Area Jews prepare for Rosh Hashana
ROSH HASHANA At Temple Beth Israel, the torah (the first five books of the Bible) is kept in an ark behind the pulpit. On Friday evening Rosh Hashana service, passages from the torah will be read by a visiting rabbi.Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Ida Brown / religion editor
September 20, 2003
Like the American New Year's holiday, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, is a time to begin introspection, looking back at mistakes of the past year and planning changes to make in the new year.
But that is where the similarities end.
Unlike the American drinking bash and daytime football game celebration, Rosh Hashana is one of the holiest days of the Jewish year.
This year's observance begins at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Sept. 27. The new year will be year 5764 on the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashana marks the beginning of the holiest season of the year, a 10-day period referred to as the Days of Awe or High Holy Days.
Days of Awe
An ongoing theme of the Days of Awe is the concept that God has "books" in which he records our names, writing down who will live and who will die, who will have a good life and who will have a bad life for the next year. These books are written-in on Rosh Hashana, but an individual's actions during the Days of Awe can alter God's decree.
While there are elements of joy and celebration, Rosh Hashana is a deeply religion occasion. The customs and symbols of Rosh Hashana reflect the holiday's dual emphasis happiness and humility.
Special customs observed on Rosh Hashana include the sounding of the shofar, a ram's horn that is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of the holiday is the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue.
A total of 100 notes are sounded each day. While the Bible gives no specific reason for this practice, it has been suggested that the shofar's sound is a call to repentance.
No work is permitted on Rosh Hashana. Much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded.
On the following day, a service will be held at Temple Beth from 10 a.m.-noon. Other customs observed on Rosh Hashana include using round challah (bread), eating apples and honey (and other sweet foods) for a sweet new year.
Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown Oct. 5, is the "Day of Atonement" and refers to the annual Jewish observance of fasting, prayer and repentance. It is considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
In three separate passages in the torah, the Jewish people are told, "the 10th day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: You shall practice self-denial." Leviticus 23:27.
Fasting is seen as fulfilling this Biblical commandment. The Yom Kippur fast also enables individuals to put aside physical desires and to concentrate on spiritual needs through prayer, repentance and self-improvement.
On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in The Book of Life is sealed. This day is, essentially, a last appeal, a last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate one's repentance and make amends.
Additional information for this article was obtained from the Web site www.jewfaq.org