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High Holy Days and Fall Festivals

July 31, 2020 - from Rabbi Glazer's July 29 High Holy Days Update Email

While our building has been closed since March, we have often shared the message that our synagogue is very much open. Our nimble pivot to virtual services and programs has allowed us to continue to sing, pray, learn, remember, celebrate and connect with one another in new and meaningful ways. Throughout this time, we have been guided in our decision making by the recommendations of public health experts and our commitment to the Jewish values of pikuah nefesh, the preservation of human life, and kol yisrael aravim zeh l’zeh, we are all responsible for the safety of one another.

It is with these values in mind, along with the recommendations of the CDC and our Reform Movement, that we, like other congregations in the area, have made the difficult decision to hold High Holy Day services virtually this year. While we wish we could gather in our sanctuary, and it saddens us that we cannot, we have determined that virtual services are the best way to ensure meaningful, spiritual, and safe High Holy Days for everyone in our community.

Now that this decision has been made, we can focus on reimagining a sacred and powerful prayer and study experience that is both familiar and right for this moment. Over the next two months, the Clergy, Board Leadership, Ritual Committee and our Reopening Task Force will be working together to create safe and meaningful opportunities for us to observe this most sacred time in our Jewish calendar, beginning with Elul and moving through Selichot, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We are working on upgrading our sound system and streaming capabilities in the sanctuary so that services can be led by the Rabbi and Cantor from the bima. Members will receive care packages to enhance their at-home holiday prayer experience and we are exploring possibilities for smaller in-person gatherings outdoors for Selichot and Tashlich.

While many of the specific details are still being worked out, we can guarantee that this year’s High Holy Day season will be filled with moments of reflection, connection and celebration. We look forward to sharing more information soon about the many ways in which we will welcome this new year together as a Temple Sinai family.

Rosh HaShanah (literally, "Head of Year") is the Jewish New Year, which marks the beginning of a 10-day period of prayer, self-examination and repentance. This period, known as the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe or High Holy Days), is widely observed by Jews throughout the world, many with prayer and reflection in a synagogue. There also are several holiday rituals observed at home.

Rosh HaShanah is celebrated on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which—because of differences in the solar and lunar calendar—corresponds to September or October on the secular calendar. Customs associated with the holiday include sounding the shofar, eating a round challah, and tasting apples and honey to represent a sweet New Year.

Tashlikh -  (to cast away) is a ceremony generally conducted on the first day of Rosh HaShanah in which we symbolically cast our sins into a moving body of water, such as a river, stream, or ocean.  

Yom Kippur means "Day of Atonement" and refers to the annual Jewish observance of fasting, prayer and repentance. Part of the High Holidays, which also includes Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. In three separate passages in the Torah, the Jewish people are told, "the tenth 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 us to put aside our physical desires to concentrate on our spiritual needs through prayer, repentance and self-improvement.

Yom Kippur is the moment in Jewish time when we dedicate our mind, body, and soul to reconciliation with God, our fellow human beings, and ourselves. We are commanded to turn to those whom we have wronged first, acknowledging our sins and the pain we might have caused.  At the same time, we must be willing to forgive and to let go of certain offenses and the feelings of resentment they provoked in us. On this journey we are both seekers and givers of pardon. Only then can we turn to God and ask for forgiveness:  “And for all these, God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, and grant us atonement.

Sukkot, a Hebrew word meaning "booths" or "huts," refers to the Jewish festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest.  It also commemorates the 40 years of Jewish wandering in the desert after the giving of the Torah atop Mt. Sinai. Sukkot is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur on the 15th of the month of Tishrei, and is marked by several distinct traditions. One, which takes the commandment to dwell in booths literally, is to erect a sukkah, a small, temporary booth or hut. Sukkot (in this case, the plural of sukkah) are commonly used during the seven-day festival for eating, entertaining and even for sleeping.

Sukkot also called Z’man Simchateinu (Season of Our Rejoicing), is the only festival associated with an explicit commandment to rejoice. A final name for Sukkot is Chag HaAsif, (Festival of the Ingathering), representing a time to give thanks for the bounty of the earth during the fall harvest

Men and women unrolling the Torah

Simchat Torah, a fun-filled day during which we celebrate the completion of the annual reading of the Torah and affirm Torah as one of the pillars on which we build our lives. As part of the celebration, the Torah scrolls are taken from the ark and carried or danced around the synagogue seven times. During the Torah service, the concluding section of the fifth book of the Torah, D’varim (Deuteronomy), is read, and immediately following, the opening section of Genesis, or B'reishit as it is called in Hebrew, is read. This practice represents the cyclical nature of the relationship between the Jewish people and the reading of the Torah.




Wed, August 5 2020 15 Av 5780