Local Jews ready for holiest day of the year | TheUnion.com

Local Jews ready for holiest day of the year

There may not be a giant ball dropping in Times Square, but sundown tonight marks the new year – for Jews, at least.

Grass Valley’s Congregation B’Nai Harim, comprising about 90 Reform Jewish families in western Nevada County, is celebrating Rosh Hashana today to usher in the year 5771 on the Jewish lunar calendar.

It’s also the first in a string of important Jewish observances, including the holiest of holidays – Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

“It is the most important day of the year,” said B’Nai Harim Rabbi Alan Greenbaum. “Our most important holy day is the Sabbath, but this is called the ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths.'”

Rosh Hashana is celebratory, Greenbaum said, and culminates in two services: One at 7 p.m. tonight and the other Thursday at 10 a.m. (Jewish holidays begin at sundown and continue until sundown the following day.)

But for Yom Kippur next week, worshippers will enter into a strict fast. Working, eating and drinking are prohibited, unless fasting poses a health problem.

The liturgy includes prayer after prayer of repentance. Congregants ask for forgiveness for a range of communal sins, including abusing power, speaking slander and “hardening our hearts.”

Going hungry and reflecting on all the wrongs of the past year is serious and somber, Greenbaum said.

But it’s not sad.

“It’s serious because the goal is a serious one – to atone for one’s sin,” he said. “But it’s also to enter into a process of renewal. That’s a gift, because not everyone lives their life with the ability to start over.”

Yom Kippur is a chance to repent from sin and begin afresh at the new year. The Hebrew word for “sin” is to miss the target; that adds another layer of meaning.

“What’s also built into that imagery is taking aim again,” Greenbaum said. “To have that is to have a gift. Who hasn’t messed up in some way and hoped with all of their heart that they can re-do that somehow?”

Shortly after Yom Kippur comes the weeklong observance of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles, which is comparable to Thanksgiving.

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail mrindels@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4247.

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