Holy Days: How Are They Linked

Rabbi Lief talks Rosh Hoshanah, Yom Kippur

WHEELING — The High Holy Days of Rosh Hoshanah and Yom Kippur are linked as times for forgiveness and repentance at the start of a new year in Judaism.

Rabbi Joshua Lief of Temple Shalom said Rosh Hoshanah, known as the Jewish new year, begins at sundown on Sunday. Ten days later, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sundown on Sept. 18.

The celebration of Rosh Hoshanah will commence with a service at 8 p.m. Sunday at Temple Shalom, located at 23 Bethany Pike.

The observance will continue with a children’s service early Monday morning and a main service at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

During the services, scriptural passages from the Torah will be read and the shofar, a ram’s horn, will be blown to announce the new year, Lief said.

Multiple notes are sounded on the shofar several times during Rosh Hoshanah. The shofar is blown one more time, at the very end of Yom Kippur. “It brings full circle the experience,” he said.

At Temple Shalom, the observance of Yom Kippur will begin with a service at 8 p.m. on Sept. 18. Services will continue all day on Sept. 19, with a memorial service offered from 5:30-6 p.m. that day.

Traditionally, Jews fast throughout Yom Kippur.

Congregants of Temple Shalom will break their fast together on the evening of Sept. 19, the rabbi said.

Noting “the two holidays are linked,” Lief explained that Rosh Hoshanah, as the new year, offers an opportunity to examine “where we’ve been and where we would like to be in the year ahead.”

During the holidays, Jews ask others for forgiveness and seek repentance by “changing our own behavior in meaningful ways,” he said. These efforts culminate in atonement for one’s misdeeds, with a hope that “things would be all better in the new year.”

The themes of forgiveness, repentance and atonement “run through the liturgy in both holidays,” he commented.

“There is progression between the two holidays from forgiveness, which is external, and repentance, which is internal, and hopefully resulting in atonement, when our lives are on better footing for the new year.”

While some people might equate fasting with solemnity and sorrow, the rabbi contends Yom Kippur “is not a sad holiday.”

He views the period of fasting as a time “of putting aside our more base concerns like food and drink” and a day “to flip the pyramid” in order “to focus on trying to be a better person.”

The rabbi suggests that Yom Kippur offers an opportunity to take “a complete timeout from your life to focus on living a better life in the days that follow.”

Discussing the history of the High Holy Days, he said, “These holidays are continuously observed by Jews throughout the centuries wherever Jews lived. We’re all on the same calendar.”

The dates for Rosh Hoshanah and Yom Kippur are set according to a corrected lunar calendar, he said.

For instance, the start of Rosh Hoshanah always coincides with the appearance of a new moon.