Rosh Hashanah 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.  It begins the “Aseret Yamei Teshuvah”, the ten days of repentance, that culminate with Yom Kippur. 

Rosh Hashanah 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 Hashanah, 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: “Shanah Tovah” (a good year), “gut yom tov” (yiddish for a good year), or the more complex “Shanah tovah tikatevu vetichateimu” (May you have a good year and may you be sealed and inscribed (in the book of life).  There is also the beautiful tradition of Mizrachi and other Jews to say, “tizku l’shanim rabbot” – may you merit many years ahead. 

In our continued commitment to multiple services and opportunities for worship we offer two service styles throughout the Yamim Noraim, Progressive and MasortiThe Masorti service is a full  traditional service but totally egalitarian and inclusive. This year, with first day Rosh HaShanah falling on Shabbat, our Masorti service will have the full soundings of the Shofar on the second day.

The Progressive service is more abridged, has many English readings and a variety of musical approaches all led by our fabulous Hazzan. On First Day Rosh HaShanah we featurethe music of our Emanuel Synagogue volunteer choir accompanied by musicians from our community. and the is Second Day Rosh Hashanah a “Live” service, featuring the musicians from our Shabbat Live Band along with special guest storytellers, poets and contributions.  Throughout Yom Kippur we hear our fabulous Emanuel Choir supported by talented musicians from the community. All our services are inclusive and egalitarian.

At Rosh Hashanah 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 Hashanah, click here.

Tashlich means “you will cast” and is a ceremony which takes place on Rosh Hashanah 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.  For details of Tashlich ceremonies, which will be Sunday September 17th this year, click here (need hyperlink)

Kol Nidrei means “all the vows” and refers to one of the major prayers of Yom Kippur.

Kol Nidrei, which initiates the 25 hours of Yom Kippur, 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 Holy Dayl. 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 two forms of confession throughout Yom Kippur, the shorter “ashamnu” and  the longer “al chet”, which list a list of  sins we have committed during the previous year, accompanied by pleas for  for forgiveness. The Torah reading of the morning describes the original Yom Kippur rituals and the tradition of fasting we maintain. In the Masorti Service, the Torah service is concluded with  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, Shavuot and Sukkot, 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.  Yizkor is held later in the afternoon, just before Neilah, in the Progressive Service. 

Musaf is 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 Progressive service, most of these prayers are incorporated into the morning service.

Later in the 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.

At 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

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