MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Rosh Hashanah is the start of the New Year of the Jewish Calendar, and Rabbis in Mobile shared some of the holiday’s history with WKRG.
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown of September 6th and ends at the nightfall of September 8th as Jews around the world celebrate the beginning of the year 5782 of the Jewish Calendar.
The origins of Rosh Hashanah can be found in the book of Leviticus (23:24-25): “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first of the month, it shall be a Sabbath for you, a remembrance of [Israel through] the shofar blast a holy occasion.”
Rabbi Steve Silberman of Congregation Ahavas Chesed said, “It is surprising to start a new year in the seventh month, perhaps the seventh month is symbolic of the seven days of creation found in the book of Genesis. So the new year is to appreciate our place in the world, our interactions with people and nature itself.”
Rabbi Yosef Goldwasser of Chabad of Mobile said that Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the sixth day of creation. “The day that G-d created man/humans to remind us of our vital role as those who bring peace and holiness to the earth.”
The main theme of Rosh Hashanah is to celebrate the sweetness of life, and traditionally one would say “Have a sweet new year,” or in Hebrew “Shanah Tovah U’metuka.”
Traditionally, Rosh Hashanah begins with the blowing of the Shofar, a horn made from a ram’s horn, on both mornings of the holiday, unless the holiday falls on Shabbat.
Rabbi Goldwasser said, “We are commanded to celebrate it as a holy and festive day and to blow the Shofar to signify our acceptance of G-d as King.”
Rabbi Edward Boraz of Springhill Avenue Temple said that “Rosh Hashanah is a time for gathering and solemn reflection It is a time for gathering and solemn reflection in which we ask for forgiveness, from God and from one another, for past wrongs, with the renewed hope of improving ourselves and a commitment to make the world a better place for all of humankind.”
Eight days after Rosh Hashanah the next Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement commences. Yom Kippur is a day of self-reflection and seeking forgiveness from other people and God where Jews around the world fast for 25-hours.
“The main focus of Yom Kippur is to seek forgiveness and apologize to other people before we pray to God,” said Rabbi Silberman, “Rosh Hashanah talks about our place in the world while Yom Kippur gives us meaning for being in the world.”
On Yom Kippur, an all-day fast, most of the time inside a Synagogue service.
Synagogues around Mobile are making preparations to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, some in-person while others solely celebrate virtually due to COVID-19.
Rabbi Silberman said the numbers of attendees at Congregation Ahavas Chesed are hard to judge being online. The distinction of an increase or decrease of attendance cannot be determined. The only way of telling the people are participating is by reading any of the comments that have come in after the fact.
Rabbi Goldwasser said the pandemic has not slowed activities at Chabad of Mobile.
“We are more of a community organization and less of a ‘synagogue,'” said Rabbi Goldwasser. “Our goal is to provide physical and spiritual services to all Jews in the Lower Alabama region and we have continued to do that through zoom classes, home visits, our new kosher store, our publications, life cycle events, crisis intervention, and more.”
Chabad of Mobile will celebrate Rosh Hashanah with outdoor services and shofar blowing this year as the pandemic continues.
Rabbi Boraz says Springhill Avenue Temple has been affected by the pandemic like other houses of worship, but when counting the attendance of both the virtual and those who attend in person there has not been a decrease in the number of worshipers. “In fact, there has been an increase in participation,” said Rabbi Boraz.
Sprinhill Avenue Temple has in-person services, those who enter must be vaccinated and wear a mask, except when praying. Social distancing is being configured in the sanctuary. For those who are unable to attend, there is a Zoom option available.