Gedaliah Who?

by Eitan Tako

During the Ten Days of Repentance, right after Rosh HaShana and before Yom Kippur, hides a fast that marks an occasion from 2,500 years ago.

This is the fast of Gedaliah.

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by Jeremy Oziel

Symbols are a huge part of any Jewish holiday. Symbols are what remind us why a holiday is important and why we choose to celebrate it. Symbols help us to find meaning in our practice and belief. They can also inform how we celebrate different holidays. In many cases, symbols from the holidays remind us of the time we spend with our families. On a simple level, symbols are also a very practical way to pass down traditions. Children learn easily through symbols, especially through those that are food related. These are the ones I like the most. For instance, most of us can remember when we learned that Rosh haShana was about turning the page on the old year and looking forward to a sweet new one — through eating apples and honey. You may not have even been old enough to understand why there was another new year that came on January 1st, but you associated the beginning of school and the high holidays with the taste of apples and honey.

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Atone for What?

by David Meyer

Why will I fast on Yom Kippur this year? To fast or not to fast is an annual game time decision. When I choose to fast or attend services, it is on the grounds that those are, simply put, the activities Jews should be doing on Yom Kippur. Some years I even break the fast early on the grounds that I’ve sufficiently satisfied my desire to engage with Jewish traditions and customs —the lived experience of being Jewish. Other years, I am inspired by my friends and family to persist until the end of Ne’ilah. I’ve always made fasting a decision into which I put serious thought and consideration, but my thoughts have always been about peoplehood rather than spirituality. I would not be surprised if other Habonim Dror members and alumni have felt similarly.

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A New Year — Shofar, So Good

by Zoey Green

The sounding of the shofar is a powerful symbol that has taken on new meanings each year I’ve heard it. When I was young, it was a challenge: when will your lungs grow strong enough to turn the nebulous gas you breathe into crisp, concentrated noise? When I was bat-mitzvah aged, it was a test: do you know the name and pattern of each blast and what each meant to the generations before you? Then somewhere along the way, I questioned tradition, wondering whether I liked my New Year to be celebrated with silence or with sound and why was everyone so willing to put their mouth on the same old ram’s horn anyway? As I surrounded myself with the quirky energy that emanates from a room full of Habos, I discovered meaning in Judaism through its continuous demand that I seek to change the world for the better. With that realization, the dynamic sounds of the shofar came to signify solidarity and the importance of the community standing with every individual who is defiant enough to embrace tradition and make it relevant again today.

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A Communal Confession

by Sara Zebovitz

One of the most repeated prayers in the Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur services – and the ten days in between – is one of repentance. It’s called the Ashamnu (literally, “we have been guilty”), the prayer of confession. It is written as an acrostic, a type of poem common in Jewish prayer. The Ashamnu is said silently during the Amidah prayer, and aloud afterwards. The unique thing about this prayer is that it is not a personal repentance; all of the words are in the first person, plural, and past tense. We say, “אשמנו, בגדנו, גזלנו…” – “we have incurred guilt, we have betrayed, we have stolen…” Why is this prayer recited in this tense, and why are we required to atone for things we have not done? We may have not stolen, lied, committed adultery, or acted violently, but there are others in our communities who have. By reciting this prayer of collective confession, we are taking responsibility over our wider community and taking it upon ourselves to repent for those who have not.

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