On Wednesday, Sept. 12, Jews will begin celebrating the High Holy Days, which encompass the period from the beginning of the new year 5768, called Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
On Rosh Hashannah, "we focus our attention on spiritual truth and turn toward God, reaffirming that God is the Holy One," said Rabbi Barney Brickner of the Wood River Jewish Community. "We recognize and celebrate God's power, while also acknowledging our partnership with God. That Rosh Hashannah is called by other names indicates how significant it is. Other names are Yom Harat Olam, the birthday of the word; Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance; Yom Hadin, the Day of Judgment and Yom Teruah, the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar."
Over the next 10 days, Jews will take time to self-reflect, admit wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness from God, family and friends.
"We are asked to look inside ourselves, understand the role we have to play and the relationships we have with our loved ones, community and God," Brickner said. "This is the time to drive that home."
The Shabbat service that occurs between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah or the Sabbath of return, because the portion from the book of Prophets that is read on Shabbat begins with the words "Return O Israel unto God," Brickner said.
"As Jews begin the new year we focus on Cheshbon Ha-nephesh, an accounting of the soul," he said. "We consider ways we might better live our lives. Yom Kippur does not atone for wrongs committed against other people, but only for transgressions against God. Therefore, during these ten days it is customary to ask friends and family whom we may have wronged, for forgiveness."
On Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown on Friday, Sept. 21, Jews "stand before God united as a community, publicly admitting shared transgressions," Brickner said.
"We fast for the day as a way of setting aside our physical desires and instead stress our spiritual needs," he said. "We throw ourselves on the mercy of the Divine Court, but never lose the confidence that we shall be pardoned. Through the process of t'shuvah, returning to right wrongs we build up a spiritual strength to emerge with a renewed sense of life's meaning."
Having arrived in the valley earlier this summer, Brickner will celebrate his first High Holy Days with the Wood River Jewish Community.
"I'm excited that Todd Herzog will be our soloist. He's a real talent," Brickner said. "We'll bring some music into the worship experience that is new. I want to create a sense of being welcomed into the service that inspires participation. In the wake of the Castle Rock Fire we'll focus on the spirit and that which is temporal and that which is everlasting.
"So many people said, when they were evacuated during the fire, 'I have my loved ones around me, that is enough.' That is a wonderful affirmation for me that what really matters is not the material. No matter what people think or have written about this area, that at the end of the day this community can be a model of that which is essential—the relationships to others and to God."