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Mon, June 17

Approaching Atonement during High Holy Days

Rabbi Adele Plotkin demonstrates how to play the shofar, an ancient musical horn made of ram’s horn.
Prescott Newspapers Inc. file photo

Rabbi Adele Plotkin demonstrates how to play the shofar, an ancient musical horn made of ram’s horn.

As we are about just one month before Rosh HaShanah [the beginning of the Jewish spiritual year], we reflect on the words of Moses in Torah [the 5 books of Moses esp. the Book of Deuteronomy] which remind us that our choices are crucial in preparing us to atone during the High Holy Days. What is meant by “we”? According to Torah, all people regardless of ethnic or religious backgrounds are welcome to join in atoning for their sins. We are asked to choose blessings by doing mitzvot [good deeds] such as observing the Holy Days, resisting idolatry, respecting all of creation including all other folk, and so forth. These deeds include spiritual deeds that can help people improve the health of their imperfect selves. About a week before Rosh HaShanah on a Saturday night, there is a practice to have a Selichot Forgiveness Service [at midnight for some].

However some people seem more focused on the things that need to be done for the High Holy Days such as shofar blowing practiced until near perfection. So every morning during morning prayers during the month of Elul [the month preceding Rosh HaShanah], these folk blow the shofar. Imagine living above a store front in the center of Jerusalem. After sunrise, in uncoordinated symphony, one can hear blasts of the shofrot [shofars] for quite some time whether one wants to wake up or not during the month of Elul [but not on Shabbat].

We also remember our loved ones during the High Holy Days such as by visiting cemeteries, having Memorial prayers, and by adding specific words to the mourners’ kaddish prayer. Some add the words throughout the Ten Days of Awe [Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur] while others add these words throughout Elul as well.

However, we each choose which practices we want to follow in pursuing our own individual atonement. We at Beit Torah Congregation ( will observe the High Holy Days: Rosh HaShanah from Sunday evening, Oct. 2, through Tues. Oct 4; Yom Kippur Tuesday evening, Oct. 11, through Wednesday, Oct. 12. All are welcome to join in. Please call to RSVP or for details at 928-237-0390 or email


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