spirituality.jpg

Worship & Spirituality

High Holy Days

Memorable. Spiritual. Moving. Led by our Rabbis and Cantors, and supported by the Temple Aliyah choir, our beautiful High Holy Day services blend the traditional and the modern.  We accommodate all of our members by holding two services (on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur) — In addition, we offer Family Services and Children’s and Teen worship experiences.

2014 High Holy Day Dates:

Erev Rosh Hashanah – Wednesday, September 24

Rosh Hashanah Day 1 – Thursday, September 25

Rosh Hashanah Day 2 – Friday, September 26

Kol Nidre – Friday, October 3

Yom Kippur/Yizkor – Saturday, October 4

For more information on services times and ticket options, please call the Temple Office at (818) 346-3545.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
Frequently Asked Questions

What are the “Days of Awe?”

Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holy Days, and begins a ten day period of soul searching that concludes with Yom Kippur. Tradition tells us that on Rosh Hashanah the names of the righteous are inscribed in the Book of Life, guaranteeing another year of life. For those who are not entirely good, judgment is suspended until Yom Kippur, when our good works and acts of repentance during those 10 days to turn away (make teshuvah) from our wicked ways. Synagogue services give us time to reflect and resolve, but prayer and meditation are not sufficient to wipe the slate clean. The only way to expunge sins committed against other people is by sincerely apologizing and asking for forgiveness.

What do the words Rosh Hashanah mean?

Rosh Hashanah is Hebrew for head or beginning of the year. In the Torah, we read, “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, there shall be a sacred assembly, a cessation from work, a day of commemoration pro­claimed by the sound of the Shofar.” Therefore, we celebrate Rosh Hashanah on the first day of Tishrei, the sev­enth month of the Jewish calendar. The number assigned to the Jewish year changes on Rosh Hashanah based on ancient rabbinic reckoning of when the world was created.

Why is the New Year in the fall? In addition, why do we start the New Year in the seventh month?

Our ancestors had several dates in the calendar marking the beginning of important seasons of the year. Originally, the first month of the Hebrew calendar was Nisan, in the spring. However, the first of Tishrei, in the fall, was the beginning of the economic year, when the old harvest year ended and the new one began. Around the month of Tishrei, the first rains came in the land of Israel, and the soil was plowed for the winter grain. Eventually, the first of Tishri became not only the beginning of the economic year, but the beginning of the spiritual year as well.

What is done in the home for Rosh Hashanah?

The focus of home celebration is the evening meal served at the start of Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah menus vary among Jewish subcultures and from household to household, but two customs are pervasive: using a round challah (with or without raisins) as a symbol of the cycle of the year, and starting Rosh Hashanah with apples dipped in honey as a harbinger of a sweet year.

Before the Erev Rosh Hashanah meal, the following blessings are recited:

 

For candle lighting:

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitsivanu l’hadlik ner shel yom tov.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has taught us the way of holiness through the Mitzvot and calls us to light the New Year light.

For wine:

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha-olam boray p’ree hagafen.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who makes the fruit of the vine.

For a Sweet New Year:

Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Ha-olam, shehechiyanu v’keyamanu v’higianu lazman hazeh.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this moment

For the round challah:

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha-olam, hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

For apple sections dipped in honey:

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha-olam, boray p’ree ha’eytz. Y’hi ratzon she’te’chadesh aleynu shana tova umetukah.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe who creates the fruit of the tree. May it be your will, Adonai, God of our fathers and mothers, to renew us for a good and sweet year.

What happens in the synagogue for Rosh Hashanah?

Rosh Hashanah is primarily a liturgical or synagogue holiday with a few core elements, the blowing of a shofar (the horn of a ram or other animal) and distinctive holiday melodies, which are reprised repeatedly during Rosh Hasha­nah, and again on Yom Kippur.

Rosh Hashanah prayers sound the themes of judgment and repentance, and the recurrent image of God as a fa­ther-king is given voice in one of the most memorable prayers and melodies of all the Jewish holidays, Avinu Malkeynu, “Our Father, our King.”

During the morning service on Rosh Hashanah, the Torah readings from Genesis 21 or Genesis 22 are always a focal point. Among the most powerful and problematic stories in the Torah, Genesis 21 tells of the birth of Isaac, the casting out of Hagar and Ishmael into the desert, and their subsequent deliverance. Genesis 22 contains the terrible test of Abraham’s faith, when he is asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac. This story is referred to as “the binding of Isaac,” or the Akedah.

What is Tashlich?

It is traditional to go to a lake, river, or harbor for a ceremony called Tashlich, from the Hebrew for “send off’ or “cast away.” An informal and non-liturgical custom, people symbolically cast off their sins by emptying crumbs from their pockets into the water.

What does Yom Kippur mean?

Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement.” Yom Kippur, the most somber day of the year is called Shabbat Shabbaton, the “Sabbath of Sabbaths” in the Bible. On this day devoted to reflection and repentance, healthy adults fast from all food and drink from sunset to sunset.

What happens in the home for Yom Kippur?

Although this is probably the least home-based of all holidays, it begins and ends with a family meal. The evening meal is cooked with a mind to the fast ahead, so generally it is neither too heavy nor too spicy. Unlike other festival dinners, candle lighting takes place afterwards, marking the official start of Yom Kippur and the fast.

After eating and before lighting the festival candles, it is traditional to light a candle in memory of family members who have died. Special yahrzeit (“year’s-time”) candles are available in our Women of Aliyah Judaica shop. These candles are lit without formal blessing, though some people say a silent prayer.

After eating, the Yom Kippur candles are lit with the following blessing:

Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Yom HaKippurim.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe who has taught us the way of holiness through the Mitzvot, and calls us to light the Yom Kippur light.

Yom Kippur ends with a light meal to break the fast. This repast has no formal rituals or ceremony apart from the blessing over bread, Hamotzi. Food prepared in advance is usually set out, buffet style, while family and friends discuss the relative difficulty of their fasts and the content of their rabbis’ sermons. It is a mitzvah to invite to your table anyone who might have nowhere else to break the fast. Many families contribute both money and canned goods to help feed the hungry. Synagogues often collect food for distribution to local pantries.

How do we atone for our sins?

Yom Kippur atones only for sins between humanity and God, not for sins against another person. To atone for sins against another person, you must first apologize, righting the wrongs you committed if possible. This must all be done before the conclusion of Yom Kippur.

What is the Jewish definition of sin?

In Judaism, the word “sin” has different connotations than it does in our wider culture. “Sin” in Judaism is generally not something for which a person will be punished in the afterlife, but is rather an improper act for which one can ask forgiveness—not just of God, but of other human beings as well.

What is Kol Nidre?

Services begin with the haunting melody of Kol Nidre, the opening prayer and the name of the evening service. Kol Nidre is an Aramaic declaration that nullifies all the vows and promises that each person will make to God and to him/herself in the coming year, an acknowledgment of the weakness of human resolution.

What happens at Synagogue Yom Kippur day?

Yom Kippur service runs throughout most of the day: Shacharit, the morning service, includes a Torah reading from Leviticus that describes the sacrificial rites for Yom Kippur in the Temple. The morning Haftarah reading is Isaiah’s passionate sermon demanding jus­tice and decrying religious hypocrisy.

Musaf, the service that follows Shacharit, includes recitation of the martyrology, which begins with Israel’s Martyrdom continues through the Crusade period, and describes other persecutions culminating with the Nazi Holocaust.

Why is the Book of Jonah read on Yom Kippur?

The Book of Jonah was selected for the haftarah reading for the Mincha (afternoon) service on Yom Kippur because God is represented there as the God of all nations. The Book of Jonah also addresses itself to another High Holy Days theme: that a person can abandon one’s evil ways, accept responsibility for one’s own actions, and return to God.

What is Yizkor?

Yizkor is a service that recalls loved ones who have died. Yizkor takes place on Yom Kippur, both at the early and late services.

What is the Ne’ilah service?

Yom Kippur services conclude with Ne’ilah, from the Hebrew “to lock,” referring to the symbolic closing of heaven’s gates and the “book of life.” Many people stand throughout this short service, which ends with a final shofar blast. In many congregations, Ne’ilah is followed by a short evening or Ma’ariv service, and Havdallah, the ceremony that ends this holiday as well as the Sabbath.

Why do the rabbis and cantors wear white on Yom Kippur? Why do we cover the Torah scrolls with white covers?

It is customary to wear white on the holiday, which symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that our sins shall be made as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Traditionally, Jews are buried in plain white garments. Wearing white on Yom Kippur reminds us of our mortality. Some wear sneakers or other rubber-soled shoes out of deference to the ancient practice of avoiding leather shoes, which were a symbol of luxury.

Why are the confessions done in the plural?

The communal confession is called the Vidui. It contains a litany of human sins, and the entire congregation recites it collectively and in the plural emphasizing communal responsibility for sins.

High Holy Day VOCABULARY

High Holy Days:  Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

L’shanah Tovah Tikatayvu:  “May you be inscribed for a good year.” This is the Rosh Hashanah greeting that expresses the hope that all friends and loved ones will be written in the Book of Life and granted happiness and fulfillment in the year ahead.

Shofar:  The shofar is made from the horn of a ram. It is sounded every morning during the month preceding Rosh Hashanah, on Rosh Hashanah itself, and again at the conclusion of Yom Kippur. Some say that its piercing sound is a “wake-up call” that reminds people to engage in the process of repentance.

Teshuvah:  Literally means, “returning,” a Hebrew term for repentance.

Tzedakah:  “Righteousness,” often mistranslated as “charity.”

Yahrzeit Candle:  Memorial candle lit on the anniversary of a loved one’s death, and on those days when Yizkor is recited. Yizkor is recited on Yom Kippur.

Yom Tov:  Literally “a good day.” The term has come to mean “holy day.” It is often pronounced Yuntiff (the Yiddish pronunciation) and the standard holiday greeting is “Gut Yuntiff.”