On Wednesday evening, the Moscow Jewish community centre will host a celebration of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) led by the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rav Berel Lazar. Worshippers will light holiday candles and hold a prayer service for the New Year, featuring a famous cantor from New York City, Rav Shneur Zalman Baumgarten, a spokesman for the FEOR told our Interfax-Religion correspondent.
During the prayers for the New Year, believers must bring before Almighty God an accounting of the year just past, repent of all the evil deeds they committed, and come back to God. They greet one another with the words, “May you be written and sealed for a good year” (ketiva ve-chatima tovah). On the same day, there will be a concert at the community centre featuring the male Jewish choir Хасидская капелла (Hasidic Cappella), and on Thursday, there will be a festive worship service where the faithful will gather in the courtyard of the centre for the blowing of the shofar, a special ceremonial horn. The sound of the shofar reminds believers that they must be mindful of the Kingdom of God. In ancient times, the sounding of the shofar celebrated the coronation of kings. Jews date their calendar from the traditional date for the creation of the world, and the coming year will be 5771 [according to their reckoning].
Jews celebrate the New Year for two days, they believe that God weighs the deeds of mankind and determines the fate of each person for the coming year. Ancient Jewish tradition teaches that the name of everyone living on earth is written in the Book of Life in Heaven. During the days of Rosh Hashanah, God writes in this book the fate of all living people on earth, “who shall live and who shall die, who shall rest and who shall wander, who shall have pleasure and who shall have pain, and who shall have want and who shall have plenty”. Jewish believers set a festive table for the New Year, but the ceremony of blessing the meal (Kiddush) doesn’t begin as on regular days, it begins with bread and salt, then, bread with honey. After the Kiddush proper, there’s a blessing over fruit, and one then eats apples dipped in honey. As they do so, Jews say, “Thy will be done, O God of our Fathers, give us a good and sweet year”.
Rav Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia, marked the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) on the Jewish calendar. In his address to the faithful, he pointed up that repentance was the overriding theme of this holiday. “Many people are afraid of the word ‘repentance’, they think that it’s much too difficult and painful, it’s beyond their strength. In fact, nothing is more natural for a man to do. Repentance for a believing Jew isn’t loud lamentations or self-punishment, it isn’t torturing yourself with fasting, or other such exercises”, Rav Lazar said in a statement released by his press office on Wednesday. “Rather, it means to honestly admit to yourself what you’ve done wrong, and to honestly promise to God and yourself that you shall not continue to commit such acts, you’re going to set a positive programme of action for the morrow. Having rejected unjust actions, a man returns to God and to himself, to his own human nature. It’s obvious that everyone wants good things in their life and everyone wants respect! Everyone wants to be closer to God! So… don’t be afraid to repent, it’s not a great trial, but, it’s a great relief to find the road to happiness and peace for your soul”, he said.
NB: The intro takes about a minute before the music proper begins…
Rav Lazar reminded us that we sound the shofar during these holidays in all the synagogues to awaken people “from their spiritual slumber, to help them heal. What’s more, the sound of the shofar symbolises the cry of the human heart that knows that it can and should live differently, and it knows, with God’s help, that it can restore every splendid detail of its spirituality, righteousness, joy, and happiness. In the coming year, I wish that every one of you makes a true return to God, and through this joyous return, to find yourself, your true spiritual nature”, Rav Lazar concluded.
The Jewish community in Russia makes a significant contribution to the preservation of our national and cultural diversity, to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding in our society.
President Dmitri Medvedev
President Dmitri Medvedev greeted Russian Jews on the Jewish New Year, the 5,771th since the creation of the world. “Russian Jews, in accordance with their ancient religious beliefs, especially honour this holiday of spiritual purification with bright hopes for the future. It leads to the encouragement of creativity and moral perfection, to mutual understanding, kindness, and love for one’s neighbour. These values are dear to all religious believers. Over the centuries, they’ve been the basis for good-neighbourliness, peace, and harmony in our country”, according to the President’s telegram, as released by the Kremlin press service. The message went on to emphasise, “Today, in a revival of its rich traditions, the Jewish community in Russia makes a significant contribution to the preservation of our national and cultural diversity, to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding in our society”.
8 September 2010