Jewish mother and daughter glazing dough for challah bread in a round up of Rosh Hashanah quotes
13 Rosh Hashanah Quotes For A Sweet New Year

Shanah Tovah!

by Cat Bowen
Originally Published: 

Starting on the night of Friday, September 15, Jewish people will begin celebrating Rosh Hashanah (ראש השנה), or, the Jewish New Year. In the spirit of this Jewish holiday that’s all about renewal and good tidings, we've compiled quotes for Rosh Hashanah that might be funny, might be uplifting, or might cause you to reflect — sharing all of the best qualities of the holiday. It's the first day of the High Holidays, also known as the Yamim Noraim or, the “Days of Awe,” and it’s a time of celebration and reflection. These Rosh Hashanah quotes reflect that.

For my friends and family, Rosh Hashanah is mostly a fun celebration where we eat a lot of challah, dip apples in honey, and then regret our life choices as we unbutton our pants on the sofa after the third serving of rugelach. But, the holiday has much deeper meaning that that. In the book of Leviticus, we are told in a conversation between Moses and G-d that "In the seventh month, on the first of the month, it shall be a Sabbath for you, a remembrance of [Israel through] the shofar blast a holy occasion."

Rosh Hashanah is the party day of the High Holidays, but it is also the day to beg forgiveness, and to seek renewal, because ten days later is Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement — complete with fasting, prayers, and intimate self reflections.

So, on Rosh Hashanah, let the kosher wine flow, unbutton those pants, and love your family and friends fiercely. Shanah Tovah!


“Because your future isn't bound by your past.”

There is a “Street Rebbe” on 13th Avenue in Brooklyn with whom I regularly have occasion to speak with. He is a gentle soul, and imparts his wisdom to any who might walk by. This is what he tells me every Rosh Hashanah, and it brings me so much joy and peace. If you're ever in Boro Park, stop by his hang out for a chat. Everyone knows the street Rebbe.


“Everyone can look inside his or her soul and decide what he or she can do to make a world at peace, to end this fighting that goes on every day around the world.” — Ruth Gruber

From the indomitable Ruth Gruber. What a blessing for the new year.


“The Book of Life and the Book of Death are open every day, and our name is written in one or the other of them at every moment, and then erased and written again the moment after that. We are constantly becoming, continuously redefining ourselves. This doesn’t just happen on Rosh Hashanah.”

From Alan Lew, a rabbi who also studied Buddhism. To me, this Rosh Hashanah quote gets at the heart of what the holiday really means, and how it can be celebrated as a member of the world.


“For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. For beautiful hair, let a child run his fingers through it once a day. For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone. ... We leave you a tradition with a future. The tender loving care of human beings will never become obsolete. People even more than things have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed and redeemed and redeemed. Never throw out anybody. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others. Your ‘good old days’ are still ahead of you, may you have many of them.”

This poem by Sam Levenson hung in the office of a professor of mine at Brooklyn College. With Levenson being a Jewish writer and comedian from New York, this Rosh Hashanah quote resonates during the high holidays.


“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”

Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

From Elie Wiesel. May his memory be a blessing.


“Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.”

From prolific writer and scholar Hannah Arendt, a champion of forgiveness and restitution.


“Fight with realistic hope, not to destroy all the world's wrong, but to renew its good.” — Elizabeth E. Wein

From the sequel of Elizabeth E Wein's Code Name: Verity. A beautiful note on renewal.


“The Days of Awe are a time to ask of ourselves something only we can control: the strength to do better. To be better. To make the world we live in a kinder, more peaceful place. To hear in the sacred shofar blast a call from within to change.”

President Obama made these remarks on his last Rosh Hashanah in office, and I love the simple, sweet, thoughtful message in this Rosh Hashanah quote.


“Forgiveness is the only way to reverse the irreversible flow of history.” — Hannah Arendt

More from Hannah Arendt. Her words have such power, even 80 years later.


“The legend engraved on the face of the Jewish nickel — on the body of every Jewish child! — not IN GOD WE TRUST, but SOMEDAY YOU'LL BE A PARENT AND YOU'LL KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE.”

Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint is a classic for a reason.


“Every universe, our own included, begins in conversation. Every golem in the history of the world, from Rabbi Hanina's delectable goat to the river-clay Frankenstein of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, was summoned into existence through language, through murmuring, recital, and kabbalistic chitchat — was, literally, talked into life.”

From a classic novel about a Jewish hero, this is just perfect. Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a must-read.


“Those who say they can, and those who say they can't are usually right.”

The internet attributes this quote to both Confucius and Henry Ford — so make of that what you will — but I learned about it from Shimi Adar, Orthodox Instagram sensation and motivational speaker. She is truly a blessing of a soul, and I get a lot from her message. This time of year, this feels like the right attitude for moving forward.


“How can I begin anything new with all of yesterday in me?” -Leonard Cohen

A lovely quote taken from Cohen’s novel Beautiful Losers that just happens to strike the right tone for Rosh Hashanah.

Shanah tovah umtukah! For those who don't know, this traditional Rosh Hashanah greeting means “may you have a good and sweet new year.” We hope these Rosh Hashanah quotes inspire you to have a sweet new year indeed.

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