Only Proper
Off The Wall, September 30
, 2011

To all who are of the Jewish faith in Latrobe and surrounding communities, “Happy New Year!” To those outside the Jewish faith, today is Rosh Hashanah, literally, “head of the year” or “first of the year.” This holiday begins today.

It is evident, then, that not all members of our towns, cities and boroughs celebrate the New Year Jan. 1. But even though there are different dates, there is one important similarity. According to, “Many Americans use the New Year as a time to plan a better life, making ‘resolutions.’ Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year.”

I always enjoy writing about the Jewish faith in as much as I have yet so much to learn. In sharing with you my research material, I feel that I am that much closer to understanding the faith that Jesus Christ abided by before Christianity began.

As many of you may remember, I have often referred to a dear friend who passed, Mike Stein of Greensburg. I believe with all my heart that God coupled us together on fishing trips if, for no other reason, so I could learn about Judaism. It wasn’t so important that we caught fish, but more so that I may be taught about a religion I knew so little about. Mike was my mentor. He even saw to it that I attended a series of classes at the synagogue in Greensburg. I listened intently, but found I could not grasp it all, but I surely welcomed the invite.

Getting back to Rosh Hashanah, “the name is not used in the Bible. Instead, it refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron, the day of remembrance or Yom Teruah, the day of the sounding of the shofar.” This device is “a ram’s horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day. The Bible gives no specific reason for this practice. One that has been suggested is that the shofar’s sound is a call to repentance. The shofar is not blown if the holiday falls on the Shabbat, the joyful day of rest,” it said. Jews have a number of restrictions for this holiday.

“No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah. Much of the day is spent in the synagogue where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded. In fact, there is a special prayer book called the machzor used for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of the extensive liturgical changes for these holidays,” it said.

The Jewish people continue to observe the tradition of eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of hoping that the new year ahead will be a sweet one. Bread is also dipped in honey.

“Another popular practice of the holiday” the website said, “is Tashlikh (“casting off”). “We walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empty our pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pockets to cast off.”

There are other traditions also observed on this day.

It was interesting to learn that Judaism has several different “new years.” “Nissan 1 is the new year for the purpose of counting the reign of kings and months on the calendar. Elul 1 (in August) is the new year for the tithing of animals and Shevat 15 (in February) for trees (determining when first fruits can be eaten, etc.”), to name just a few.

Bringing to light the practices of the Jewish faith is no different than talking about those of any other faith practices. But over and above that, the people, our brothers and sisters who may live next store, in our communities or nearby towns have gone through and is still going so much persecution for reasons that are unknown to me. With that said, I believe there has be a reversal of attitudes particularly of those who call themselves Christian.

If you come upon someone today who you know practices Judaism, wish him or her a Happy New Year. If we expect the same on Jan. 1, then it’s only proper we show respect.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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