This is the second year that I personally have experienced the High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot in Israel.
My first year, I spent this time with my dear friend Adriane who is really one of my Israeli sisters. She took me into her home and family during this time. The sound of the Shofar was heard at a nearby synagogue. This signaled the beginning of Rosh HaShanah but more importantly the call to repentance.
I was included in a huge family dinner where we dipped slices of apple in honey to signify the hope of a sweet year. To really grasp this season as a non Jew, one must understand the depth of the meaning for the Jewish people.
Rosh HaShanah means Head of the Year. According to Jewish belief, Rosh HaShanah represents the creation of Adam and Eve and their first actions toward the realization of mankind’s role in G-d’s world and 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.
The following 10 days leading up to Yom Kippur are known as the 10 days of repentance. During this time one searches the depth of the soul and repents for sins committed toward G-d and fellow man.
On Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement, Jewish people all over the world are afflicting their souls as commanded in the Bible in Leviticus 16: 29-30. There is a fast from all food, drink and marital relations. No work is performed and here in Israel everything is shut down: airports, borders, television, and transportation.
What fills the air is the laughter of children as they freely ride bikes on the streets, parents and grandparents out playing with them, and people strolling with babies, all dressed in white. It is the most amazing experience.
On the first night of Yom Kippur this year, Tom, Heather, and I took a late night walk to see the streets of Ramat Gan filled with children and families. We were all amazed at this beautiful sight.
When the evening closes, silence fills the air. A peace comes over the land. The morning hours are ushered in with sunshine and the sound of children playing in the streets once again.
One profound moment came as we realized that we were seeing the prophecy of Zechariah 8:4 fulfilled in Ramat Gan and knowing it is fulfilled in Jerusalem and all over Israel.
May it be that all are inscribed in the book of life. May you be given a new year filled with sweetness.