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Saturday, November 26, 2022


Sept. 3, 2002 — The Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas and Rabbi Arthur F. Starr offer this explanation of the meaning and celebration of this month's Jewish High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur:
The upcoming Jewish Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are two of the most holy days in the Jewish year. Rosh Hashanah (literally "head of the year") celebrates the beginning of the New Jewish Year, while Yom Kippur, 10 days later, is solemnly observed as a day of atonement and repentance.
Beginning Friday, Sept. 6, the Jewish people will gather in synagogues all across the world to usher in the New Year 5763. According to Jewish tradition, God created the world 5,763 years ago.
Rosh Hashanah is a festive day of prayer and gentle celebration. Apples dipped in honey are eaten to symbolize the Jews' hope for a sweet New Year, and white garments or new clothes are worn, indicating one's hope for a fresh, clean start. The most notable custom, however, is associated with the ram's horn, or Shofar in Hebrew. In fulfillment of the Biblical command to sound an alarm to herald the New Year, we are aroused from moral complacency and must take steps to improve our character.
The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the days of repentance, during which each Jew is admonished to take inventory of his or her soul and consider how he or she will turn away from past misdeeds and toward the path God has commanded: the way of goodness and righteous living. This act of "turning" is called T'shuvah, translated as repentance.
The most familiar and perhaps most emotional moment of the High Holy Days is the chanting of Kol Nidre, which opens the Yom Kippur evening service and concentrates on the vows and promises which the worshipper has made during the course of the year.
Observant Jews fast on Yom Kippur from sundown on the eve of the holy day until sundown at the end of the day itself. It is traditional for members of the congregation to break the fast together at a light meal following the final service. Reasons for fasting include the avoidance of preoccupation with preparing meals; and physically reminding oneself that there is hunger in the world — hunger for food, for security, for justice and for peace. Members of the congregation are encouraged to bring bags of groceries to their synagogue for distribution to local organizations that provide food for the hungry.
The concluding service of Yom Kippur is preceded by a memorial service for the deceased members of the worshippers' families. Judaism requires Jews to memorialize in prayer the meaning of the lives of deceased family members and friends in the belief that remembering our deceased helps to assure their immortality.
Rosh Hashanah services will be held at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas synagogue in downtown Charlotte Amalie at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, and at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7. Yom Kippur services will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, and 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 16.
For more information, call the synagogue office at 774-4312 or send an e-mail to the Hebrew Congregation.

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