Each year, someone inevitably asks, “are the holidays early or late this year?” Or, someone simply remarks, “Wow! The holidays are so early this year!” The reality is that they always come right on time, just perhaps on their own time. We have known since the fifth century when the holidays will come. The Jewish High Holy Days follow the Hebrew month calendar, which is based mostly on the lunar cycle.
But, in our American reality, they do come a bit early this year. And when this happens, most of my colleagues and Jewish professionals around the country feel an elevated sense of pressure and responsibility. Summer isn’t even over and we are deep in our preparations for the Days of Awe — the Jewish High Holy Day season. The Days of Awe consist of numerous holidays including Slichot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah. Slichot typically falls the Saturday evening before Rosh Hashanah. It is an evening we use to mark the conclusion of Shabbat and transition to penitent mood. We begin to use specific melodies reserved for this season that aid our process of repentance. Rosh Hashanah is literally the Head of the Year, the Jewish New Year. It is celebrated with special liturgy, prayers and observances to express our hopes for a sweet, healthy and happy year ahead. Immediately following Rosh Hashanah we enter the Ten Days of Repentance. This is special time during which we turn our focus from welcoming and celebrating the new year to penitence and repentance. This helps us prepare for the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, which falls 10 days after Rosh Hashanah. This journey from the celebration of welcoming a new year toward ultimate repentance is one that charges Jews around the globe to mend disagreements, to right wrongs and a self-discovery to become the person we know we can be in the coming year. The Hebrew word for repentance is Teshuvah, which also means to turn. It is a call to turn inward so that we can face the coming year with joy, excitement and earnestness. The most prominent symbol of these 10 days is the shofar, a ritual ram’s horn blown with loud blasts. Tradition teaches us that hearing the sound of the shofar awakens our souls to the tasks at hand.
This year, Temple Bat Yam: The Jewish Community of South Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley marks its 30th year on the South Shore. We are a community that serves the needs of Jewish residents of the area and those visiting. Our High Holy Day services and celebrations are open to anyone.