Rosh Hashanah exclusive: Hot off the press

1. At sunset, tonight [September 24, 2014 on the solar calendar] the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah began.

2. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the new year 5775.

3. According to Wikipedia tonight “is believed to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of humanity’s role in God‘s world.”

Lucas Cranach (1509-1533) painted this one of his many versions of Adam and Eve.
Lucas Cranach (1509-1533) painted this one of his many versions of Adam and Eve.

3. Here is The Jewish Publication Society’s translation from the book of Genesis. “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They [sic] shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth. And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female. He created them. God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.'” The creation of Adam and Eve took place on Friday, the sixth day of creation.

4. “Chabad, also known as Habad, Lubavitch, and Chabad-Lubavitch, is an Orthodox Jewish, Hasidic movement,” explains Wikipedia. According to Chabad, whose Orthodox movement inspired the first eight years of my elementary school education: “Rosh Hashanah…emphasizes the special relationship between G‑d and humanity: our dependence upon G‑d as our creator and sustainer, and G‑d’s dependence upon us as the ones who make His presence known and felt in His world. Each year on Rosh Hashanah, ‘all inhabitants of the world pass before G‑d like a flock of sheep,’ and it is decreed in the heavenly court ‘who shall live, and who shall die . . . who shall be impoverished, and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise.’ But this is also the day we proclaim G‑d King of the Universe. The Kabbalists teach that the continued existence of the universe is dependent upon the renewal of the divine desire for a world when we accept G‑d’s kingship each year on Rosh Hashanah.”


5. A note on the spelling of God’s name. When I was a student at the Hebrew Academy of Greater Miami, (when founding Rabbi Alexander S. Gross was principal), I wrote God’s name thusly, “G-d.” To be more precise, I followed standard practice of altering the spelling of God’s name in Hebrew. The teaching was in keeping with the Commandment not to take the Lord’s name in vain. One did not say the name correctly or spell it out in English or Hebrew.

6. Subsequently, I became a member of Conservative and Reform synagogues where observance is not taken as literally as my elementary schooling.

Rabbi David Ostrich
Rabbi David Ostrich

7. I am currently a member of State College PA’s Brit Shalom, a congregation that combines Conservative and Reform practice. My rabbi is David Ostrich, a wonderful man.

8. Rabbi Ostrich has just written a special prayer-book for Rosh Hashanah and the High Holidays. It is called the machzor.

9. Wikipedia: “The mahzor…is the prayer book used by Jews on the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur….The prayer-book is a specialized form of the siddur, which is generally intended for use in weekday and Shabbat services.The word mahzor means ‘cycle’ (the root …  means ‘to return’). It is applied to the festival prayer book because the festivals recur annually.”

10. Brit Shalom exclusive: Rabbi Ostrich’s mahzor has just been published this Rosh Hashana.

11. Here is a section  Rabbi Ostrich emailed me yesterday from the mahzor:


“As much as we are masters of our own fates—making decisions and living with the consequences, there are also times when greater powers toss us around like small boats on a stormy sea.

“Whether the “storm” is caused deliberately by God—as a punishment or a test—or by the vagaries of the natural world, we find ourselves victims or objects of the slings and arrows of fortune. Are events pre-determined, or do we have free will?

“This ominous prayer, Un’taneh Tokef, has for some 1500 years represented our people’s grappling with this question.

“We know that many of our decisions make a difference, but we also know that greater powers impact our lives in significant ways.

“We pray that the greatest of powers eases our way and makes our challenges manageable, and we pray that the decisions we make will be good ones.”

A live recording from the Vocalise Festival on November 23, 2010 in Potsdam, Germany.
Cantor Azi Schwartz and the RIAS Kammerchor, conducted by Ud Joffe. This setting of Un’tane Tokef (from the High Holy Days liturgy) by Raymond Goldstein.



I Joel wish you my readers a sweet and happy New Year. May you be recorded in the Book of Life.

–Joel aka  יואל