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September 7, 2010 > Welcoming in the Jewish New Year

Welcoming in the Jewish New Year

By Alissa Gwynn

Shana Tova! September 8 through 10, Jews around the world will be wishing each other a "good year" during the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. "[Rosh Hashanah gives us] a chance to reflect on the course of the past year, make amends with those we have harmed, and set both communal and individual agendas for the coming year," says Rabbi Avi Schulman of Temple Beth Torah in Fremont.

Literally meaning "Head of the Year" in Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of human beings. Though most of the world follows the Gregorian calendar (based on the sun's movements), Israel and Jewish communities use the Jewish calendar (based on both the sun and the moon), which was established by Hillel II around the year 359. The New Year marks a time for Jews to make amends for the past year's sins and move forward with God's forgiveness.

Thus, Rosh Hashanah is also typically considered to be the "Day of Judgment," which marks the beginning of a period of prayer, repentance, and charity. The ten day period, known as the Ten Days of Repentance, culminates in the celebration of Yom Kippur, or the "Day of Atonement." Both days are considered to be "High Holidays," and synagogues hold special services to observe these days.

A typical saying exchanged on Rosh Hashanah is, "May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life." It is believed that Jews who repent during the High Holiday period are on their way to having their names inscribed in the "Book of Life," which brings with it the promise of a good new year. The book is written during Rosh Hashanah, and then sealed ten days later on Yom Kippur.

According to Rabbi Schulman, "[It is a] challenge as a rabbi to offer inspiration through the sermons, to help set the course for the coming year." Typical customs during Rosh Hashanah include: eating apples and honey to usher in a "sweet year," reciting special prayers, and blowing a shofar, or ram's horn. The blowing of the shofar has several different interpretations; one refers to story of Isaac and the ram that was sacrificed in his place as a reward for Abraham's faith, while another suggests the "trumpet-like" sound of the shofar serves to stir and awaken the soul of all Jews.

Temple Beth Torah will have their choir and canter lead the congregation prayer during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The temple, which is the only synagogue in the Tri-City Area, welcomes all members of the community who are interested in attending services during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. However, they do request that anyone interested in attending the Evening and Morning services contact the Temple office beforehand. Other services, such as the Family Service at 3:30pm and the Memorial Service, do not require prior arrangement.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services
Temple Beth Torah
42000 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont
(510) 656-7141

Rosh Hashanah, Wednesday, September 8
Evening Service, 8 p.m.

Rosh Hashanah, Thursday, September 9
Morning Service, 9:30 a.m.
K - 6 Program, 9:30 a.m. (requires pre-registration)
Family Service, 3:30 p.m.

Yom Kippur, Friday, September 17
Evening Service, 8 p.m.

Yom Kippur, Saturday, September 18
Morning Services, 9:30 a.m.
K - 6, 9:30 a.m.
Study session, 2 p.m.
Family Service, 3:30 p.m.
Yizkor Memorial Service, 4:30 p.m.
Afternoon, 5:30 p.m.
Neilah Closing Service, 6:30 p.m.

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