At sundown on Monday, the Days of Awe commenced, and the year 5766 began. This is the holiest time of the year for practitioners of the Jewish faith.
The “Days of Awe” refer to the 10-day holiday period that begins with Rosh Hashanah and ends with Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah, which is considered to be the Jewish New Year, is literally the “head of the year” and Yom Kippur (Oct. 13) is translated as the “Day of Atonement.”
Rosh Hashanah is on the first and second days in Tishri, seventh month of the Jewish year.
Unlike the secular American New Year, the Jewish New Year is a holy day, meant for prayer and not for public celebration.
Many rituals are observed during the Days of Awe. One tradition is eating apple slices dipped in honey on Rosh Hashanah.
“The apples dipped in honey are symbols of the holiday, life, the spirit, happiness and a new start,” said Lyndon Stambler, a journalism instructor at GCC who practices the Jewish faith.
“The honey is a symbol of wishing for a sweet year,” said Richard Seltzer, another Jewish professor on campus. On Rosh Hashanah you say to others “have a sweet new year.” He teaches English as a second language and is an adviser to the newly formed French Club.
Followers of the Jewish faith are not supposed to work on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, nor are they supposed to go to school. Instead they spend most of their day in the temple and with family and friends.
Both Stambler and Seltzer planned to attend services in their synagogues on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur, the somber Day of Atonement, is observed by fasting. Asking for forgiveness and confessing of sins precede Yom Kippur.
“As Yom Kippur approaches, you greet friends and loved ones by asking them to forgive you for anything you may have done to hurt them in the previous year,” said Seltzer. “It is a holiday when you confess your sins, but it is a communal confession, not a solitary one.”
It is believed that God writes everyone’s name in books on Rosh Hashanah and decides what will happen for the following year; who will have good fortune or bad, who will live and who will not.
Tradition says that God writes down his judgment on this day, then individuals have 10 days before that judgment becomes permanent to try and “alter God’s decree, [with] repentance, prayer [and] good deeds (usually, charity),” according to jewfaq.org. On Yom Kippur the books are sealed on everyone’s fate for the new year.
“On Rosh Hashanah, you open the gates for a period of repentance and on Yom Kippur you close them,” said Seltzer.
Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Oct. 12 and ends at sundown Oct. 13, which is the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Tishri, and the end of the Days of Awe.
It is common for those who observe this holiday to fast from sundown to sundown and go to their synagogue for prayer.
“You have dinner before the sun goes down to begin your fast and then you go the synagogue that night and you basically fast overnight,” said Stambler. “Fasting is different for different people. I don’t eat anything or drink anything for 24 hours. But some people do drink water. Exceptions are made for people with health issues. Also, pregnant women are supposed to eat during the holiday.”
According to Stambler, by not eating one can focus one’s energy not on when the next meal will be, but on the bigger picture, to reflect on one’s life, and the bigger questions in life.
Yom Kippur is the “Day of Atonement,” when one looks at one’s past transgressions and atones for any sins committed against humanity one’s community, family and friends and against God.
“These holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are very meaningful to me,” said Stambler. “They’re very important. I mark my year by them. This is my time to reflect, this is my time to take stock, this is my time to forgive and move on. It’s my time to prepare.”
Students with no family in the area are welcome to attend services at Temple Sinai of Glendale, 1212 N. Pacific Ave.
“Students must bring their IDs, and they will be admitted,” said the temple’s office manager, Azo Khachatourian.
Services are at 8 p.m. on Wednesday and at 10 a.m. on Thursday. For more information, contact the temple at (818) 246-8101 or www.temple-sinai.net.
Background information for this article was found on http://www.jewfaq.org/toc.htm.