Kinneret residents reminisce about High Holidays past
September 7, 2018
In the next few days we'll celebrate Rosh Hashanah and herald in the new year 5779. It is a time of renewal and of family-filled with good food, traditions and wishes, hopes and prayers for the future.
While the holiday is best known by the name "Rosh Hashanah," which literally means "head of the year," in the Torah the holiday is called "Zichron Truah," which roughly translates as "Memory Blast." Additionally, the only mitzvah, or commandment, that is directly connected with this holiday is to hear the blast of the shofar.
Why is the Jewish New Year actually a memorial day? And why is the only commandment of this day to listen to a simple blast from the shofar?
According to tradition, on Rosh Hashanah the past is brought to the fore, and God remembers us, our deeds and our actions. But I believe God isn't the only one who remembers; this is a time when we can also "remember ourselves."
Intertwined with memory is an element of judgment and personal responsibly, a defining characteristic of Rosh Hashanah. By remembering, we compare between the past and the present, between our hopes and expectations and the way they played out in reality. We don't just think of the past, we re-live the moment. When we remember the people, the places and the experiences that impacted us the most, we are whisked back to that moment and we experience it again.
I had the opportunity to talk with some of our residents as they shared their memories of the High Holidays. Memories can have a significant impact on our day-to-day lives, and when reminiscing, these women were transported to the past, re-lived the moments, and in that space, were able to bridge the gap between past and present.
"When I was 12 years old," Bernice Landis reminisced, "Israel became a country. A man came to services to talk about the new country and gather donations. My friends and I came out of the synagogue. We were very upset because we wanted to contribute, but we didn't have any money. I clearly remember that we decided that we would go to Israel and help them fight!"
In Judaism, we are taught to look forward with a sense of hope and take personal responsibility-to be a part of the change. To this day, Bernice feels a strong connection and love for Israel, which she traces back to that moment at synagogue. At the young age of 12, she wanted to be part of the change.
In the daily rush of life, we often forget our true selves and what really matters. Do we stop and question what memories we are creating today? Are we being true to who we are or want to be?
According to Maimonides, the great 12th century Spanish Jewish thinker, this is the purpose of the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. That strong, piercing and simple blast serves as an awakening. It grabs our attention to remind us that something is happening. It is a day of judgment. This blast wakes up our memory, our expectations and our hopes.
"Hearing the shofar makes me feel good," said Joan Rosenman.
"I'm a history buff," added Bernice, "so I read a lot about ancient times. When you experience the traditions that are still here today-that have been brought through thousands of years... that's really something special."
Sandy Erstling added, "It gives me a warm feeling. I always look forward to another year in peace and harmony all over the world. It gives me hope."
As we enter Rosh Hashanah, I encourage you to try to focus on memory and judgment. When you hear the shofar blast, perhaps you will experience that moment of awakening. Take a moment to connect with the past – your own memories and the collective memories of the Jewish people. Then look forward and take personal responsibility for what you want to do differently this year.
As the director of KCOA, I have the pleasure of spending my days with a special group of people who have far more wisdom than I do. I am lucky that they share their stories and memories with me. I wish you all a sweet and meaningful New Year.
Carol Feuerman, KCOA Board president
Rhonda Pearlman, KI/KII Board president
Sharon F. Weil, KCOA director of Programming and Development