Rabbi Moshe Elbaz
The Valdosta Daily Times
The Jewish New Year or Rosh Ha’shanah 5774 — 2013 will be celebrated at Temple Israel/Valdosta Hebrew Congregation, here in Valdosta and for all Jewish communities around the world, beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 7:30 p.m. and continues on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 5 and 6. The season is known as High Holy Days which includes the Jewish New Year and concludes with Day of Atonement. Among the themes observed are the concepts of the birthday of the world and God is celebrated as the creator, the rebirth and renewal of nature, the assurance of life and hope, and humanity’s desire for peace in the universe and on earth.
It is the anniversary of creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of mankind’s role in God’s world. It also emphasizes the special relationship between God and humanity: our dependence upon God as our creator and sustainer, and God’s dependence upon us as the ones who make His presence known and felt in His world.
Each year on Rosh Ha’Shanah, “all the inhabitants of the world pass before God like a flock of sheep,” and it is decreed in the heavenly court, “who shall live, and who shall die … who shall be improvised, and who shall be enriched …” and it is also the day, we proclaim God King of the universe. The Kabbalists (Jewish mysticism) teach that the continued existence of the universe is dependent upon the renewal of the divine desire for a world when it makes a renewed commitment.
And with the concluding day of Yom Kippur — Day of Atonement centered round the self-examination and repentance of the entire community. Rabbi Moshe Elbaz and Susan Rupright will officiate throughout the season, assisted by members of the congregation.
Special greetings from the community at-large will be brought by Lt. Col. David Rayman from Moody Air Force Base, and the Honorable Mayor of Valdosta John Gayle. Dr. Louis Schmier will present a copy of his new book of the early history of the Jewish community of Valdosta entitled “Chant of Ages; Cry of Cotton: The Biography of a South Georgia Jewish Community’s Beginnings 1865-1908.”
A special festive Oneg — reception will be held at William (Bill) and Margot Pearlman and Family Social Hall being sponsored by members of the congregation at the conclusion of the evening service on Wednesday, Sept. 4.
In Numbers 29:1, it states “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a sacred occasion … You shall observe it as a day when the horn is sounded.” Thus, this period is a respite and enabling the Jewish community to retreat, rethink, reevaluate and reconfirm individual and communal life and commitment. It is a time of great celebration and subtle trepidation. We celebrate the completion of one year and the beginning of the next — the reassuring, endless cycle of time.
On Rosh Ha’shanah a unique opportunity is provided for family gathering in their homes for the Festival Meal, followed by the synagogue gathering for religious services.
A round Challa or breaded bread with raisins is added to the festive meal. Apples are dipped in honey, and sweet wine served to usher in the New Year. At Temple Israel, a few days prior, these Challahs are baked and made available to the community. The synagogue is adorned with flowers, and the Holy Scrolls are covered in white mantles or covers, symbolizing humility before God. Upon entering the synagogue, members are greeted with “L’shanah Tovah Tikatevu” — May God inscribe you in the Book of Life. A Mahazor — prayer-book with Hebrew prayers and commentaries is used expressing thanksgiving and celebration of God’s creation.
On Rosh Ha’shanah, Jews recall the “Brit” – The Covenant made between God and Abraham. One of the famous liturgies of the season known as “Avinu Mal’keynu” Our Father, Our King … The sounding of the Shofar — the Ram’s Horn (because of its association with the binding of Isaac) is sounded this year on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 5 and 6, and the concluding Shofar on Saturday, Sept. 14 at sunset.
Sidney Morris has served as the Shofar blower for many years, as well as this year. The sounding of the Shofar is done in a special manner signifying God calls us for judgment. A total of 100 notes are sounded. Sharon Morris will be reading the special readings assigned to these days from the Torah scroll.
The High Holy Days culminating with Yom Kippur — Day of Atonement is the holiest and most solemn day of the year and the most prominent fast day. It will be observed beginning Friday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m. and throughout the following day on Saturday, Sept. 14. This sacred day is observed through fasting and prayer worship. Focusing on the desire and true intent to atone for past wrong as a community. The 25-hour observance begins with the famous prayer of “Kol Nidrei” — “All vows and promises made since last year are now released and forgiven” recited in a moving voice. During the Yom Kippur, day services are held to remember the departed members of the congregation “Yizkor — Memorial Service” remembering all deceased relatives. At the afternoon, a study session of the Prophet Jonah is held, recalling God’s forgiveness of the people of Nineve, thus forgiving Israel at this hour of the day, as the closing of the day nears. Finally, special break-the-fast meal served following services.
Immediately after the conclusion of Yom Kippur, preparations begin for the Festival of Sukkot by beginning the construction of the Sukkah. Sukkot means “booths” or temporary huts. In celebrating Sukkot, we remember the dwellings used by our ancestors as they traveled in the desert following the exodus from Egypt.
For additional information about membership, and the High Holy Days schedule, visit www.valdostatempleisrael.org; or call Temple Israel, Rabbi Moshe Elbaz, (229) 244-1813.