It’s September and many public and private employees will be enjoying two days off from work for the mysterious days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But what are these days and who celebrates them and why? Rosh Hashanah is translated from Hebrew to mean “Head of the Year”, celebrated September 9th and 10th this year it is also known as the Jewish new year. It is a celebratory holiday but also a day of deep spiritual meaning. It is a day of reflection of the past year, repentance, forgiveness and renewal for the New Year. The Shofar, the world’s oldest wind instrument – a hollowed out ram’s horn- is blown much like a trumpet during the Rosh Hashana services.
“The Shofar is the instrument prescribed in the bible for announcing the New Year. It is also meant to be ‘wake up call’, reminding each of us that if we desire to make changes in our personal lives, now is the time to get started.”, says Rabbi Michael Sternield, of Temple Beth El Synagogue in Bradenton.
It is a warm and joyous holiday when Jewish people greet one another with “L’Shana Tovah” which loosely translates as “Happy New year” and enjoy festive meals with family and friends. A common custom is dipping apples into honey in order to signify wishes for a sweet new year.
Yom Kippur, also celebrated for two days, September 18th and 19th, is the Jewish day of communal and personal atonement for sins committed during the past year. Fasting and prayer are the central components to the holy day. “G’mar hatimah tova” is the traditional Yom Kippur greeting. It means “May you be sealed for a good year in the book of life” in Hebrew. “Tzom kal” is also a fitting Yom Kippur greeting, as it means “easy fast” in Hebrew.
“Yom Kippur is not really a holiday. Rather, it is a day in which we set aside material concerns and attune our minds to matters of conscience,” says Sternfield.
Rabbi Michael Sternfield will be celebrating his 48th year of conducting High Holy Days services.
“Even after all these years, I still look forward with excitement and joy this annual season of personal renewal and hope for the future,” remarks Sternfield.
Temple Beth El is a welcoming reform synagogue with a congregation of Jews from diverse backgrounds, lifestyles and levels of observance. The Temple welcomes Jewish people from all over Manatee County and its surrounding areas who are looking for a place to worship, study, learn and socialize. The synagogue offers inspiring and participatory friday night Erev Shabbat services and saturday morning services with dynamic Torah discussion. All major holidays are celebrated including High Holiday Services. Temple Beth El offers Hebrew school for youth as well as ongoing adult education.
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Photo at top of article: Congregants of Temple Beth El hold the Sefer Torahs. A Sefer Torah is a handwritten copy of the Torah, the holiest book within Judaism. It must meet extremely strict standards of production. The Torah scroll is mainly used in the ritual of Torah reading during Jewish services.
Photos courtesy of Temple Beth El.