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September 12, 2017 > Days of Awe proclaim a time for renewal

Days of Awe proclaim a time for renewal

By Victor Carvellas

Self-reflection. Atonement. Repentance. Together these words can stir our hearts and minds to consider our spiritual health, our relationship to one another, and our condition with respect to that which we hold as divine. They are also the motivating sentiments behind the coming Days of Awe of Judaism, namely Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are bookends, as it were, says Rabbi Avi Schulman of Temple Beth Torah in Fremont, that set apart a period of reflection and self-inquiry, as well as a turning back to our better selves; its a time of inquiring into our actions during the past year with the idea of making right our relationship with God and with others.

Rosh Hashanah means the beginning or head of the year (it will be Year 5778 on September 20). Days of the Jewish calendar begin at sunset; the two-day celebration begins with Erev Rosh Hashanah on the evening on the first day of Tishrei, the first month of the civil year, one of four different year cycles ordained by Jewish Law. Rosh Hashanahs biblical name, Yom Teruah (day of shouting/blasting), refers to one of the primary customs associated with the celebration, namely the blowing of the ramÕs horn, or shofar.

Other Rosh Hashanah customs include attending synagogue services and reciting special liturgy about teshuva (repentance) and enjoying festive foods. Eating apples dipped in honey celebrates the bounty of the harvest coinciding with the season, and invokes a sweet new year. Circular challah loaves reflect natureÕs annual cycle. Some congregations practice Tashlich, the casting of bread on the water symbolizing the dispatch of past transgressions. Memories of loved ones past is kept alive with visits to cemeteries.

The Talmud says that on Rosh Hashanah three books are opened wherein the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an intermediate class are recorded. Names of the righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life and sealed "to live." The intermediate class are allowed a respite of 10 days, until Yom Kippur, to reflect, repent and become righteous; the wicked are blotted out forever.

In the month of Elul, prior to the Days of Awe (Yamim Nora'im), Jews are supposed to begin self-examination and repentance. Every morning, except on Shabbat, the shofar is blown to call listeners from their spiritual slumber and alert them to coming judgment.

In the days following Rosh Hashanah, the faithful turn their attention to repentance and reconciliation. The prayers of Yom Kippur heal the rift between individuals and God. Trespasses against others require personal reconciliation. According to the twelfth-century Rabbi Maimonides, four important steps must be taken:

¥ Verbally confess your mistake and ask for forgiveness.
¥ Express sincere remorse, resolving not to make the same mistake again.
¥ Do everything in your power to right the wrong and appease the person who has been hurt.
¥ Act differently if the same situation happens again.

On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in the three books is considered final. This day is, essentially, an individualÕs last appeal and last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate repentance and make amends.

On the day of Yom Kippur, no work is to be done. (Famously, LA Dodgers pitcher, Sandy Koufax, sat out on Game 1 of the 1965 World Series for Yom Kippur.) Celebrants fast for a 25-hour period, abstaining from food and water from the evening before Yom Kippur to just after night fall on the day. The point of fasting is to reconnect people with their ability to overcome the needs of the body, to affirm that choice is more powerful than the flesh, and that individuals have the ability to act for reasons higher than simple survival. As Rabbi Schulman says, fasting Òindicates our ability to overcome our natural inclinations.Ó

(For people for whom fasting would be a health risk, the injunction is lifted. For instance, children under the age of nine and women who have just given birth are not permitted to fast, even if they want to. For tips on safe fasting, visit http://www.jewfaq.org/fasttips.htm)

Most of Yom Kippur is spent in the synagogue in prayer, as the liturgy, with five services beginning with the Kol Nidre, is more extensive than for any other day. In the concluding service, Neilah, the ark containing the Torah is kept open throughout the service, and celebrants must stand. The tone of urgency in the prayers of this service makes some feel there is a closing of the gates, a last chance for the congregationÕs prayers to reach the ears of God.

Many in the Jewish community urge others to make their fasting more meaningful by directing their attention to the hungry of the world and donating the amount of money equivalent to a dayÕs food to a hunger awareness/advocacy organization. If money is a problem, consider asking friends and family to save unused coupons for food and household products, which can be donated to organizations that provide food and necessities for people in need. A timely choice would be the Jewish Federations of North America who are currently helping people still reeling from Hurricane Harvey (https://www.jewishfederations.org/).

For Jews and non-Jews alike, self-inquiry and a concern for others are the foundations of what it means to live a meaningful life. As Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approach, it is a good time to evaluate where we stand.

For more information and a complete list of services and times, contact the local Temples.

Erev Rosh Hashanah
Wednesday, Sep 20:

Congregation Shir Ami
4529 Malabar Ave, Castro Valley
religion@congshirami.org
www.congshirami.org
Tickets required for guests and non-members

Chabad of Fremont
220 Yerba Buena Pl, Fremont
(510) 300-4090
Register at www.chabadfremont.com

Temple Beth Torah
42000 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont
(510) 656-7141
www.bethtorah-fremont.org
High Holy Days Passport required Ð call for details

Temple Beth Sholom
642 Dolores Ave, San Leandro
(510) 357-8505
www.tbssanleandro.com
Tickets required for guests and non-members


Rosh Hashanah
Thursday, Sep 21:

Congregation Shir Ami
4529 Malabar Ave, Castro Valley
religion@congshirami.org
www.congshirami.org
Tickets required for guests and non-members

Chabad of Fremont
220 Yerba Buena Pl, Fremont
(510) 300-4090
Register at www.chabadfremont.com

Temple Beth Torah
42000 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont
Family Service and Tashlich at Lake Elizabeth
Lake Elizabeth
(meet at boat ramp near Sailway Dr)
40000 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont
(510) 656-7141
www.bethtorah-fremont.org
High Holy Days Passport required Ð call for details

Temple Beth Sholom
642 Dolores Ave, San Leandro
(510) 357-8505
www.tbssanleandro.com
Tickets required for guests and non-members


Yom Kippur
Friday, Sep 29 & Saturday, Sep 30:

Eden UCC Pioneer Chapel
1046 Grove Way, Hayward
religion@congshirami.org
www.congshirami.org
Tickets required for guests and non-members

Chabad of Fremont
220 Yerba Buena Pl, Fremont
(510) 300-4090
Register at www.chabadfremont.com

Temple Beth Torah
42000 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont
(510) 656-7141
www.bethtorah-fremont.org
High Holy Days Passport required Ð call for details

Temple Beth Sholom
642 Dolores Ave, San Leandro
(510) 357-8505
www.tbssanleandro.com
Tickets required for guests and non-members

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