Congregation Beth Israel prepares for High Holy Days observance

Prayer Shawl - Tallit, Prayer book and Shofar (horn) jewish religious symbols (Prayer Shawl - Tallit, Prayer book and Shofar

As the Jewish Community of Meridian will observe the High Holy Days together with Jews worldwide, local services will take place at the temple Congregation Beth Israel. Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) remain the two most important holidays on the Jewish calendar. These two holy days are purely spiritual and religious, and not tied to historical or natural events.

What makes these upcoming religious events so unique is their spiritual message: humanity has the capacity to reinvent itself with God’s inspiration. As a society and as individuals, we can change the world by our actions. God’s gift to us is the inalienable possibility of truly changing our nature.

Judaism acknowledges that sincere change is extraordinarily difficult. Promises and vows come too easily to the lips. Our most earnest prayers and our eager attempts at promises of reformation and reconciliation are as quickly forgotten as New Year’s Resolutions.

Atonement at this time of the year is especially welcome, but it is the first step. The intelligent mind God has implanted within us allows us the discernment to acknowledge our missteps and affirm our mission to truly change our ways. God awaits our return to righteousness with open arms. Pardon and forgiveness are gifts of God’s grace.

Traditionally the holy season begins in the fall and is set by biblical prescription in the Jewish calendar on the first day of the month of Tishrei. This year, universally the New Year Rosh Hashanah observance commences on Friday evening, Sept. 18 and continues with a morning service on Saturday, Sept. 19.

The single most solemn day of the Jewish calendar, The Day of Atonement Yom Kippur begins 10 days later (Sunday evening, Sept. 27 and Monday, Sept.r 28). Jews are bidden to fast in recognition of the solemnity of the occasion as a way to embody change, by disrupting our habits for 25 hours to punctuate the commitment to live with integrity.

Traditions associated with the High Holy Days include the sounding of the ram’s horn (a wake-up call to attend to social justice), eating apples & honey (wishes for a sweet new year), and the sending of greeting cards to friends and family. “May you be inscribed in the Book of Life,” is the common expression during this period, as it is believed that the destiny of all mankind is recorded by God in the Book of Life. On Yom Kippur the Book of Life is said to be closed and sealed. Those who have identified, acknowledged and repented their sins are granted a good and happy New Year.

The Holy Days will include the participation of members and family of CBI. Leading the prayers will be Rabbi Barry Altman. Liturgical music will be directed by Barry Germany, who will lead and accompany the CBI choir.

Rabbi Barry Altman is rabbi emeritus of Beth-El in Ormond Beach, Florida, where he served as senior clergy for 38 years. He is on the faculty of Stetson University in DeLand, Florida.  

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