Jewish people are heading into a sacred time of year this week.
On the Jewish calendar, it’s the month of Elul leading up to what are referred to as the high holy days or the Days of Awe — Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the days in between.
“The month of Elul is an acronym,” said Rabbi Remy Liverman of Augusta’s Congregation Children of Israel.
It comes from the phrase “Ani L’dodi, V’dodi Li” from the Song of Songs with each starting letter of the words in the Hebrew phrase spelling E-L-U-L, which is translated “I am my beloved’s and He is mine,” she said.
In Aramaic, the word “Elul” means “search,” she said.
Elul is typically in the August/September time frame. The Jewish calendar differs because it is primarily based on the moon so holiday dates will differ each year on the Gregorian calendar.
Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sundown on the first of Tishrei on the Jewish calendar or Sept. 15 on ours and ends at sundown Sept. 17. It symbolizes the start of the Jewish New Year leading to Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement which begins at sundown Sept. 24.
Liverman said the month of Elul is a time of introspection as well, before heading into those most sacred days.
Similar to Christian religious denominations, there are different branches within the Jewish faith, and there are differences in the way Jews observe these holy days, she said.
At Rosh Hashanah, Jews eat apples and honey representing the wishes for a “sweet and fruitful New Year.” Challah and pomegranate may also be eaten as part of the celebration. A shofar or ram’s horn is typically blown during this time. How often it’s blown depends on the congregation, she said.
Yom Kippur is observed with complete fasting — no food or water – for most people with exceptions for health conditions.
“Really, we’re denying ourselves,” she said. “We spend that time in synagogue, focusing on God and in the services.”
It’s also a time of forgiveness and righting wrongs where possible.
In her first observance of the high holy days in Augusta, Liverman said she’s looking forward to the services especially the music which will be played on the temple’s recently repaired organ.
“The sound of the somber melodies that are played on it are especially beautiful for the high holy days. I’m so glad we’re able to have it repaired in time,” she said.
Services are marked with specific prayers and music. Among the prayer requests are to be released by God from vows made and to have their names written in the book of life for the New Year. There’s also a time of remembrance for those family members who are no longer here.
Two additional holidays come on the heels of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Sukkot begins five days after Yom Kippur and is a seven-day observance commemorating the 40 years the Jews wandered in the desert after being freed from slavery in Egypt. Sukkot is Sept. 29-Oct. 6.
Simchat Torah is the turning of the Torah and celebrates the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of a new cycle. It begins at sundown Oct. 7.
Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at email@example.com. Sign up for the newsletter here.
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