Celebration, atonement mark Jewish holidays




The holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are approaching, a time for both celebration and atonement in the Jewish tradition.

For practicing Jews, that means the calendar year is ending.

This year, at sundown on the eve of Sept. 20, Rosh Hashanah – The Day of Blasting – begins and it lasts until nightfall on Sept. 22.

A shofar, usually a ram’s horn, is blasted as a signal of celebration.

In observance one must at least hear a shofar’s blast.

Justin Sledge, who teaches philosophy and ethics at Detroit Mercy, celebrates the holiday by hosting a gathering, inviting all those of the Jewish faith in the Detroit area who don’t have a family to join him at his home for meal, fellowship and prayers.

“Rosh Hashanah is very fun,” said Sledge. “You wear new clothes, reflect on the past year. It is as if you are ready to hit a reset button for a new year.”

Yom Kippur and the days linking the two holidays are more heavily focused on self-reflection and accounting for your soul in preparation for the year’s end.

In the days between, those of the Jewish faith must seek out those they have wronged and ask for forgiveness.

Unlike in the Catholic tradition, God cannot forgive your sins committed against someone else, only that person can.

Believers also must work towards abstaining from previous wrongdoings and commit themselves to cleansing their soul before their fate is sealed for the upcoming year.

This year, Yom Kippur begins on the eve of Sept. 29 and ends at sundown on Sept. 30.

It is said that on this day God decides who will die and how.

If you have not fully repented come sun down, your body and soul will suffer, according to the faith.

Rosh Hashanah serves as a pleasant wake up call to the heaviness of Yom Kippur.

For roughly 26 hours those in observance pray and fast.

In addition, they cannot sleep in their bed (most sleep on the ground), cannot wear leather and cannot partake in sexual engagement.

“After so many hours, when you are robbed of all the things you think you can control, you rely on the power of this Other,” said Sledge. “It is not hard to confess and let go.”

This holiest of holy days is the only time when Jews will bow completely on the ground in prayer, extending their full bodies before God.

As the sun sets on Sept. 30, “the angels will cease to sing,” said Sledge.

The shofar blasts for one final time and the “world” ends as it begins, closing the holiday and the year.