for this being ‘yoma arichta’ (the two days are seen Halachically as ‘one long day”). The question therefore arises as to whether one should make a shehechianu in Kiddush the second night of Rosh Hashana. To remedy this concern the Poskim suggest that we either wear a new garment (one worthy of a shehechianu, i.e. an important garment of the sort bought infrequently, or a piece of jewelry) or have a new fruit worthy of a shehechianu (a fruit that one hasn’t had for a long period of time  and one is excited to have). If one doesn’t have any such item a shehechianu should be recited anyway.
    1. Women lighting candles should also have in mind the new garment or fruit while reciting Shehechianu.
    2. If someone wore a new garment the first day and didn’t make a shehechianu on it (for whatever reason), they then can recite a shehechianu on it the second night (if they are still wearing it).
    3. Contemporary Poskim have pointed out that there may be an issue of making a shehechianu on a fruit that is available all year round, and as nowadays most fruit are available all year round it is advisable to find a more exotic fruit.

By: Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski

The following is meant as a convenient review of Halachos pertaining to Yom Tov. The Piskei Din for the most part are based purely on the Sugyos, Shulchan Aruch and Ramah, and the Mishna Berura, unless stated otherwise. They are based on my understanding of the aforementioned texts through the teachings of my Rebeim. As individual circumstances are often important in determining the psak in specific cases, and as there may be different approaches to some of the issues, one should always check with one’s Rov first.

Yom-Tov is similar to Shabbos in many ways. On Shabbos and Yom-Tov it is forbidden to do Melacha. There are 39 Melachos that are forbidden on Shabbos and Yom-Tov. Doing Melacha on Shabbos is a capital crime, while doing Melacha on Yom-Tov is punishable by lashes.

On Yom-Tov there are various exceptions to Issur Melacha. These exceptions are based on the Passuk that allows us to do Melachos required for Ochel Nefesh – food preparation. Chazal explain that once a Melacha was allowed by the Torah for food preparation the Torah sometimes “so to speak” permitted it for certain other purposes as well.  At the same time, Chazal explain that the there are certain instances and certain Melachos that even for food preparation purposes aren’t permitted. The following is meant to outline when Melachos are permitted on Yom-Tov and to explain the extent to which they are permitted.

Many of the Halachos that are particular to Yom-Tov such as Hilchos Shechita and the Halachos pertaining to harvesting aren’t so applicable in most Frum communities nowadays and therefore will not be discussed.

When are you allowed to do Melachos for food preparation:

  1. The Melachos that are generally allowed on Yom-Tov are: Melachos that are absolutely necessary for food preparation (i.e. Shechita and similar Melachos)
    1. These Melachos are only permitted if they cannot be done before Yom-Tov, or if they involve items that are considered considerably better fresh (i.e. kneading and baking bread is thus permitted on Yom-Tov while in most circumstances it is prohibited to harvest or grind flour on Yom-Tov).
    2. Even when particular Melachos are permitted on Yom-Tov they cannot be done in a way that is a Zilzul in Yom Tov.
  2. The Torah allowed the preparation of food items on Yom-Tov only so that there should be what to eat on Yom-Tov. Therefore, the Melachos that are allowed on Yom-Tov are only allowed in order to prepare for Yom-Tov itself. Items that are intended for use for only after Yom-Tov cannot be prepared on Yom-Tov.
    1. Food that is left over after Yom-Tov is all right to use.
      1. One may prepare food in generous amounts on Yom-Tov even if it is likely that it will be more than enough for Yom-Tov. This is so long as it could theoretically (and may) be consumed during Yom-Tov.
    2. Even when Yom-Tov is on Erev Shabbos food may not be prepared for Shabbos. (Please see the separate section on Hilchos Eruv Tavshilin to see what can be done in order to allow oneself to be able to prepare for Shabbos on Yom-Tov).
    3. Since food can only be prepared for Yom-Tov use one may not prepare food for a non-Jew on Yom-Tov.
      1. One should preferably not invite a gentile to come over (to eat) on Yom-Tov.
        1. If there is fear of creating animosity from the gentile towards Jews, it is then permissible to invite or allow a gentile to come and partake in a meal on Yom-Tov.
          1. Special care should be taken to make sure not to cook anything specifically for the gentile. Likewise care should be taken to ensure that one doesn’t add more to an already cooking item in order to have more for the gentile. However if more is being added for the sake of Jews than extra may be added for the gentile as well.
        2. When someone has non-Jewish workers (i.e. maids etc.) working in one’s home during Yom-Tov, one cannot prepare food for them.
          1. The best thing to do is to allow them to take from already cooked food that was cooked for everyone else.
          2. It is important to remember that one should not allow the goy to cook for himself/herself as this would present Bishul akum issues and would render the pots/pans etc. not Kosher.
            1. If a goy did cook for himself/herself with your utensils ask your Rov whether Kashering is required.
  • It is preferable not to send gifts of food to a gentile on Yom-Tov. If this cannot be avoided then it should be sent from food that was made without the gentile in mind. No matter what, it cannot be prepared specifically for the goy.
    1. As mentioned earlier, in a pinch one could add extra food for a non-Jew either when initially placing the food to cook, or if one is adding anyway for Jews as well.
  1. One may not light a new fire from scratch on Yom-Tov. However one may light a new flame from a preexisting flame.
    1. One may raise a preexisting flame on a gas stove
    2. On an electric stove one cannot raise the heat setting.
      1. There are some models that may work in a way that one could raise the heat setting. Anyone who thinks he may have such a stove top should consult with a competent Halachic authority.
  • One may light a gas flame if one does so by using an existing flame to light the new one (e.g. by taking an already lit candle or lighting a match from an already lit candle). When lighting a stovetop with a spark igniter special care must be taken to make sure not to initiate any sparks (i.e. one must open the gas directly and not press on the igniting mode – this can generally be detected by the click click of the stove).
    1. After lighting the stove one should be careful not to extinguish the candle or match used for lighting the gas (one should rather let it burn out).
  1. One may not extinguish a flame or fire on Yom-Tov.
    1. On a standard electric stove one cannot turn down the coil even if the indicator light is off. If the indicator light is off and the coil is black then one can turn down and even turn off the particular heating element.
    2. A gas flame should not be turned down.
      1. Many of the poskim were lenient if someone’s food would burn without turning down the flame. However this leniency would only apply if one does not have the option of lighting an additional flame at a lower setting.
      2. A gas flame which is not attached to a gas line but rather to a gas balloon (as is frequent in Yerushalayim) may be turned down if someone is worried that there will not be enough gas to last until he end of Yom-Tov otherwise.
    3. One may bake or cook in an oven that was left on over Yom-Tov.
      1. If one has a gas oven that can be lit safely with a preexisting flame, one may then do so.
        1. Older or industrial ovens that have a pilot light may be lit on Yom-Tov without a using another preexisting flame.
        2. The flame on a gas oven can be raised whenever the flame is on (when there is a mechanical dial. If raising the temperature up can only be done by using buttons, or if there is a digital temperature control mechanism, one may not alter the oven setting at all). Therefore before raising the temperature in a gas oven one should check to make sure that the flame is on.
      2. An electric oven cannot be lit on Yom-Tov.
        1. If the coil is red and the oven indicator light is on then the temperature may be raised.
      3. With regard to lowering the temperature please refer to the halachos of lowering stove tops (4 a, and b).
    4. One may remove undesired pieces of food from the desired pieces if there are more of the desired parts. If the undesirable pieces are more than the desirable pieces then the desirable pieces should be removed instead.
      1. One may not sift flour on Yom-Tov.
        1. If the flour has already been sifted before Yom-Tov and the point of sifting it again is only to air out the flour, one may then sift the flour.
        2. In general most sifters should not be used for sifting most foods.
      2. One can rinse vegetables on Yom-Tov to clean them from bugs or from dirt.
    5. One should not grind spices, but one is permitted to crush them.
    6. Salt should not be ground or crushed on Yom-Tov.
      1. If someone needs to crush/grind salt on Yom-Tov one should do so with a שינוי — in an unusual manner (i.e. not in a salt grinder, but rather by taking a spoon or the like and crushing the salt into finer granules).
    7. One is not permitted to squeeze juice from a fruit on Yom-Tov.
      1. One may squeeze the juice from a fruit onto a piece of food as on Shabbos.
    8. One cannot measure even ingredients with standard measuring cups on Yom Tov; one should rather approximate.
    9. One may carry in the public domain (or from one domain to another) on Yom-Tov even if is not for the sake of food. However one should not carry something that will not be used on Yom-Tov.
      1. If there is an Eiruv, then one may carry in public domain (or from one domain to another) anything that is not muktzeh (as on Shabbos) even if the item will not be used on Yom-Tov.
    10. One may light a fire from a preexistent flame on Yom-Tov for the purpose of warming oneself.
      1. The halachos pertaining to modern day heaters are similar to those of ovens and stoves (please refer to those sections).
      2. One may warm water on Yom-Tov to bathe a baby or to wash their face.
        1. It is prohibited to wash one’s entire body (even part by part) with warm water on Yom-Tov.
          1. One may use the mikve as on Shabbos.
        2. Shabbos timers can be adjusted on Yom-Tov in the following ways:
          1. To stay on longer both while the timer is in the “on” mode and while the timer is in the “off” mode.
          2. To stay off longer while the timer is in the “off” mode.
          3. The timer may not be adjusted to turn off earlier while the timer is in the “on” mode.
          4. The timer may be adjusted to turn off earlier while the timer is in the “off” mode.
          5. A timer may be used in the aforementioned ways to help with electronic cooking and heating/cooling devices.
            1. It is best to alter the settings in an unusual way (i.e. one should use a toothpick to pull out or push in the pegs) this applies to entire section 13.
            2. Obviously one may only alter the setting on a mechanical basis and not when it involves electronic buttons or digital displays (this also applies to entire section 13).

Other Halachos of Yom-Tov:

  • During the times of the Batei Mikdash everyone would purify themselves by immersing in a mikve. This was done as a prerequisite for entering the Har-Habayis. Nowadays it is customary to go to the Mikve Erev Yom Tov (for Halachos pertaining to the mikve please see Hilchos Rosh Hashana or Yom-Kippur documents).
  • On Yom-Tov one (all men are) is required to spend approximately half their day in Torah study and half their day doing things they enjoy. If someone enjoys learning Torah it is needless to say they can do so for the majority of the day. (On Rosh Hashana until after davening one should be apprehensive and fearful of his judgment. After Davening one should be very happy and content that certainly his judgment was favorable).
  • One should wear their nicest clothing on Yom-Tov.
  • One should try to eat a portion of meat (preferably beef, lamb, or something that could have been brought for a Korban) and drink a portion of wine on Yom-Tov.
  • A married man should buy his wife something new for Yom-Tov (e.g. jewelry and/or clothing). One should also buy their children something for Yom-Tov (as most children don’t especially enjoy new clothing it is best to by them some sort of toy or special candy item).

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