Lessons in Memory of my brother Dale Alan Konigsburg
September 25, 2003 – Number 23
Preparing for the High Holy Days IV: Apples, Honey and Bread Crumbs
To celebrate Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur one must be aware of the important rituals of the day. It is traditional to eat Apples dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet new year. Some people eat honey cake and other sweet foods for the holiday. It is traditional to wear new clothing on the new year to give us an extra reason to recited the Shehechiyanu over our new clothing. One usually wears white on the Yamim Noraim (even if it is after Labor Day) since the High Priest on Yom Kippur put aside his golden garments and wore a simple white Kittel. There is a special musical mode for the High Holy Days. The music itself can put our mind into the proper frame for introspection and reflection. The Shofar sounds are to remind us of an alarm clock that is waking us up from the daze we are in every day to the passage of time and the need to make every moment count in the new year. Many special poems (called Piyyutim) are assigned for the holidays. They are chosen because they evoke in us our special relationship with G-d. In each one the poet tries to move us to examine our lives and see what we do in a new way. Perhaps with each point of view we can come to understand how important it is to begin the year with a strong resolve to make our lives better and more significant. Perhaps the only real way to fully understand how the service on the High Holy Days is supposed to make us feel, we need to have a better understanding of what a “regular” daily service is all about. When we pray daily, we can appreciate the extra poems and prayers that set the tone for the day.The Hineni prayer is the special moment when the Hazan begins the core of the service. He will be speaking on our behalf and acting as our representative. It is an awesome (and Awe some) experience that he does not take lightly. After all, our prayers cling to his on their way to G-d. The Hineni helps him get in the correct mode for such an important task. The Hazan will stand during the entire Musaf service without moving his feet apart. You may notice him hopping around the bima so that he does not separate them. The U’netane Tokef is the core reason why we are in synagogue. We come because we know that G-d is judging us and that we don’t know, in they year ahead, what will happen to us. Who will live and who will die? Who will be rich and who will be poor? Who will be sick and who will be healthy? We can never know for sure what the answer is but the prayer reminds us that we can make a difference in life through acts of repentance, Prayer and the giving of Tzedaka.Avinu Malkenu is about asking G-d to forgive our sins. We approach G-d as a divine ruler, a king, and as our Father. Still we must remember if our Father is the King, than we too are children of royalty. We have the extra responsibility to reach for a higher standard.On the first day of Rosh Hashana, or the second day if the first is Shabbat, we go to a flowing body of water, and, as part of a special service called, Tashlich, we throw bread crumbs into the water to symbolically cast our sins away. It is a concrete way to let go of all that drags us down and keeps us from our potential.On Yom Kippur, during the long and short confessional, we tap our chest with our fist, it is a moment where we strike ourselves for each of the sins listed. To remember that we are sinners, we have not lived up to our expectations in the past year, and we did not live up to G-d’s expectations. We strike ourselves to try and remember to do better in the new year.
Next week: Preparing for the High Holy Days V: Fasting and Yom Kippur