Rosh Hashanah celebrated in the Valley
By Billy Ludt
Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish new year, is marked by the sounding of the shofar, a ram’s horn, that serves as a call to repent for sin and seek God’s forgiveness.
In the Torah, the first five books of Moses, God told Abraham to give his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. As Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, God pointed Abraham to a ram tangled in brush which ultimately took Isaac’s place for the offering.
This practice, said Rabbi Franklin Muller, spiritual leader of Congregation Rodef Sholom, is a reminder of Abraham’s faith to God, and in turn, God’s compassion toward Abraham.
The piercing sound of the shofar, he said, is meant to rouse followers of Judaism and have them actively usher in the new year.
For Congregation Rodef Sholom, 1119 Elm St., a temple of Reform Judaism, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated for one full day, from sundown to sundown. In conservative and Orthodox congregations, the new year celebration spans two days. The new year 5778 begins today on the Jewish calendar.
Rosh Hashanah was once determined by a rising new moon. The established Jewish calendar steered away slightly from following lunar patterns, but the traditions remain the same.
Services began Wednesday evening at Rodef Sholom with a congregational dinner at 6 p.m., followed by a service at 8 p.m. and reception at 9:30 p.m.
Staple dishes for Rosh Hashanah celebrations are round challah bread, apples and honey and a beef brisket. Honey’s presence, Rabbi Muller said, symbolizes a hope for sweetness in a new year.
A Rosh Hashanah service begins at 10 a.m. today. At the end of the first service, the congregation will gather at nearby Crandall Park to conduct Tashlich, the custom of casting away sins by reciting verses by a body of water.
“It’s a lot of serious looking inward to repent of our sins and be helpful in the new year,” he said.
While formal services are at the temple, much of Rosh Hashanah is celebrated in people’s homes.
To demonstrate Rosh Hashanah is not a holiday focused solely on people asking for forgiveness of their sin, the rabbi said Rodef Sholom and Union for Reform Judaism are seeking donations for a national drive for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
“At the Jewish New Year, we take into account of everything that goes on the world,” Rabbi Muller said. “The shofar’s call rouses us from complacency in terms of the individual and by helping others.”
Prayers and sermons this year will be dedicated to issues such as the hurricanes, terrorism, nuclear threats, the refugee and immigration crisis and anti-Semitism.
Reform congregations, the rabbi said, tend to take part in social justice efforts around the globe.