By Molly McGowan
On a rainy Wednesday night, temples throughout the region — and the world — reverberated with the sounds of shofar trumpets blowing, celebrating Rosh Hashana and ushering in the fall season.
The shofar, usually made of a ram’s horn, is traditionally sounded during Rosh Hashana to serve as a wakeup call to Jewish followers, encouraging them to shatter complacency and prepare for the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish faith.
Rosh Hashana began at sundown Wednesday, Sept. 8 and Yom Kippur will begin the evening of Friday, Sept. 17.
Rabbi Jason Rosenberg of Congregation Beth Am, a reform synagogue in Tampa, says that one of the ways his congregation honors the High Holy Days is by making the special services particularly beautiful. “We welcome the new year together,” Rosenberg says, and Yom Kippur is “where we focus on ourselves and repent for the new year.”
He explains that while the Holy Day is about atonement, it is not simply a one-time chance to make up for all the mistakes one has made. The first step, he says, is to approach the people wronged and make amends. “Then being in Synagogue is the icing on the cake, a chance to work things out with God.”
Since Yom Kippur is a 25-hour period generally spent in synagogue and fasting, Congregation Beth Am will hold a service the evening of Friday, Sept. 17 and will have multiple services on Saturday, Sept. 18. As one of the holiest days of the year in the Jewish faith, Rosenberg expects a large turnout.
“It’s the busiest time of the year, for sure,” he said.
Associate Rabbi Larry Johnson of the Shoresh David Messianic Synagogue in Wesley Chapel said he, too, expects to see a large congregation for Yom Kippur services, though the heavy downpours last week thinned attendance for Rosh Hashana.
Those who did brave the rain, however, took part in a very special “Shofar Service,” where liturgical readings and prayers were punctuated by the sounds of trumpets blowing.
Johnson explains that Rosh Hashana is the “feast of trumpets” in Leviticus, and the shofars help to remind followers that the archangel will come at the sound of trumpets. “No man knows the time, or the day, or the hour,” Johnson said. “But we’re to know the season.”
Another special highlight of the service was the reading of the Torah, which was first taken out of its ark and carried through the congregation by Kelsie Buller. He says he has never before had the privilege of carrying Shoresh David’s torah, which is over 400 years old and is originally from Poland.
Buller, who has been attending Shoresh David for the past few years, said he was “an eager and willing participant,” adding that since the congregation is small, the torah usually only comes out on High Holy Days.
Jeremiah Greenberg, who serves as cantor for the liturgical readings, comments on Mann’s perspective, saying, “The body is made of many parts. We have the same Jesus – this is just our expression.”
Rabbi Johnson said Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur can be observed and celebrated by those outside the Jewish faith, explaining that seasons and the High Holy Days were designated as specific times to remember God, and relates it to a courtship.
“God sets specific times to come and meet Him so we don’t forget. It’s like a date,” Johnson said.