Rosh HaShanah Eve
Four Questions for 5781

Jews are accustomed to having profound conversations over the Passover table by posing questions and seeking answers.  This unique year of 5781 would be a good time to import the tradition of Four Questions to our Rosh HaShanah tables. This sheet will help you recite the traditional blessings and give you something to think and talk about over your holiday meal.

KIDDUSH FOR ROSH HaSHANAH EVE (with Shabbat additions) 


It was evening and then it was morning, the sixth day. The heavens and the earth were completed with all their hosts. And God completed, by the seventh day, the work which God had done; and abstained on the seventh day from all the work which God had done. God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for on it, God abstained from all the work which God created to do. – (Genesis 1.31-2.3)וַיְהִי עֶֽרֶב וַיְהִי בֹֽקֶר: יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי וַיְכֻלּוּ הַשָּׁמַֽיִם וְהָאָֽרֶץ וְכָל־צְבָאָם: וַיְכַל אֱ’לֹהִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה. וַיִּשְׁבֹּת בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה: וַיְבָֽרֶךְ אֱ’לֹהִים אֶת־יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ. כִּי בוֹ שָׁבַת מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָא אֱ’לֹהִים לַעֲשׂוֹת:
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Master of the Cosmos, who created the fruit of the vine.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ’הֹוָה אֱ’לֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּֽפֶן:
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Master of the Cosmos, who made us unique among nations, gave us an exalted language, and sanctified us with commandments. Adonai our God, you lovingly gave us this Shabbat day and this day of Remembrance, in which we recall the echo of the Shofar with love, a sacred assembly to commemorate the exodus from Egypt.

For You loved us and sanctified us among all peoples; and Your word is true and enduring forever.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ’הֹוָה אֱ’לֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר בָּֽחַר בָּֽנוּ מִכָּל־עָם וְרוֹמְמָֽנוּ מִכָּל לָשׁוֹן, וְקִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו. וַתִּתֶּן לָֽנוּ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ בְּאַהֲבָה. (אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת הַזֶּה וְ) אֶת יוֹם הַזִּכָּרוֹן הַזֶּה יוֹם (זִכְרוֹן) תְּרוּעָה (בְּאַהֲבָה) מִקְרָא קֹֽדֶשׁ זֵֽכֶר לִיצִיאַת מִצְרָֽיִם. כִּי בָֽנוּ בָחַֽרְתָּ וְאוֹתָֽנוּ קִדַּֽשְׁתָּ מִכָּל־הָעַמִּים. וּדְבָרְךָ אֱמֶת וְקַיָּם לָעַד:
Blessed are You Adonai, King over all the world, who sanctifies Shabbat and the people of Israel and the Day of Remembrance.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ’הֹוָה מֶלֶךְ עַל כָּל הָאָרֶץ מְקַדֵּשׁ (הַשַּׁבָּת וְ) יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיוֹם הַזִּכָּרוֹן:
Va-y’ehi Erev, Va-yehi Voker, Yom Hashishi, Va-y’chu-lu Ha-sha-ma-yim v’ha-a-retz, v’chawl^ts’va-am.
va-y’chal e-lo-him ba-yom ha-sh’vi-i, m’lach-to a-sher a-sa, va-yish-bot ba-yom ha-sh’vi-i, mi-kawl^m’lach-to a-sher a-sa.
va-y’va-rech e-lo-him et yom ha-sh’vi-i, va-y’ka-deish o-to ki vo sha-vat mi-kawl^m’lach-to a-sher ba-ra e-lo-him la-a-sot.Ba-ruch a-tah, A-do-nai, E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam, bo-rei p’ri ha-ga-fen.Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher bachar banu mikol-am, v’rom’manu mikol-lashon, v’kid’shanu b’mitzvotav. Va-titen-lanu Adonai Eloheinu, b’ahavah et-yom ha-shabbat ha zeh, v’et yom ha-zikaron ha-zeh, yom zikron T’ruah, beahavah mikrah kodesh, zacher li-tzi-at Mitrayim. Ki vanu vacharta, v’otanu kidashta, mikol haamim, ud’vrachah emet v’kayam la-ad. Baruch atah, Adonai, Melech al kol ha-aretz, mikadesh haShabbat v’Yisrael v’yom hazikaron.


This year’s struggles may have ground us down, or sapped our enthusiasm for life. And yet, thank God, we have reached a special night on the Jewish calendar. At the conclusion of Kiddush we bless God in gratitude for keeping us alive to reach this special moment.

Before you recite this blessing, reflect: What are you grateful for?

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, master of the cosmos, who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this moment.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם. שֶׁהֶחֱיָֽנוּ וְקִיְּמָֽנוּ וְהִגִּיעָֽנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה:
Barukh Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh Ha’Olam, she’hechiyanu, ve’kiyemanu, ve’higiyanu la’zeman ha’zeh.


A beloved Rosh HaShanah custom holds that after we say HaMotzi over the bread on Rosh HaShanah evening, we dip our bread and apples into honey. The sweetness should be an omen for all the blessings we look forward to in the coming year.

Before you recite this blessing and taste the honey, try to put into words: What sweet tastes do you anticipate in 5781? Do you hope for blessings of love? New birth? Social peace? Success in business? Learning? Healing? Our hope is not yet lost.

Praised are you, Lord our God, Master of the Cosmos, who brings forth bread from the earth.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ’יָ אֱ’לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ:
Dip some challah or apple into honey and say:
May it be Your will, Adonai our God and God of our ancestors, that you renew for us a good, sweet new year.יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ, ה’ אֱ’לֹהֵינוּ וֵא’לֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ שֶתְחַדֵש עָלֵינוּ שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה
Yehi ratzon mi’lefanekha, Adonai Eloheinu v’Elohei avoteinu, she’techadesh aleynu shanah tovah u’metukah.


Many of our hearts are carrying heavy burdens this Rosh HaShanah. Some of us have lost loved ones or suffered our own grave illnesses. Some of us have been forced to shut businesses or abandon long-held plans. Some of us feel acute disappointments at weddings canceled or other celebrations postponed.

Reflect on these famous Biblical lines (which we will read again on Sukkot). Try to put into words what you are mourning this year, and what you’ve lost.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8קהלת ג׳:א׳-ח׳
1) A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven:א) לַכֹּ֖ל זְמָ֑ן וְעֵ֥ת לְכָל־חֵ֖פֶץ תַּ֥חַת הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃
2) A time for being born and a time for dying, A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;ב) עֵ֥ת לָלֶ֖דֶת וְעֵ֣ת לָמ֑וּת עֵ֣ת לָטַ֔עַת וְעֵ֖ת לַעֲק֥וֹר נָטֽוּעַ׃
3) A time for slaying and a time for healing, A time for tearing down and a time for building up;ג) עֵ֤ת לַהֲרוֹג֙ וְעֵ֣ת לִרְפּ֔וֹא עֵ֥ת לִפְר֖וֹץ וְעֵ֥ת לִבְנֽוֹת׃
4) A time for weeping and a time for laughing, A time for mourning and a time for dancing;ד) עֵ֤ת לִבְכּוֹת֙ וְעֵ֣ת לִשְׂח֔וֹק עֵ֥ת סְפ֖וֹד וְעֵ֥ת רְקֽוֹד׃
5) A time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones, A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;ה) עֵ֚ת לְהַשְׁלִ֣יךְ אֲבָנִ֔ים וְעֵ֖ת כְּנ֣וֹס אֲבָנִ֑ים עֵ֣ת לַחֲב֔וֹק וְעֵ֖ת לִרְחֹ֥ק מֵחַבֵּֽק׃
6) A time for seeking and a time for losing, A time for keeping and a time for discarding;ו) עֵ֤ת לְבַקֵּשׁ֙ וְעֵ֣ת לְאַבֵּ֔ד עֵ֥ת לִשְׁמ֖וֹר וְעֵ֥ת לְהַשְׁלִֽיךְ׃
7) A time for ripping and a time for sewing, A time for silence and a time for speaking;ז) עֵ֤ת לִקְר֙וֹעַ֙ וְעֵ֣ת לִתְפּ֔וֹר עֵ֥ת לַחֲשׁ֖וֹת וְעֵ֥ת לְדַבֵּֽר׃
8) A time for loving and a time for hating; A time for war and a time for peace.ח) עֵ֤ת לֶֽאֱהֹב֙ וְעֵ֣ת לִשְׂנֹ֔א עֵ֥ת מִלְחָמָ֖ה וְעֵ֥ת שָׁלֽוֹם׃


Rosh HaShanah represents our responsibility to face judgment for personal shortcomings. We are often too hasty to complain about the wide world’s failings. As the Talmud says: “First correct yourself, and then worry about correcting other people.”

Consider the following passage from our Sages about strategies for evading punishment for our mistakes. How might its suggestions point toward ways we might improve our destiny?

Rosh Hashanah 16bראש השנה ט״ז ב
Rabbi Yitzḥak said: A sentence decreed against a person can be torn up thanks to four types of actions:וא”ר יצחק ד’ דברים מקרעין גזר דינו של אדם אלו הן צדקה צעקה שינוי השם ושינוי מעשה צדקה דכתיב (משלי י, ב) וצדקה תציל ממות צעקה דכתיב (תהלים קז, כח) ויצעקו אל ה’ בצר להם וממצוקותיהם יוציאם שינוי השם דכתיב (בראשית יז, טו) שרי אשתך לא תקרא את שמה שרי כי שרה שמה וכתיב וברכתי אותה וגם נתתי ממנה לך בן שינוי מעשה דכתיב (יונה ג, י) וירא האלהים את מעשיהם וכתיב (יונה ג, י) וינחם האלהים על הרעה אשר דבר לעשות להם ולא עשה וי”א אף שינוי מקום דכתיב (בראשית יב, א) ויאמר ה’ אל אברם לך לך מארצך והדר ואעשך לגוי גדול ואידך ההוא זכותא דא”י הוא דאהניא ליה
Giving Tzedaka, crying out in prayer, changing your name, and changing your behavior. [Each is instantiated with a Bible verse.]
Tzedaka, as it is written: “And charity delivers from death” (Proverbs 10:2); Crying out in prayer, as it is written: “Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses” (Psalms 107:28);
Changing your name, as it is written: “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be” (Genesis 17:15), and it is written there: “And I will bless her, and I will also give you a son from her” (Genesis 17:16);
Change your behavior, as it is written: “And God saw their deeds” (Jonah 3:10), and it is written there: “And God repented of the evil, which He had said He would do to them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).