​​​​​​​HIGH HOLIDAYS / SUKKOT  PRIMER 5778 (2017)

The first thing about ‘the Primer’ is of course the date(s). Why is 5778 (2017) mentioned when Rosh Hashanah is the New Year 5778 (2017) Customs for the High Holidays begin with the inception of the month of Elul which is the month before Tishrei where the New Year falls.

** On the High Holidays we use a special prayer book, known as a MACHZOR, which contains both all Services,Special Prayers, as well as the Torah and Haftorah readings.

                                   A CUSTOMS QUICKIE PRIMER: Reb’ Z’s TOP TEN: ELUL

1.    Special “Prayers of Forgiveness”- Selicot- are added along with special Psalm 27 (from Rosh Hashanah to Hoshanah Rabba during the Morning Service).
2.    The Shofar is blown one blast-TIKKEAH—at the conclusion of the Morning Service except on the Sabbath.
3.    Synagogues undergo a transformation from ornate and colorful Torah Covers and Yarmulkes (skull caps) and Tallaisim (Prayer Shawls to white dressings including the Ark Cover and Bimah  (Pulpit)Coverings.
4.    Congregational and individual visits to the Cemetery to share time and memories with family members, loved ones and friends who are deceased. Typically the Mourners Kaddish is recited over immediate family grave sites. Stones are placed on the headstone(s) providing notice there was a visitor.
5.    Jewish Religious articles such as prayer books and Tallaisim which are no longer kosher for use are buried with a special Service at the Cemetery in a ‘Gezaera’ (‘Vault’), especially if it is the Synagogue Cemetery rather than a community Jewish Cemetery to avoid red tape.  
                        SELICOT: FORGIVENESS: AN OVERVIEW:
Selicot is the ongoing process of looking within one’s self and evaluating our individual and community’s interaction with G-d and our fellow human beings and environment. The process is painful because it requires a long hard truthful look into our souls and hearts.
The ultimate calling is to both publically and privately seek forgiveness from those who may have suffered due to our conduct, knowingly or unknowingly. It requires each of us and the community to do the same soul and heart searching when asked by others to be forgiven. It’s about keeping an open heart and soul. After all, we can’t ask G-d to forgive if we cannot ourselves forgive.
 …”I’m bringing you a heart that’s true, so get ready get ready here I come”…The Temptations -“Get Ready”
6.    Since Selicot falls this year on the Sabbath immediately preceding Rosh Hashanah during the week and is referred to Selicot Sabbath. Otherwise Selicot is a week earlier.

7.    Special Selicot Services will take place in every Jewish Community around the world on Saturday, September 16, 2017. In traditional Synagogues the Service starts at midnight last no longer than 1.5 hours followed by dessert. “Times they are a changing” (Bob Dylan aka/Robert Zimmerman) with entertainment and programs starting after Motzei Shabbat (end of Sabbath or Evening Services, along with dessert.
8.    The High Holiday melodies and liturgy are heard ‘officially for the first time’ led by a Cantor, Choir and Rabbi or individual(s) who  is at home or in a Chavurah (small gathering) by those reciting the prayers and liturgy.
9.    The High Holiday greetings are exchanged among those at Services.
10.     Next up the High Holiday Services themselves. Shema Koleinu (Hear Our Voices).

“HINENI” (Here I Am or I Am Here) appears 178 times in the Tanach (Bible).

Rosh Hashanah- “Head of the Year” is a two day Holiday beginning sundown the night before 29 Elul thru sundown 2 Tishrei (September 20-22 , 2017).  It is the Commemoration of the World’s Creation and all living creatures including Adam and Eve.

The AKEDA- Binding of Isaac is about personal sacrifice, unconditional Faith when a ram took Isaac’s place. Is one of the Rosh Ha’Shanah Torah readings for the  Second Day.

Blowing the Shofar(except on Sabbath) is Central to the Holiday and of course a reminder to repent, which spans 10 days ending on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Yom Kippur-Day of Atonement (September  29-30, 2017) 9-10 Tishrei

     This is a 25 hour Fast beginning sundown on Friday night thru Sundown on Saturday night. Kol Nidre is the haunting opening liturgy led by the Hazan . It is repeated three times; first quietly, then louder, and finally for all to hear, and hopefull catch the late comers.

     It has it's own special prayers, melodies, solemnity and a  special Memorial Service known as Yizkor (Remember) during the morning Service. There are several Services  during the day of Fasting.  

Customs- High Holidays

1.        Eating apple and honey together, new fruits and other special foods.

              2.         Holiday greeting, i.e. ‘La’Shanah Tovah Tikateivu Ve’teichateim’, “May you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life for a good year”. ‘La’Shanah Tovah Um ‘Tuccah’, “A Happy and Sweet New Year”.

            3.        Blowing the Shofar (100 blasts over the course of the Daily Services) except when Rosh Hashanah falls on the Sabbath (when Shofar is blown on the first weekday after Sabbath).

4.         Candle Lighting, Prayers, Kiddush and Blessing the Challah.

5.        Tashlich- (Tr. “Casting off”) Originated in the Middle Ages. - Special Prayers are recited near a natural body of water.  Bread is thrown in the water, representing the release of sins. “And You shall cast their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7: 19). This occurs after Morning Services on the  First day of Rosh Hashanah unless that is the Sabbath, then it takes place on Day 2.

6.         Fast of Gedaliah- (4 Tishrei 5778, September 24, 2017) commemorates by  mourning the assignation of Gedaliah ben Achikam, the Babylonian appointed Jewish Governor of Judah.  

7.         Shabbat Shuvah- The Sabbath of Return/Repentance to G-d is the Sabbath between Rosh Ha’Shanah and Yom Kippur (3 Tishrei 5778; September 23, 2017).

8.         Kaparos (Tr. ‘Atonements/Ransom’)-This custom involves taking a live chicken and swinging it three times  over one’s head, the day before Yom Kippur. The sins of a person are transferred to a fowl, with the following “ This is my substitute, my vicarious offering, my atonement; This fowl shall meet death, but I shall find a long and pleasant life of peace.”

9.        Mikveh- A ritual bathing before the High Holidays, Holidays and Sabbath in a natural body of water or improvise. The Mikveh symbolizes one’s Spiritual Rebirth.

10.        Giving Tzedakah charity to those in need.

11.        Prohibitions on Yom Kippur include: Eating, drinking, and wearing leather, washing, use of cosmetics and marital relations.

                                                                        SUKKOT FESTIVAL SEASON


Primers are great because they provide an overview and allows for a trip down 
Memory Lane .
SUKKOT—The Biblical version of “home makeover”. It is a temporary Booth for housing with the stars , moon and sun visible thru the roof consisting of branches. This Booth commemorates the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty (40) years. It is a seven day joyous holiday to celebrate the Temple construction being completed by King Solomon. Meals are eaten in the Sukkah along with special prayers being said.
Among the first ‘commandments/mitzvoth to be completed after Yom Kippur was beginning of Sukkah construction. And what Sukkah building effort would be complete without a ”pizza /ice cream night as an enticement to build? It almost ranks up there with trick or treating without the costumes or door to door work .The best part it was for kids only no parents. Aside from getting to walk in the Hakafot (circling processional) with Dad it was the sheer joy of the holiday.

​    Ecclesiastes (Koheket) - During each of the Festivals Special Readings are part of the Sukkot Holiday. This Holiday is Ecclesiastes which  opens: "Vanity of vanity, says Kohelet, vanity of vanities; all is vanity." It then catalogs the many life philosophies and lifestyles its author, the King of Jerusalem, experimented with and ultimately concluded were vain and empty. For this reason, people often view Kohelet as pessimistic and downbeat. (Reference: Ecclesiates -HighHolidays@ aish.com)

The Four Minim –Species.(the Palm, the Willows ,the Myrtles Lulav, and  Esrog(Citron) were held together and used for special prayers during this agrarian season.

On Hoshanah Rabbah, the last day of Sukkot the five (5) willows were beaten on the floor back of a chair or window sill to expiate oneself from sin. EXCEPT ON Shabbat we say prayers and both shake and walk with the Lulav and Esrog.

There is a companion piece to this one dealing exclusively with Hoshanah Rabbah, A BEST KEPT SECRET.

Sages have interpreted the significance of this last day of Sukkot as having the ‘sealed judgment delivered by G-d to the Supplicant to perfect the process. In simple English it provides another twelve (12) days to repent and possibly receive a positive Sentence Modification. (as a lawyer I had to go for it). To prepare just as in Shavuot there is a Leil T’filoh, (‘Night of Prayer’), extending until pre- dawn Mikvah time) which includes reading and studying all the Psalms and Book of Deuteronomy.
 At the morning Service the Bimah with a Torah and Lulav and Esrog (Minim) while chanting and singing Hoshanot (asking for G-d to forgive us). As the Morning Service continues five (5) willows are taken from the Minim and struck against the floor or back of a chair until they break. This flogging expiates one from sin.


The reading of the Old Testament Parshiot is completed and three scrolls are read from which both completes the cycle and commences it again with BEREISHEET. This is the first Parsha (Segment)in the First of the Five Books of Moses, Genesis(In the beginning). It is a glorious as congregants with and without Torah Scrolls .The “Honors”,” ( tr.”Aliyot” )are special designations of the Bride of the Torah(Kallah Torah )and “Groom of the Torah” (tr.”Chatan Torah”)give to individuals who have earned special recognition within the Synagogue or community for their “Acts of Loving Kindness”( tr.Gemilut Chasidim”).

                                                                              SIMCHAS TORAH:
 For those of us who in our youth were more adventurous it was ‘residing in the Sukkah’. Of course today it’s not so Spartan with Cell Phones, I Pads, lighting, HD Electronics and computers.
As kids we could not wait for junior congregation Services to be over because we got first crack at the Sukkah goodies. They included fruit juices, cakes candies and cookies.

And who can forget sticky apples on top of Israeli Flags some with and some without candles that we as kids marches around the Synagogue  with the adults carrying Torahs. The Rabbis broke into a sweat wondering if the apples hit the carpet, ruined clothes or those apples all over our faces and hands.
12.        Begin building the Sukkah or discussing its building immediately after Yom Kippur Services and Maariv,( Evening Service) concludes.

13.         Sukkot(The Festival of Booths) begins at sundown on October 4th thru sundown, October 6, 2017 (14-16 Tishrei, 5777). It is followed by four Intermediate Days of Sukkot (17 Tishrei thru 20 Tishrei 5778;September 7-10, 2017. The Four Minim- Palm, Willow, Myrtle and Esrog are held together for special prayers and processionals around Synagogue.

14.     Hoshanah Rabbah runs from sundown on 20 Tishrei thru 21 Tishrei 5777; October 11-12, 2017.

15.     Shemini Atzereth starts sundown 21 Tishrei thru 22 Tishrei 5778; October 11-12 , 2017. Special Memorial prayer known as Yizkor (He/She shall Remember) are said during the Morning Service.

16.     Simchas Torah –starts at sundown on 22 Tishrei thru 25 Tishrei 5778; October 12-13 , 2017. This concludes the week - long celebration of Sukkot. There is dancing drinking singing and reading from three Scrolls which officially ends the reading of the five Books of Moses,the Torah and starts anew with BEREISHEIT .This is the first Parsha (Segment in the first Book,Genesis ,of the Five Books of Moses(the Torah) which is read weekly as the cycle begins anew.

Shanah Tovah u'Metukah. A Good and Sweet New Year 5778
2017/2018. Reb ‘Z/ R’Z/ Stu

"We are our brothers and sisters keepers".

​​The Akeda Foundation