Jewish High Holidays

BOB ABERNETHY: On our calendar this week, the Jewish high holy days, which began Friday, September 6 with Rosh Hashana — the Jewish new year — and end September 16 with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. We went to Rosh Hashana services at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York; and first, to a purification rite called “tashlikh,” performed in Central Park.

Rabbi GARY BRETTON-GRANATOOR (Stephen Wise Free Synagogue): Today we come to this body of water to perform the tashlikh ceremony… so that we may purify our hearts and our souls as the new year begins… “Avaynu malkaynu hanaynu” … and now if you take a piece of bread, as you throw it into the water, symbolically cast away your sins and let us be pure as we start this new year.

Rabbi Gary Bretton-GranatoorGod has hopes for us. And in a way we have to try to live up to those hopes… It’s part of the human condition. We are flawed. And sometimes our flaws weigh us down especially when we want to try to become better people. If we allow our sins to weigh us down, we’ll never be able to free ourselves from our mistakes. … So we have to, after a real analysis of who we are and what we are and what our faults are, try to be able to cast them away. But we don’t cast them away without acknowledging what they’re all about. We cast them away by saying I know what I’ve done and I want to do “chuva,” I want to change.

I think that the heavens are open. We believe that God is giving us a chance… the gates of heaven are open to allow us to better ourselves.

The shofar is meant to really wake us up. It’s kind of like a spiritual alarm clock. Wake up! Recognize that you have a chance to make this world better. And it’s a plaintive cry, so we also hear that God is saying, “Come back, come back to me,” as any parent would to a child.

Repentance, prayer, and charity are the hallmark[s] of this season. We search our souls and then we pour out our souls to God, saying, “God help us, give us the strength to be the kind of people that we want to be.” But that’s all meaningless unless it compels us to do the right thing. And that’s what charity is all about. Those are the required actions even in the wake of September 11. Have we done the work of caring for others?

There is apples and honey here…

Apples are a symbol of life. And honey is a symbol of sweetness. And as we enter into this new year, we want to recognize that life is renewed and it should be a sweet year.

It’s a time when we feel that we’re being judged, when we judge ourselves very severely, and yet we’re living in an incredible world. We are surrounded by beauty; we’re surrounded by wonderful acts of generosity, of selflessness, and we have to stop for a moment and recognize how truly lucky we are.