In the Jewish calendar, there are two special holidays observed by Jewish people everywhere: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Just as Christian people celebrate Easter and Christmas with reverence and special traditions, the Jewish calendar marks these two as the most important holidays of the year.
Together, they form the High Holidays.
Along with Jewish people from all corners of the earth, the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish community will soon be marking these days with celebration, fasting, then feasting, reflections on the past year, and anticipation of the New Year.
Since the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish community does not own its own facility, St. Mark’s-of-the-Valley Church in Los Olivos will again generously open its doors to the Jewish community.
On the evening of Sunday, Sept. 29, the holiday Rosh Hashanah, or New Year, begins at sundown. There will be a potluck dinner at 5:30 p.m., followed by the evening service at 7 p.m.
Rabbi Oren Postrel, the community’s new and dynamic leader will lead the worship and be accompanied by the beautiful voice of Felicia Palmer, Cantorial Soloist from Santa Barbara. In song and prayer, the Jewish community will welcome the New Year — the year 5780 in the Jewish calendar.
The next day, Monday, Sept. 30, Rosh Hashanah will be celebrated from 10 a.m. until approximately noon, also at St. Mark’s. The service concludes with the blowing of the Shofar, a large ram’s horn that produces a stirring sound reminding us of the joy and promise of the New Year.
Jewish community member Rick Brown, expert at Shofar blowing, amazes young and old each year by both the beautiful sounds and length of time he is able to hold the notes on this ancient instrument.
The entire congregation will turn to each other, wishing each other Shana Tovah — or Happy New Year. If you know any Jewish people, wish them Shana Tovah — a hopeful and happy greeting!
Following the Rosh Hashanah service on Monday, Sept. 30, a brief service called Tashlich will be held at a location to be determined.
Tashlich is the symbolic act in which one’s sins or misbehaviors are cast away into a stream or natural water source.
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A little more than a week later, the holiday Yom Kippur will conclude the High Holiday season.
Sometimes referred to as the Days of Awe, the time between the two holidays is one of serious contemplation. Jewish people are asked to consider their acts of the previous year: What have we done of which we are proud? Who may we have hurt by our actions, even if this was done inadvertently?
During the Yom Kippur evening service, held at 7 p.m. Tuesday night, Oct. 8 at St. Mark’s-of-the-Valley, perhaps the holiest prayer in the Jewish liturgy, Kol Nidre is recited.
This prayer is sung in a solemn and minor key, and is the congregation’s promise to do better and ask for forgiveness. It is traditional for Jewish people to offer apology for any actions that have hurt others and to repent for what they have done that has been harmful to people, to the environment and to the community.
Yom Kippur, different than the New Year holiday, is a somber and serious 24 hours in which Jewish people are expected to pray and refrain from business and frivolity — as well as to fast from food and drink (even water). Of course, children, pregnant women, or the sick and infirm are exempted from fasting.
Wednesday, Oct. 9 is the concluding day of the High Holidays. Still fasting, the congregation prays together for the day. There will be a sermon, songs, poetry and reading of the Torah, the Jewish holy scrolls.
Members of the Jewish community will share stories of their individual journeys within Judaism. They will also read and remember loved ones who have departed. The Shofar, the ram’s horn, will again be sounded.
Immediately following services, there will be a pot-luck Break-the-Fast at St. Mark’s Stacy Hall.
All together, this High Holy Day period is filled with cleansing and beautiful traditions.