By Emma Harkavy
You’ve heard Temple Israel’s Rabbi Bauman speak on the Jewish high holidays in chapel, and you might notice that your Jewish friends are missing a few days of school, but why exactly are they going to the synagogue to pray during these special days? Read to find out!
Every year during late Sept. or early Oct. the Jewish students at St. Mary’s, along with millions around the world, are typically gone from school for at least a couple days. This absence is due to their observance of the most holy time of the year in Jewish tradition: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Learning from previous chapel speakers and the experiences of their friends, many people at St. Mary’s recognize that Jews gather at their synagogues to pray during this distinctive time of the year. However, many do not know the significance of these high holidays and the importance of their celebration.
Claire Pellegrin (11) says “I feel that in our country and in our world people know a lot more about Christian holidays, such as Christmas or Easter, but I want to know more about what the high holidays truly mean to Jews.”
Even though Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are around the same time and are often confused, they are separate holidays from each other. Ella Belvin (10) explains, “Rosh Hashanah is the New Year for Jews and the beginning of the ten days of repentance leading up to Yom Kippur, while Yom Kippur is the final day of the ten days of repentance when hopefully each Jew that has been praying to atone for their sins will have their names sealed in the book of life. After everyone’s names are sealed in the book of life, they can then restart a new year with a clean slate.”
This year, Rosh Hashanah began on Sept. 29 and Yom Kippur began on Sept. 29. You may have noticed several of your Jewish classmates absent from school on these days.
Over the course of the 10 days beginning with Rosh Hashanah, Jews consider the wrongdoings they have committed in the previous year, and they apologize in attempt to amend these wrongs. Additionally, the practice of fasting takes place as a part of Yom Kippur. From sundown on the night of Yom Kippur to sundown the next day, many Jews do not eat or drink in order to further connect with God during this holy time period.
Lila Bear (12) says “I think that fasting impacts Yom Kippur the most for me because it shows self control and discipline. Each person has the choice to fast and since many, including me, are young enough and capable enough to, it just depends on whether or not that person is willing to put in the effort. You can’t always connect to God, but this is one thing that you can control completely. Once you’re able to ignore the hunger and focus on what is going on in the service I think that it makes the holidays much more meaningful.”
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are sacred times of the Jewish year where Jews take time to reflect on their past year and look forward to the upcoming one. So, if you’ve see one of your Jewish friends in the hall wish them a L’shana Tova or a happy new year!