High Holy Days 2017 Congregation B’nai B’rith

Posted By on December 3, 2017

Dear CBB Family,

The time has come to begin thinking about Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. What have these days meant to our people over the centuries, and what might they mean for us today? The season has two different Hebrew names:

The Yamim Noraim, translated as The Awesome Days Aseret Ymei Tshuvah, meaning The Ten Days of Return

Both of these names point toward possible meanings of this sacred season, even for Jews who do not consider themselves religious, or who feel far removed from the rhythms and patterns of Jewish tradition.

The name Yamim Noraim, or Awesome Days, speaks of the universal human longing for transcendence. Even if we do not pray, and even if we do not believe in God, we all remember moments in our past when we suddenly felt ourselves most alive. Watching a baby being born. Or a loved one dying. Falling in love. Or being swept up by an extraordinary piece of music. Or by the power and beauty of a thunder storm, or standing on a mountaintop. We remember these moments of transcendence.

Every September, the ancient voice of the rams horn, the sacred words of Torah, the haunting melodies, the gathering of the people (with all of our marvelous quirks of personality) and the purifying fast of Yom Kippur open for us a 4,000 year old doorway into transcendence.

The second name, Aseret Ymei Tshuvah, or The Days of Return, speaks of our deep human need to return home. All year long, or perhaps for many years, we have been wandering, exploring, seeking new experiences, new friends and teachers, new knowledge. But a time comes to turn ourselves Homeward Bound. I dont know why Jews come back every year at Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, but like the birds returning in springtime, or like salmon making their way upstream, this is our time of return. To community. To tradition. To God.

I look forward to once again sharing this profound, mysterious, ancient season with you. Iam particularly excited to introduce to the congregation our two new rabbinic interns,Leah Sternberg and Daniel Brenner. Leah will speak to the congregation during the early service on the evening of Rosh HaShanah, Wednesday, September 20, while Daniel will offer the sermon at the late service the same evening.

Marian, Rachel, Zach and Ari join me in wishing you a happy, healthy New Year.

Rabbi Stephen E. Cohen

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High Holy Days 2017 Congregation B'nai B'rith

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