For many of our clients here at COHME, September is a special time for them and their families. The new Jewish year of 5782 began this year at sundown on September 6. The three weeks since are part of the first Jewish month of Tishri, which is blessedly full of Jewish Holidays. During the pandemic, the High Holy Days of the last years have been especially meaningful, and especially difficult, for many of our clients who were unable to celebrate with their families.
In honor of those who observe these holy days, we have some background on the traditions this month holds. We publish this in the hopes that even if they cannot be with their families physically, they feel that they and their beliefs are being celebrated.
Rosh Hashana literally means the beginning of the year. Judaism believes in the seven days of creation, and Rosh Hashana commemorates when man was created. It is a two-day holiday. All Jewish holidays, and Shabbos (Shabbat), start at sundown. This year Rosh Hashana began Monday evening, September 6 at sundown and continued on September 7 and 8 until nightfall.
Rosh Hashana is also known as the “Day of Judgement.” Those who are able try to get to a synagogue to pray special prayers and hear the shofar. Those who cannot may pray at home. To arrange shofar blowing for someone at home, please speak to the rabbi of your synagogue or a local Chabad Rabbi.
There are many special and symbolic foods that we eat, starting with round challah, symbolizing the circular year, and a crown because on Rosh Hashana we emphasize G-d’s kingship. The challah and a sweet apple are dipped in honey. As we eat our symbolic foods, we intone a short prayer. When eating the apple and honey, we say “May it be Your will, G-d, that You renew us for a good and sweet new year.” We eat pomegranate seeds and ask that our merits increase as the seeds of a pomegranate. We eat the head of a lamb or fish and ask that we be as the head and not the tail.
Also known as Yom Hakippurim, it translates to mean the “Day of Atonement.” It begins at sundown today, Wednesday, September 15, and ends with nightfall on September 16. Jews fast and ask each other and G-d for forgiveness.
Any ill person or older adult should not fast without receiving permission and guidance from his/her doctor. The t10 days beginning with Rosh Hashana and ending with Yom Kippur are referred to as the High Holy Days and the 10 Days of Repentance. We are more mindful of our behavior and strive to be more spiritual.
Also pronounced Sukkot, it begins at sundown on Monday, September 20. This holiday commemorates the time when the Jewish wandered in the desert for 40 years after leaving Egypt until they entered their Promised Land of Israel. At that time, they lived in tents, booths - temporary places that they often had to pack up and unpack. Today, we too, enter temporary booths called sukkahs. They need to have at least three walls and are covered with thatches or branches. It is customary to decorate these sukkahs. Most people eat all their meals in the sukkah, and many even sleep there and spend their free time in the sukkah.
We also wave the Four Species: one citron, one palm beach, three myrtle branches, and two willow branches. These present the different types of Jews and our need to be unified. Many synagogues, community centers, and other public buildings offer their sukkahs and Four Species for public use.
Sukkos culminates with Simchas Torah or Simchat Torah which is on Wednesday, September 29. We complete the weekly reading of the Chumash, the Five Books of the Torah, and start anew. There is much dancing and celebrating in synagogues and congregations. Yizkor, the memorial prayer for those who have passed away, is recited twice during this month. On Yom Kippur, and again towards the end of Sukkos on September 28. This prayer is usually said in the synagogue but can certainly be said in private.