High Holy Days a time for atonement
Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year marks the start of the High Holy Days for the Jewish community in Prescott and around the world.
"This is a time of return," said Rabbi William Berkowitz of Temple B'rith Shalom in Prescott. "The overall theme of the first 10 days of the year is to repair our relationships with our families, friends and community. We get back in touch with ourselves."
During the High Holy Days, Jews not only pray to God to forgive their sins but also ask for forgiveness from people who they might have harmed or offended during the year.
One of the legends associated with Rosh Hashanah is the creation of the world, Berkowitz said.
"It was the first day when a human being was put on the Earth," he said. "God created a single human being so that no one could say they're more special since we all have the same ancestry. One of our goals is to get back in touch with that universal sense of shared humanity. It's hard to do when there are so many issues that divide us. It's an ideal that inspires us at this time of year."
Traditionally, the High Holy Days - Rosh Hashanah, followed by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement - call for prayer, repentance and charity. The ram's horn trumpet, or shofar, sounds during services to remind worshipers to examine their actions and repent. Jews traditionally ask God to inscribe them in the book of life on Rosh Hashanah, also called the Day of Judgment. Traditional foods for Rosh Hashanah include apples and honey, symbolizing the hope for a sweet year ahead.
Yom Kippur evening service begins with an ancient and moving chant, Kol Nidre, asking God to absolve the congregants of all religious vows made unintentionally or under duress during the coming year. While the Day of Atonement is said to atone for one's sins against God, God does not forgive sins against other people until the penitents have made peace with those whom they have harmed. The service during Yom Kippur also includes a public confession of sins.
"By the time Yom Kippur comes around 10 days later, hopefully, we've done the restorative work apologizing, correcting our misdeeds and finding forgiveness for those who ask it," Berkowitz said. Yom Kippur is "a full day of prayer and fasting that ends with a joyful meal when we feel unburdened and ready to start the year off fresh."
This year, Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset on Sept. 8, starting the Jewish calendar year of 5771.
For information about service times or the location, call Temple B'rith Shalom at 708-0018.