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Jews come together for High Holy Days observances

Rabbi Jessica Rosenthal with the shofar.
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Rabbi Jessica Rosenthal with the shofar.

The High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will bring Jews in the Quad City together in a community of prayer starting at sundown on the evening of October 2 and ending ten days later.

The High Holy Days mark the beginning of the Jewish New Year, explained Rabbi Jessica Rosenthal, spiritual leader of Prescott’s Temple B’rith Shalom. “Unlike the secular New Year, our High Holy Days are a time of reflection on our deeds over the past year, and an opportunity for us to practice charity, repentance and prayer,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a time when we can join together to share and practice Jewish values as a united community.”

Traditionally, Jews believe that on Rosh Hashanah, “God reviews every person’s actions over the past year, and seals judgment on Yom Kippur,” said Rosenthal. “We pray that we’ll be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year. Some understand the idea of being judged to be a reminder of how fragile our lives are and the importance of making the most of every day.” She added that, during the Hebrew month of Elul which precedes the High Holy Days, “Jews make special efforts to practice charity, repentance and prayer, and to ask forgiveness both from God and from others whom they may have wronged during the year, in order to atone for our sins improve ourselves and our community.

“It’s a time of interconnectedness among Jews and God,” Rosenthal emphasized. “Jews everywhere in the world, in every synagogue, join together to pray for and to work towards a good new year.”

The Days of Awe, as they are known, begin with blasts from the shofar, or ram’s horn, a tradition that dates from Biblical times. “The sound of the shofar is a call to prayer,” said Rosenthal. “It is a piercing reminder to repent for our misdeeds of the past year and improve our ways in the new year. Today, the shofar not only reminds us of our need to atone for the sins we have committed in the past year, but to work to become better people in the year that lies ahead. The shofar blasts send us a message of hope and a call for freedom. ”

Though the High Holy Days are serious, Jews traditionally begin the period with a festive meal to celebrate the joyous beginning of the Jewish New Year. They also eat apples and honey to symbolize hopes for a sweet year. end of the High Holy Days, is a way for Jews to cleanse themselves through fasting and prayer, said Rosenthal. “It’s our way of connecting with the best that is in us and what God expects of us. It enables us to bridge the gap between who we have been and who we can be.”

Yom Kippur, which is at the end of the High Holy Days, is a Holiday that prompts Jews to improve. “We fast and pray in order to provide focus for the tasks at hand: repentance and improvement,” said Rosenthal. “It’s our way of connecting with the best that is in us and what God expects of us. It enables us to bridge the gap between who we can be and what we have been.”

The Temple invites all Jews and their partners and families in the area to join us for services during the High Holy Day Season. For further information call the Temple office at (928) 708-0018.

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