Rosh Hashanah : The Days Of Awe 5775

By Columnist Lewis H. Goldstein.

 

photo 2This coming Wednesday night begins the holiest period for Jews around the world: The Days of Awe. Just as Lent is the holiest period for Christians and Ramadan for Moslems these Days of Awe are a period of solemn prayer, fasting, repenting and self introspection. This most holy of holy periods begins with Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It celebrates the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve by G-D. Rosh Hashanah is both joyful and solemn. It welcomes the New Year and hopes for a good and sweet life. Apples or other fruit are dipped in honey to symbolize the wish for a sweet year. The shofar (a curved horn) is blown to symbolize that G-D is present and calling upon all to gather in prayer and reflection. The belief is that on Rosh Hashanah G-D opens the Books of Judgment and reviews the life of all creatures he has created: human and non-human. Jews pray for repentance from sin over the past year and pray for being in the Book of Life for the New Year. Wednesday night begins the Hebrew year 5775. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew Rosh Hashanah is etymologically related to the Arabic Ras as-Sanah, the name for the Islamic New Year which this year falls on October 24/25. Like the Hebrew calendar the Islamic day begins at sunset. In the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah many Jews go to a running body of water and cast bread into the water. This symbolically represents the casting off of sins. In my synagogue Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) we walk to the Hudson and throw bread into the water. The appropriate greeting is Happy New Year (Le’Shana Tovah) or “May you be inscribed for a good year” (Ketiva VeChatima Tovah).

photo 3Rosh Hashanah leads into Yom Kippur which is the Day of Judgment. It is ten days after Rosh Hashanah. These ten days are period of time to give meaningful thought and prayer to what one has done wrong over the past year and to pray for forgiveness and attempting to amend ones’s behavior from sin to righteousness. Yom Kippur is not a day of celebration. It is a Day of Atonement and repentance. It is the holiest day on the Hebrew calendar. The appropriate greeting is “May you have an easy fast” “Tzom Kal” or “May you be inscribed in the book of life”. It is not appropriate to wish a person a “Happy Yom Kippur” just as it would be inappropriate to say “Happy Good Friday”. During the twenty-five hours of prayer Jews refrain from eating or drinking. The day is set aside for prayer and reflection. On the afternoon of Yom Kippur the Yizkor service occurs. It is a solemn memorial service at which Jews remember those who are no longer with us. In addition to remembering my parents of blessed memory I remember and say the names of other relatives, friends, and parents of friends who are no longer with us physically. In recent years I also pray for those animals which have been abused and killed. It is at the close of Yom Kippur that G-D closes the Books of Judgment. Yom Kippur, as the holiest day on the Hebrew calendar, is the most observed holy day by all Jews even those who consider themselves secular, non-religious, atheistic or whatever. At CBST we usually have over 3,000 people attend Kol Nidre which is the prayer service the night before marking the beginning of Yom Kippur. In 2001 Yom Kippur occurred on September 26, soon after 9/11. We had approximately 6,000 people in attendance. As I write tears come to my eyes as I visualize the service that nigt. There were posters of missing people hanging outside of the Jacob Javits Center where services were held. We had in attendance the president of the Islamic gay and lesbian association. Rabbi Kleinbaum’s sermon brought tears to the eyes of all who were present. I can still visualize many members of our armed forces and NYPD officers, Jewish and non-Jewish, who were stationed at Javits attending the service with tears in their eyes. Yom Kippur ends with the blowing of the shofer and then a meal to break the fast. This year Yom Kippur is October3-4.

photo 1As I wish my Jewish friends and relatives a Happy New Year and an East fast I pray that the New Year will see Peace, Shalom and Salem for all and that we see less hatred and abuse in this sphere we call earth. I will be writing columns about other religious holy days. I elicit your thoughts and suggestions.

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