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First Rosh Hoshannah Reflections

I went to my first Rosh Hashanah services this weekend with E. As my previous post mentions, we choose the services at Georgetown which were, I guess, conservative in nature (Mixed seating, mostly in Hebrew, no acoustic guitars). The place was packed with students and families. A couple of observations on the holiday and services:

1. The majority of the service was in Hebrew, but the prayers books thankfully had translation. I’ll admit to not understanding much of what was going on. I understand the importance of Rosh Hashanah as celebration of the New Year, but the relationship of the specific prayers in the service to the holiday is something I definitely didn’t understand entirely.

This is not to say I wasn’t moved, I was, but more for the larger reasons I am often moved at Jewish ceremonies. The enormous history and tradition in these ceremonies is awe inspiring, that they have been carried on for so long in the face of such opposition is astounding, and the fact that young Jews like E and the many Georgetown undergrads who were at this ceremony, are committed to carrying on the traditions into the next generation is a testament to the power of the religion. That, and the use of a Torah scroll that had been hidden during the Holocaust and was now once again being used to celebrate the new year was as moving to me as any of the prayers.

2. People come late and leave early? I had no idea. I was really nervous about making sure to get there on time, but E told me not to worry, that many people would be late, and when we showed up, about half an hour late, she was right. The place was packed, but people continued to stream in for at least the next hour and then, with an hour or so left to go in the service, people started to leave. This does not happen in a Catholic Church.

3. The rabbi was clear, but his sermon wasn’t particularly inspiring. Twice he mentioned the Kabalistic interpretation of the reading, which in my ignorance, I found interesting. I thought Kaballah was a more fringe element in Judaism, but apparently not.

4. On Sunday, E and I couldn’t make it to services again, but we did do our own version of Tashlikh in Rock Creek Park. I know this is supposed to be done with a congregation, but at least we did it, and it was strangely beautiful praying together on the side of Rock Creek Parkway. I really enjoyed it.

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