Today is January 20, 2020 -
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Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the season surrounding these “days of awe” are times of remembrance, repentance, and renewal – when we deeply examine our actions during the past year, seek and offer forgiveness, and commit ourselves to change in the coming year. At Leo Baeck Temple, the High Holy Days offer a time of community, celebration, and contemplation.
The final month of the Jewish year – the month of Elul, which directly precedes Rosh Hashanah – is intended to usher in a period of deep self-examination … the kind of self-proving that is best achieved when we can strip away some of the obligations that blur our vision of the ”bigger picture” in our lives. We are taught that the High Holy Days can be truly efficacious only when we have thoroughly prepared for them by peering intently and honestly into our souls. The final days of Elul are our last chance to prepare. Jewish tradition holds that, on the High Holy Days, one atones for sins committed against God. However, for wrongs committed against one’s neighbor, one’s co-worker, one’s parent, one’s children, one’s spouse … one must seek forgiveness directly from the offended. Many Jews devote the month of Elul to taking this practice seriously, seeking, through introspection, conversation, and correspondence, to make amends. Elul provides us with the opportunity to think about the previous year and make plans for what we would like to do differently, to look at where we have lost track of ourselves over the past year, and to reset our course. On the Saturday evening prior to Rosh Hashanah, our congregation gathers together for a special Selichot program and prayer service; this year taking place on Saturday, September 21, 2019 at 7:30pm. It is an evening of learning, prayer, reflection, and return. We prepare not only ourselves for the serious work of the High Holy Days, but also our Torah Scrolls, as they are taken from the ark and dressed in the white mantels specific to the Days of Awe.
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year. The shofar, the ram’s horn, wakes us from our stupor and demands that we face ourselves and our wrongdoings. The liturgy of the holiday stresses that life is short, our days our numbered, and our chance to change, do good, repent, accomplish the things we dream of, and treat the people we love as they deserve to be treated, is now. The High Holy Days, unlike most Jewish holidays, are heavily focused on the synagogue. Many Jews who rarely or never attend synagogue will do so on these days. Although the process of teshuvah, repentance, is highly personal and introspective, we do it in the presence and solace of one another. The liturgy focuses on the themes of judgement, repentance, God’s majesty, and memory. At Leo Baeck Temple, an Erev Rosh Hashanah Service takes place at 7:30pm. Rosh Hashanah morning services are offered in the main sanctuary at 9:30am, and a Family Rosh Hashanah Service is offered at 9:30am in the Peachy & Mark Levy Beit Midrash for adults and school-aged children. A Children’s Service for pre-schoolers and toddlers is offered at 2:00pm. As the sun goes down on Rosh Hashanah, we offer a Tashlich experience at Will Rogers State Beach in the Pacific Palisades. This short service including the “casting-off” of our sins (in the form of breadcrumbs) into the ocean’s waters followed by a “bring your own” picnic dinner has grown into one of the most popular “new” traditions at Leo Baeck Temple. To learn more about Rosh Hashanah click here.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, falls ten days after Rosh Hashanah. When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the High Priest effected atonement for the entire people through an elaborate ritual. Today, in the absence of the Temple, each of us stands, alone, together, naked as it were, before God. Yom Kippur is the dramatic culmination of the entire season of teshuvah, repentance. It begins at sundown with the prayer of Kol Nidre, whose haunting melody marks the start of the fast and sets the tone for the next 24 hours. Referred to as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths,” Yom Kippur holds a crucial place in the Jewish calendar. At Leo Baeck Temple, Yom Kipppur begins with a Kol Nidre Service at 7:30pm. On Yom Kippur morning, traditional services are offered in our main sanctuary at 9:30am with a Family Yom Kippur Service at 9:30am in the Peachy & Mark Levy Beit Midrash for adults and school-aged children. Following the morning service, a study session is conducted for adults in the main sanctuary. The temple campus remains open throughout the day, and the park-like grounds provide moments for quiet reflection. A Children’s Service for families with toddlers and pre-school aged children begins at 2:00pm. The afternoon services begin with a Musical Meditation at 3:30pm. To learn more about Yom Kippur click here.
Sukkot is a seven-day holiday commemorating the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land after forty years of wandering. Many people build a sukkah (booth), a temporary structure with a roof made of branches, modeled after the huts constructed in the desert. We also give thanks to God for the bounty of the Earth with prayers and a symbolic shaking of the lulav (an assemblage of palm, willow and myrtle branches) and etrog (a lemon-like fruit). To learn more about Sukkot click here.
Celebrates the completion of the annual Torah-reading cycle. After finishing the last sentence of the chapter Devarim (Deuteronomy), the Torah is joyously paraded around the synagogue. The new cycle begins immediately with a reading from Bereshit (Genesis). To learn more about Simchat Torah click here.