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Rosh Hashanah: 1 or 2 Days?

As we are all preparing for the High Holidays we are beginning to figure out meals and sending our greetings to those we love near and far.  There are so many things that we need to prepare for.  I know that many of you are preparing for experiencing the most meaningful services you have ever been exposed to... Hey, a rabbi can dream can't he?  Please allow me this brief space to be able to explain the second day of Rosh Hashanah.  The Jews living in the Diaspora have always observed two days of holidays in place of the singular day celebrated in Israel.  This has a great deal to do with the lack of certainty of the correct dates and so they knew they could get it right on one of the two dates.

When the Reform Movement began in the United States there were a great number of philosophical and ritual changes that they began to make.  One of the cases of this being true in both realms was they're abandoning the concept of two days of Yom Tov (holidays).  This stemmed from their belief at the time that there was no longer a need to pray to return to the Land of Israel as America was the new Promised Land.  While the Reform Movement has certainly become a very proud Zionist movement, they still maintain this practice.  The problem is that this ritual change for Rosh Hashanah is a mistake since Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration in Israel as it is all around the world.  In fact, there are Reform congregations that have begun to reverse this past mistake and are now offering two days of Rosh Hashanah.

I want to invite all of you to attend services on both days of Rosh Hashanah here at Rodeph Sholom.  We are working very hard to provide meaningful services for you on both days and do not view either day as more or less significant.  We hope to see more people beginning to join us on the second day than have joined us in the past.

Families and Tashlikh

Saying sorry is never easy.  Although many of us will occasionally miss the mark and need to apologize, Judaism has a special recipe to help us.  Each year on Rosh Hashanah, we traditionally cast our sins away by throwing bread crumbs into a body of water.  This ceremony symbolizes the casting off of our sins.  We do this to tell God we are sorry, to think about what we have done wrong, and to evaluate how we can improve.

What to Wear and Why???

The High Holidays are very special days for the Jewish people and as such, it is appropriate 
that it has a certain set of expectations or  customs that we follow in terms of our clothing.  
This brief guide should serve to help our community to better understand them.

New Clothing - Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a new year and as such, it is a custom to try to say as many shechechyanus as possible.  For that reason, we try to wear new clothing on Rosh Hashanah both during the day and the night to be able to say a special shechechyanu for each time we are wearing something for the first time.  So now we all have an excuse to buy those new shoes we have been wanting or to splurge on the new shirt or dress.  Go have a blast.

White - One of the themes of the entire High Holiday period is wiping the slate clean for a moment in time and getting a fresh start.  This is the reason that white has become associated with the holidays.  We try to wear as much white as we can on the holidays.  The kippot on our heads are traditionally white and some men will wear kittels, special robes made of white cloth that are worn at a wedding and also will eventually be the garment a man is buried in.  We even dress our Torah Scrolls in white for the holidays.

Non-leather shoes - On Yom Kippur, we are commanded to afflict our souls through fasting and also through abstaining from other comforts of everyday life.  One such comfort is our normal shoes.  In the days of the Talmud, it was a certain sandal that we were forbidden to wear because it was the comfortable shoe and so today we refrain from wearing our leather shoes because they are the standard comfortable shoes of today.  Some have read more into this by explaining that leather represents the death of an animal and we should be spending the day thinking of life and not death.  Regardless, on Yom Kippur, it is traditional to wear non-leather shoes.

Tallitot all day and at night - Yom Kippur begins the day before Yom Kippur...  well about an hour or so before the evening actually commences because the first service of Yom Kippur is Kol Nidre which is a legal proceeding that has to take place in the day time.  For that reason, we wear our Tallitot in the evening of Yom Kippur/Kol Nidre, because we wear them during the day.  The practice is to wear them all day on the actual day of Yom Kippur as well because Yom Kippur is viewed as one long ongoing day without any real end to the services until the very end and so there is no place during which to cease wearing them.


Tue, March 28 2023 6 Nisan 5783