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Rosh Hashanah under way; Annual celebration began Monday at sundown

By Staff | Sep 30, 2008

When the sun set Monday night, thousands of Jewish residents in Cape Coral and Fort Myers began celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish new year. The celebration concludes Wednesday.

Set in the month of Elul, which includes both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the new year celebration doesn’t include unbridled revelry like the Americanized version on Dec. 31.

Instead those who follow the Jewish faith explained that the observance of Rosh Hashanah can determine how their next year will unfold.

“It is the day that God judges every individual and how his year is going to go,” explained Rabbi Yossi Labkowski with the Chabad Jewish Center of Cape Coral.

It is the “head of the new year,” he said, and therefore will decide whether an observer will have a fortunate new year. The more literal interpretation of the holiday would be the decision over who lives and dies in the year to come.

“Like the head of the body controls all, the head of the year controls all,” said Labkowski.

The Jewish new year differs in many ways from the American new year, although both holidays include the creation of resolutions that force people to change their lives for the better.

“It is important that we change our lives and make resolutions,” said Labkowski. “Everybody individually has their own resolutions for the new year.”

Local synagogues will be engaging Jewish residents with prayer and liturgy for the next two days. Elishev Berkowitz, with the Kehilat Haish Chodesh or “Assembly of the Holy Father,” said that Rosh Hashanah is “one of the High Holy Days so it is one of the bigger holidays” in the Jewish faith.

“We are going to start with some prayer and liturgy and then have Rosh Hashanah service where we teach about it and read scripture,” said Berkowitz. “Tomorrow there is more liturgy and prayer.”

Both prayer and liturgy are the central piece of the holiday, but another highlight of Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the shofar — a ram’s horn blown like a trumpet. It’s considered one of the most important observances of Rosh Hashanah and a total of 100 notes are blown in the morning.

Labkowski said that the shofar will be blown at the Chabad Jewish Center at 11:30 p.m. after prayer begins at 9:30 a.m.

Many government offices and businesses are closed for Rosh Hashanah because no work is permitted, according to the rules of the Jewish faith. Instead, observers spend most of their time participating in expanded services in their local synagogue.

Meals in a Jewish home during Rosh Hashanah center around sweetness. A sweet carrot stew called tzimmes is served, as well as honey-dipped apples. Pomegranates are also included within meals because the number of seeds in the fruit coincide with Jewish commandments.

Later in the month of Elul, starting on Oct. 8, is Yom Kippur or “The Day of Atonement,” perhaps the most important Jewish holiday. According to the Jewish faith it is a day to reflect and atone for sins.