High Holy Days
Shabbat is a Gateway for Reaching Expanded Consciousness
We welcome you to Eretz Synagogue. We hope you participate and enjoy the variety of services that we offer and the warmth of our community. This guide is a compilation of the rituals and customs that you will find in our synagogue. If you have any additional questions or suggestions, please come and introduce yourself to the Rabbi and Cantor following services. Enjoy the words of the Torah, and the kabbalistic approach, to the everyday life we provide to our community.
In front of you at the center of the bimah (pulpit), is the aron kodesh, the holy ark. In the ark are a number of Torah scrolls. Each scroll contains the Five Books of Moses. We read a portion from the Torah every single Shabbat, and special selections during our festival holidays.
The Torah is dressed in sacred vestments, with crowns, breastplates, and jewels. This is the way we show our respect and honor to these scrolls.
Every male that enters our sanctuary is required to cover his head with a kippah, a head covering. A kippah symbolizes the heightened holiness of the acts of worship and study carried out during our service. As you can see, there is no size or color requirement for a kippah. Enjoy the array of kippahs that you see. Females may also wear a head covering as well.
Books of Prayer
The smaller brown book is called the siddur, the prayer book. It consists of all of the prayers that we will recite on Shabbat, including Psalms, Rabbinic writings, and English translations.
The larger blue book is called the chumash, literally the five books. This contains the Torah, the portion from the scroll that we will read aloud. In it, you will find the original Hebrew text, English translations, and Rabbinic commentaries, both old and new. Explore these ancient teachings that add meaning to our lives each and every day.
Shema: This is the verse from Deuteronomy that is the declaration of our faith. “Hear O Israel, The Lord Our God, the Lord is One.” We recite this in the morning and in the evening. It is also the prayer that we recite when we take the Torah from the ark.
Amidah: This is our central prayer. After the Cantor leads us with a beautiful rendition, there is a silent devotion. The congregation reads either the Hebrew or English or offers personal prayers and reflections.
Study Source: Each week, a Kabbalistic leader offers words of inspiration from our Biblical and spiritual tradition during the services.
Dvar Torah: This speech is given by the Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and is the interpretation of the Torah reading through this young person’s eyes.
Shabbat, the seventh day of the week, is the day we are called to stop our everyday activities, and rededicate ourselves to our faith and Jewish heritage. Every Jewish home celebrates the completion of Creation and the work week on this day, welcoming Shabbat the Queen. Wishing to integrate Shabbat into your weekend and sanctify it Shabbat traditionally includes three required meals: Friday night dinner, Saturday lunch, and the third meal in late afternoon. Typical Shabbat foods include challah (braided bread) and wine, which are both blessed before the meal begins.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, actually means “Head of the Year.” Just like the head controls the body, our actions on Rosh Hashanah have a tremendous impact on the rest of the year. It is a day of prayer, a time to ask the Almighty to grant us a year of peace, prosperity, and blessing. But it is also a joyous day when we proclaim G‑d King of the Universe. The Kabbalists teach that the continued existence of the universe depends on G‑d’s desire for a world, a desire that is renewed when we accept His kingship anew each year on Rosh Hashanah.
On Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to eat apples dipped in honey. It is also customary to say the shehecheyanu, a blessing over something new, whether it be a piece of fruit or a new article of clothing. The Sephardic tradition also includes a Rosh Hashanah Seder, which includes dates, small beans, leeks, beets, gourds, pomegranates, apples, and honey, and the head of a fish.
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year—the day on which we are closest to G‑d and to the quintessence of our own souls. It is the Day of Atonement. For nearly twenty-six hours we fast and gather as a community to atone for the misdeeds of the past year and pray for a year of blessing ahead—from several minutes before sunset to after nightfall —we “afflict our souls”: we abstain from food and drink, do not wash or anoint our bodies, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from marital relations. Instead, our time is spent praying to G‑d.
Sukkot is a weeklong Jewish holiday that comes five days after Yom Kippur. Sukkot celebrates the gathering of the harvest and commemorates the miraculous protection G‑d provided for the children of Israel when they left Egypt. We celebrate Sukkot by dwelling in a foliage-covered booth (known as a sukkah) and by taking the “Four Kinds” (Arba minim), four special species of vegetation. We go outside of our homes and build temporary shelters called sukkot. This symbolizes the Jewish journey in the desert on the way to the Promised Land. We also take hold of the four species, the lulav (palm branch), etrog (citron), hadas (myrtle), and arava (willows), which represent different parts of our body and different traits of our character.
Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret
Immediately following Sukkot, we celebrate Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, a fun-filled day during which we celebrate the completion of the annual reading of the Torah and affirm the Torah as one of the pillars on which we build our lives. As part of the celebration, the Torah scrolls are taken from the ark and carried or danced around the synagogue seven times. During the Torah service, the concluding section of the fifth book of the Torah, D’varim (Deuteronomy), is read, and immediately following, the opening section of Genesis, or B’reishit as it is called in Hebrew, is read. This practice represents the cyclical nature of the relationship between the Jewish people and the reading of the Torah.
The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Passover (Pesach) commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt and on their way to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. During this festival of freedom, we are reminded that we were once enslaved, and are gracious for the lives we live today. Pesach is observed by avoiding leaven and highlighted by the Seder meals that include four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus.
The word Shavuot (or Shavuos) means “weeks.” It celebrates the completion of the seven-week Omer counting period between Passover and Shavuot.
The Torah was given by G‑d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai on Shavuot more than 3,300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of G‑d’s gift, and G‑d “re-gives” the Torah. It is a custom to eat dairy products on this holiday.
Fast of the Firstborn
Fast of the Firstborn (Hebrew: תענית בכורות, Ta'anit B'khorot or תענית בכורים, Ta'anit B'khorim) is a unique fast day in Judaism which usually falls on the day before Passover (i.e., the fourteenth day of Nisan, a month in the Jewish calendar; Passover begins on the fifteenth of Nisan). Usually, the fast is broken at a siyum celebration (typically made at the conclusion of the morning services), which, according to the prevailing custom, creates an atmosphere of rejoicing that overrides the requirement to continue the fast. Unlike all other Jewish fast days, only firstborn children are required to fast on the Fast of the Firstborn.
This fast commemorates the salvation of the Israelite firstborns during the Plague of the Firstborn (according to the Book of Exodus, the tenth of the ten plagues wrought upon Ancient Egypt prior to the Exodus of the Children of Israel), when, according to Exodus (12:29): "...God struck every firstborn in the Land of Mitzrayim (Ancient Egypt)...."