Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the Jewish year, it is the time we celebrate the creation of the world and think about our place in it.
Rosh Hashana has two other names which reflect the nature of the holiday: Yom Ha Din, the day of judgement and Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance. It is a day of judgement because legend tells us that on this day God begins to write in the Book of Life, inscribing us for the year ahead. God weighs our deeds and considers our actions in the year that has passed. It is called the Day of Remembrance for on that day we remember our actions of the previous year as well as those who have entered and those who have gone from our lives.
At Rosh Hashana, we eat sweet foods, especially apples dipped in honey, for a sweet year ahead, round challah representing the cycle of the year and life, and we attend services thanking God for the goodness of the year that has passed and asking for a good, sweet year ahead. One of the mitzvot is to hear the sound of the shofar. It is traditional to greet one another on this day with the words: “Shana Tova” (a good year), “gut yom tov” (yiddish for a good year), or the more complex “Shana tova tikatevu vetichateimu” (May you have a good year and may you be sealed and inscribed (in the book of life)
In our continued commitment to multiple services and opportunities for worship we offer two service styles for first day Rosh Hashana: the Progressive and Masorti. The Masorti service is more traditional in style and the Progressive has the music of our Emanuel Synagogue volunteer choir accompanied by musicians from our community. On Second Day Rosh Hashana our Progressive service is Rosh Hashana Live, featuring the musicians from our Shabbat Live Band along with special guest storytellers, poets and contributions. All our services are inclusive and egalitarian.
At Rosh Hashana Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews have a special seder, with ritual foods and blessings. For more information about the seder and how to add these elements to your Rosh Hashana, click here.
Tashlich means “you will cast” and is a ceremony which takes place on Rosh Hashana and the days following.
This ceremony has its origins in a saying by the prophet Micah “You shall cast out your sins into the depths of the sea.” At this time of year when we attempt to wipe the slate clean and remove our sins far away, we symbolically cast our sins into a body of water and watch them disappear. There is a short prayer service conducted beside the water, followed by the symbolic throwing of bread into the depths.
Kol Nidrei means “all the vows” and refers to one of the major prayers of this service.
The Kol Nidrei prayer is chanted to a hauntingly beautiful melody which brings tears to the eyes of many participants for whom the melody brings back memories of years past and an introduction to the solemnity of the festival. This is the only evening service at which participants wear a tallit.
Yom Kippur morning services contain the reading of the Torah and a service filled with contemplation and reflection.
We recite the “al chet” confession which lists all the sins we committed during the year and we follow it with a cry for forgiveness. The Torah reading describes the original Yom Kippur rituals and the tradition of fasting we maintain. In the Masorti Service, the morning prayers are followed by Yizkor.
Yizkor is the service at which we remember our loved ones who have passed away. Yizkor is recited at all the pilgrimage festivals: Pesach, Sukkot and Shavuot, as well as during Yom Kippur. At the end of the prayers, El Maleh Rachamim, the prayer asking that the souls of our loved ones be at peace and Mourner’s Kaddish, gratitude for their lives, are recited. We read the names of those in our community who have died in the past year.
Musaf, the heart of the Yom Kippur service containing all of its major prayers and melodies including the powerful Unataneh Tokef and the dramatic reenactment of the Temple ritual, where the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies.
In the late afternoon, there will be an opportunity to engage in conversation with the clergy about topics relevant to the season. They will each share some insights into their thoughts: what is keeping them up at night? What are the most important issues facing us at this time? There will be a chance to ask questions. Come along, challenge and be challenged with ideas, thoughts and discussion.
Mincha, the afternoon of Yom Kippur, the service moves to a more introspective and reflective mood. We begin the journey by reading the Torah, followed by the story of Jonah, the prophet who sought to flee from God’s presence.
Ne’ilah is the evening service for Yom Kippur and it contains much of the most wonderful poetry and music of the day. This service speaks in imagery of the gates, which have been thrown open to receive our prayers, beginning to slowly close as the day comes to an end. The stars begin to appear in the sky and the mood becomes more festive and joyous. At the conclusion of the service, the shofar is sounded to herald the end of another Yom Kippur. We end with a short havdalah which separates the holy day from the rest of the week.