Yesterday at sundown, Jews around the world flocked to synagogues to mark the High Holy Days, a 10-day period that begins with Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year – 5776) and culminates in Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
Many celebrate Rosh Hashanah by going to services at synagogue and enjoying meals with family and friends. Other ways to mark the Jewish New Year include blowing the shofar (ram’s horn) and participating in tashlich (cast away sins).
“Rosh Hashanah is the germ of creation…and so the invitation to evaluation,” Rabbi Steve Greenberg, Executive Director of Eshel, said. “It is the juxtaposition of God’s original purposes and the hard realities of our lives, the ideal that sits in judgement of the real. It is a moment of terror that reduces us to wordless prayer, to blasts of a shofar. Rosh Hashanah means that there is a witness and so, all is remembered, everything matters, and we are held accountable. Crowning God King is a ritual of no escape.”
On Yom Kippur, a day many consider the holiest day of Jewish year, many fast and attend services at synagogue to atone for their sins and ask for forgiveness.
“Yom Kippur is when the transparency, searing as it is, reveals not only our failures, but our willingness to change and in turn God’s unfathomable patience and love,” Rabbi Greenberg continued. “It is a commemoration of the day Moses comes down mount Sinai with the second, human hewn tablets, the day that mortality calls us back to joyous significance. At the end of the High Holy Days, we are ready to start again, to recreate, ourselves and the whole world, in light of God’s broken, tempered, and lovingly restored hopes.”
The High Holy Days offer us a period to reflect as a community on the Jewish year 5775 that has passed and to celebrate the great progress we’ve made together both in the Jewish community and LGBT movement. Indeed, 5775 has been an exuberant year of progress. In June, the Supreme Court’s historic ruling found bans on marriage equality to be unconstitutional and made marriage equality the law of the land nationwide. In March, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical arm of the Reform movement, installed its first openly lesbian president, Rabbi Denise Eger. In October, Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, the senior rabbi at a large Conservative congregation in Washington, D.C., announced he is gay and received overwhelming support from his community.