From the Desk - Guide to Rosh Hashanah
Shalom Friends! It was a proud moment at Beth Ora last Shabbat as we were joined by our local dignitaries and four different Christian ministers from our local community. There was a beautiful spirit of goodwill in the synagogue and the message of mutual respect and a common commitment to building a better society was palpable. The service was enhanced by the excellent program guide, put together by Mireille Alvo, and the beautiful singing of our choir, led by Rabbi Heshy Benshimon and Irwin Ludmer. I want to thank all those who participated and all those who attended for showing such respect and hospitality to our guests. I received an email this morning from Bishop Alexander, the Bishop of Ottawa, Eastern Canada and Upstate New York who expressed appreciation for the service and said it was his first time in a synagogue. As I mentioned in my address, I hope this event has planted a seed and that we will enjoy further good relationships and collaboration going forward. We also enjoyed a successful program on Saturday evening, after Shabbat. Our memorial service was followed by the screening of a fascinating documentary and a lively discussion on the topic of forgiveness. The evening’s program concluded with a beautiful Selichot Service, led by Rabbi Heshy Benshimon. The successful weekend continued with our new Bat Mitzvah group and their families enjoying a wonderful tour and volunteer session at MADA.
Last Shabbat, we read the Parasha of Ki Tavo which contains a list of curses. According to the Talmud, the reason we read these curses before Rosh Hashanah “so that we end this year and its curses” so that “we can start a new year with its blessings.” For many people, 5779 has been a great year. They may have got a job, travelled the world, had grandchildren or found new friends. However, there are many others who have had a very tough time. They have struggled with their health, their relationships, their jobs and their finances. Some have lost close relatives and dear friends while others have lost confidence in themselves. To all those people who’ve experienced serious struggles this year, I would like to echo the words of Talmud and say: May your year of curses end and may the new year bring about opportunities for blessings. Beyond this, as 5779 draws to a close and we look forward to a blessed 5780, I would like to encourage each of us to make time in the coming days to reach out to those whom we may know who have had a tough year, to offer them words of encouragement and to bless them for a positive year ahead. Below, please find a brief guide to observing Rosh Hashanah. I bless you all with a wonderful year ahead. May we be spared any sorrow and have much cause for joy. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
A Brief Guide to Rosh Hashanah The Day before Rosh Hashanah Find some time to reflect on the previous year and your goals for the coming year Ask forgiveness from those you have harmed Give tzedakah The First Night of Rosh Hashanah There is a custom to eat certain foods that are reminiscent of blessings with the hope that they should be signs for a good year. Among these foods are dates, apples dipped in honey, pomegranates, leek, carrots, beets and fish. Rosh Hashanah Prayers Strictly speaking, it is not required that one stand when the ark is open unless the Sefer Torah is taken out. Nevertheless, there is a mitzvah to stand if one is able and this is the prevalent custom. It is permitted to add private requests at the end of the Amida The Shofar When one hears the Shofar, one should (in addition to realizing that one is fulfilling a mitzvah) think about regretting one’s mistakes and resolving to improve. If a man cannot remain in shul for all one hundred sounds, he should try to hear the thirty sounds which are blown before Mussaf or the 30 blown during the repetition of the amidah. Strictly speaking, women are not obligated but the custom is for women to make every effort to hear at least 30 sounds. Rosh Hashanah Afternoon There is a custom to perform tashlich on this afternoon. We go to a river and recite certain prayers. In the olden days, it was customary to crown a new king by the river as a symbol that his kingship should continue like the river. On Rosh Hashanah, our awe for G-d is such that we relate to Him like a King. There is no obligation to recite tashlich but it is a widespread custom. It is preferable to do tashlich by a river that has fish. The eyes of fish are constantly open which is an allusion to Divine providence. If the river has no fish, tashlich may still be said there. One is not permitted to throw breadcrumbs to the fish as it is forbidden to feed the fish on Yom Tov. If there is no river at all in the area, one may go to any natural body of water. If one cannot find a natural body of water, one can even say it by an aquarium or container of water. Tashlich may be said after sunset but should be said before nightfall. If you miss the first afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, it can still be said until Yom Kippur or even until Shemini Atzeret according to some opinions. The Second Day of Rosh Hashanah The candles for the second day can be lit any time after nightfall.