Celebration of Creation Through the Days of Repentance to the Day of Atonement
■ By Gena Estrin / Contributed
Coming up are very important High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is a time when we celebrate the creation of Adam and Eve, and our own creation, and reflect on our lives, and beg for forgiveness for our mis-steps, and offer our solemn promise to be more mindful of our words and deeds during the next year. This year the two-day celebration of Rosh Hashanah begins before sundown on the Jewish calendar date of Tishrei 1, 5779, which on the secular calendar coincides with Sunday, Sept 9, 2018 and ends after nightfall on Tuesday, Sept 11. A week later, before sundown on Tuesday, Sept 18, we begin a fast for the solemn day of Yom Kippur, and break the fast after sundown on Wednesday, Sept 19. “… Like angels, we neither eat nor drink for 25 hours. Dressed in white, we pray in the synagogue—united as one people, children of One Father.…”
Rosh Hashanah means “The Head of the Year.” It is the anniversary of creation, more specifically, the creation of Adam and Eve. Each anniversary on Rosh Hashanah G-d inscribes our fate for the coming year, but that fate is not sealed until the holy day of Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement. The 10 days in-between the two holy days are the Days of Judgment, also known as the Days of Awe.
Besides going to temple and reciting special prayers, we begin this holy period by sharing a festive holiday meal with our loved ones, and/or our congregation or neighbors. The meal includes many sweet things to eat like, apples dipped in honey, round challah egg bread with raisins, honey sweetened vegetables mixed with fruit, and sweet potatoes, and my mother-in-law’s favorite, honey cake. This is one way we wish one another to be inscribed in the Book of Life for another sweet year of life. We also greet those we meet with our sincere wish they have a L’Shana Tova שנה טובה! A good year!
During the 10 Days of Awe in-between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur it is a time for even more and deepening repentance or “teshuvah” (returning to G-d.) We sincerely and deeply ask forgiveness for the multitude of wrongs and transgressions we may have wittingly or unwittingly done during the past year. This is an annual opportunity to not only give our confession to G-d, but to also go to others we may have wronged, and ask for that person’s forgiveness. This is comparable to the step five “Confession” of any 12-Step recovery program, “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
An important part of the High Holy Days is the blowing of the Shofar (ram’s horn). I just learned that the blowing of the Shofar takes place not only for Rosh Hashanah through the 10 Days of Awe, culminating in Yom Kippur, but it is sounded for the entire month of Elul. (Elul 2018: Aug 12 – Sept 9) Elul is the twelfth month of the Jewish calendar and we are supposed to already begin our repentance and return to G-d. As was the custom in the Middle East long ago, the blowing of the ram’s horn was to call everyone’s attention that they must prepare for a battle. To me, the the modern day ritual of blowing the Shofar is meant to call us to battle our sins either in thoughts or deeds.
So I hope that everyone, Jew and non-Jew, will listen, not just with their ears, but with their hearts to the blowing of the Shofar, for the last month of the year, and during the Holy days of Rosh Hashanah, the Days of Awe, and Yom Kippur and may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a sweet New Year.