By C.B. Hanif
September is a very busy month in the Jewish faith, and one can learn a lot about the coming holidays from Rabbis Robert A. Silvers and Randall J. Konigsburg.
For example, Silvers, of Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, said Sukkot and Simchat Torah also are big holidays this month that tend to get overshadowed by
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. “Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur begin the Jewish
year. Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the Jewish New Year.”
Between Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 8 and Yom Kippur are the Ten Days of Repentance when individuals reflect on where they have fallen short and seek out forgiveness
from fellow human beings.
On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Silvers said, “Now we can turn to God and say ‘I did my part in regards to seeking forgiveness of my fellow human beings, and
now I need to settle with you, God.’ So it’s a time of celebrating the new
year, but also of celebrating that we have the capacity to change.”
The prayers, the melodies are the same each year, said Konigsburg, “But we’re different. And so for every person, it’s going to be a different experience.
And part of my job as the rabbi of the congregation is to help people find
those spots that are going to be meaningful for them.”
Silvers cited B’nai Israel’s upcoming Rosh Hashanah Torah Story skit — playing on the name of the Jewish Holy Scripture referred to
as Torah and the movie Toy Story — as
one creative way to relate the holiday. “You’ll see some of our clergy,
including myself, dressed up as Buzz Lightyear, and we’ll talk about the New
Year and I’ll be Buzz New Year.”
A great ritual element is the blowing of the shofar, whose loud, shrill sound announcing Rosh Hashanah is to awaken the soul to repentance and stir human
beings to greater good and better behavior in the coming year.
Yom Kippur, the end of the main part of these High Holy Days, is a full day of fasting and prayer, said Konigsburg:
“Making sure we leave no stone unturned. Asking God to ‘Forgive us, because there’s no other reason for you to do it except because we need forgiveness, and because
we really mean to do better next year. But we can’ t do it without your help.’
C.B. Hanif is a writer and inter-religious affairs consultant. Find him at www.interfaith21.com.