“Let us proclaim the sacred power of this day; it is awesome and full of dread. For on this day Your dominion is exalted, Your throne established in steadfast love; there in truth You reign. ... You open the book of our days, and what is written there proclaims itself, for it bears the signature of every human being. The great Shofar is sounded, the still, small voice is heard; the angels, gripped by fear and trembling, declare in awe: This is the Day of Judgment.”
These words mark the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays every year. This year, the first of the holidays, Rosh Hashanah, begins on the evening of Sept. 4. It is a two-day holiday that opens an especially holy season, the Ten Days of Penitence. The period concludes with Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.
During these days, Jews are directed to search their souls, to understand the good and the bad they have done during the past year, and to seek ways to improve in the coming year. At the same time, God is looking inside each individual, judging the merits of their actions and intentions.
“Rosh Hashanah provides us an opportunity to take time and examine our lives from the inside out,” said Capt. Karyn Berger, a rabbi at Fort Hood. “During these days, if we have done something that we regret, we are obligated to make amends and to do things differently.”
On Rosh Hashanah, Jews associated with the military, along with other Jews around the world come together in synagogue, renewing their commitment, to God and to each other, in much the same way Jews throughout the world have done from biblical times to the present.
Traditionally, Rosh Hashanah is understood to be the anniversary of God’s creation of the world. As such, it begins a time of reawakening of the spirit, a renewal of commitment to live according to God’s intentions.
The atmosphere on Rosh Hashanah, while serious, is also festive. Those of the Jewish faith celebrate the end of an old year and herald in the beginning of the next.
“At the end of the holiday, we will blow the Shofar, a ram’s horn,” Berger said. “This a is a custom that we read about in the Bible. The Shofar blast acts as a way to summon Israel to repentance. But, we also celebrate by eating sweet things. Every Jewish child knows that at the end of the service, we will have apples that we dip in honey — a fun and tasty way wish each other ‘sweet year’ for ourselves and our loved ones.”