Wednesday marks the start of the Jewish High Holidays. Spanning a total of four weeks, Jews around the world celebrate.
A big part of the holiday is the symbolic food that is eaten. Sweet foods are emphasized to represent the wish for a sweet new year. Any bitter or sour flavors are avoided.
Apples dipped in honey are a tradition, as is honey cake. Shapes of dishes are also significant: the tradition is to use, as much as possible, round shapes which represent wholeness and continuity. The traditional bread – challah – which is usually braided, is made sweeter and circular for the New Year. Traditionally Rosh Hashanah tzimes is vegetarian and is made with carrots because when sliced, their round shape resembles gold coins (for riches) and their Yiddish name conveys the meaning of “more” or “to multiply."
Two of the area’s local religious leaders – Rabbi Dr. Steven Moss of B’nai Israel of Oakdale (which is Reform) and Dr. Rosalie Wartenberg of Tifereth Israel (known as the Sayville Jewish Community Center which is Conservative) – tell us something about the holiest days of the Jewish calendar.
Rabbi Dr. Steven Moss of B'nai Israel Reform Temple...
"Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of life as it is called by the rabbis 'the Birthday of the World.' This year the date is 5,772 which refers to the tradition that this many years ago the world was created. It is a time to give thanks for the life that God has given to us and to begin a process of determining how to morally, ethically, and spiritually live that life to the best of our abilities.
Ten days later, there is the very solemn day called Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On this day the tradition has us fast so that we are able to focus less on our physical needs and more on our spiritual and moral needs. It is a time when we ask for forgiveness from ourselves, others, and from God. We can only ask God to forgive us of the sins we committed against God, whereas for those sins we committed against others, we must go to the other person and seek that forgiveness by both our words and deeds. In the traditional Jewish community Rosh Hashanah is observed for two days, while in the reform tradition for one day.
We at B'nai Israel in Oakdale bring the holy day to residents in a number of local nursing and assisted living facilities in the community. As the holy day, as does the Sabbath and all Jewish holidays, begins the night before at sundown, a special family meal is held in the home on the nights before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. At B'nai Israel services are in the evening and the first day.
The holy day of Yom Kippur is concluded by the sound of the shofar ram's horn, (which is also sounded on Rosh Hashanah), announcing the beginning of the new year and calling us to live our lives in order to find favor in God's eyes and in the eyes of our fellow human beings."
Dr. Rosalie Wartenberg, Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Sayville...
"We all love birthdays. Jewish people all over the world will soon celebrate a very special birthday. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of four weeks called the High Holidays and marks the birthday of the world…5,772 years ago!
The Jewish people who join together at the synagogue in Sayville will hear the rabbi blow 100 blasts of the shofar each day. This type of horn has a very unusual sound and requires special skill to follow the required pattern of blasts. The shofar tells people to think about the way they live and act. It reminds them to try to do more good deeds in the new year. Yes, Rosh Hashanah begins the Jewish new year.
Yom Kippur follows. It is a 25-hour holiday of fasting and praying. It sounds very serious and it is. Yet it is also a happy holiday as Jews are excited to have an opportunity to strengthen and renew their lives.
Many people love to camp outdoors. The next holiday follows in five days. It is called Succoth. Jewish people live in temporary hut-like homes called Succahs. This beautiful holiday is a reminder of our exodus from Egypt.
The High Holidays conclude with Simchat Torah. Did you ever love a book so much that you read it over and over? This joyous holiday has us reading our Torah as it ends and continues at its beginning. The Torah is our guide for the proper God-like way to behave. We dance with the Torahs as we celebrate the beginning of the new year – 5772!"
Services at Tifereth Israel:
9/28 Erev Rosh Hashanah
Candlelighting 6:26 p.m., Services 6:30 p.m.
9/29 First Day of Rosh Hashanah
Services 9:30 a.m.
Candlelighting for second day 7:27 p.m., Services 7:30 p.m.
9/30 Second Day of Rosh Hashanah
Services 9:30 a.m.
Candlelighting for Shabbat 6:23 p.m., Services 6:30 p.m.
10/7 Erev Yom Kippur
Kol Nidre 6:30 p.m.
10/8 Yom Kippur
Services 9 a.m.
Shabbat and Yom Kippur ends at 7:10 p.m.