A message for all

Published 11:04 pm Saturday, September 27, 2008

At sundown Monday will begin 10 of the holiest days in the Jewish faith. Starting with a celebration for another New Year, these high holy days end in a special appreciation for the one of the greatest gifts given to mankind — the gift of forgiveness.

Rosh Hashanah or Jewish New Year. In Talmudic times it was revered as a celebration of the anniversary of the day the world began. It’s one of two of the most sacred holidays for the Jewish community.

The second is Yom Kippur, which comes 10 days later. Its name means the Day of Atonement and Jews who do not usually consider themselves observant of the customs of their faith will honor the day by not working, fasting and going to temple.

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These are holidays that are deeply important to Jews and knowledge of them can give Christians more insight into their own faith, according to Dr. David Wucher, rabbi at B’Nai Sholom congregation in Huntington, W.Va.

“To understand better the roots of Christianity, the origins of Christianity as it emerged out of Judaism and understand the ancient holidays that we are still observing today,” Wucher said.

The Jewish faith revolves around the home and most holidays are celebrated there, rather than going to the synagogue. However, services at the synagogue are at the heart of the high holy days.

“There will be Jews all over the world who will not go to temple, except once a year,” Tom Scarr, president of B’Nai Sholom, said. “By going to the high holy days, it is a recognition of who they are. They consider themselves good, religious Jews. To them they celebrate all the rest of the holidays at home.”

Yom Kippur is rooted in the teachings of Leviticus 16:29-30: “You shall afflict your souls, and you shall not do any work. … For on that day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the Lord.”

The days leading up to Yom Kippur are the time for individuals to seek forgiveness for the sins and transgressions they’ve committed against one another. Reconciliation is sought and righting the wrongs, if possible, is required.

“Yom Kippur is very serious,” Sharon Weed of Proctorville, explains. Weed is a member of the B’Nai Sholom congregation.

“Rosh Hashanah is a very spiritual time, but it is a happy time,” Weed said. “With Rosh Hashanah, there is something happy about seeing the temple full of people, who don’t come all the time. The temple is nice and full.”

There will be services on Monday and Tuesday evenings and Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. On the two mornings the shofar, or ram’s horn, will be blown.

“That recalls the story of Abraham and Isaac,” Wucher said. “Abraham was tested by God, a test where he was told to sacrifice Isaac and he wound up sacrificing a ram instead.

“We recall it for the dedication, the righteousness and the zeal that Abraham had and the sacrifice that the Jewish people have made for their faith and we hope to live up to the heritage.”

Interestingly, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are two of the few Jewish holidays that are not based on an historical event, Scarr says.

“It is a time of reflection, introspection and repentance,” Scarr said. “ You can’t separate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is the beginning and the end of a period. You are supposed to look back on the past year and identify things that did not meet the standards, not acting the way you should. It is a time to make resolutions to try harder and do better.”

As a child, Scarr was taught not to ask God directly for forgiveness, but to pray for God’s forgiveness for others.

“Don’t be self-centered,” Scarr said. “Ask for other people. Be focused on other people.”

The message of Yom Kippur is one that touches all humanity — that human beings will fail and deserve a second chance, now and for the days to come.

“Part of it is you are asking for forgiveness for the failings in the future,” Scarr said. “None of us will be perfect. The goal is to try. I will try. God knows I will fail. There is the sense of that.”

— Monday, Sept. 29 will be Erev Rosh Hashanah services at 8p.m. followed by a reception hosted by the Sisterhood.

— Tuesday, Sept. 30 will be 1st Day Rosh Hashanah services with morning service at 9:30 a.m.; children’s service at 3 p.m. and evening service at 8 p.m.

— Wednesday, Oct. 1, will be 2nd Day Rosh Hashanah services at 9:30 a.m.

— Wednesday, Oct. 8, will be Kol Nidre/Erev Yom Kippur at 8 p.m.

— Thursday, Oct. 9 will be Yom Kippur service with morning service at 9:30 a.m.; children’s service at 11:30 a.m.; afternoon service at 3:30 p.m. and memorial and concluding services at 5 p.m. “Break the Fast” hosted by the Sisterhood will follow the services.

B’Nai Sholom synagogue is located at 949 10th Ave., Huntington, W.Va. For more information, call (304) 522-2980.