Holy days a time for the faithful to examine lives

September 14, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - As Rosh Hashana gets under way on Wednesday, Jewish families affiliated with Congregation B'nai Abraham in Hagerstown are preparing for this traditional holiday that centers around taking stock of oneself.

Marking the start of the Jewish New Year 5765, Rosh Hashana also heralds the beginning of Jewish high holy days leading up to Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

"The days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are when we are to think about our lives and how we can live them better," said Hannah Baer, a longtime member of the synagogue.


While Rosh Hashana is celebrated locally for two days, Baer said some more orthodox congregations add a third day.

At Congregation B'nai Abraham, a service known as Erev Rosh Hashana will begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday, followed by a reception.

Before that, the Baer family will gather for the traditional Rosh Hashana service in the home. Baer prepares family favorites for the holiday, baking her own bread and making all the other fare from scratch.

"We begin with the lighting of the candles and the blessing of the wine and bread," Baer said. "My three children, their spouses and my grandchildren will all be there."

Before the meal of beef brisket, chopped liver, matzo ball soup, sweet and sour beef tongue and noodle pudding, the Baer family will dip apples in honey - a traditional holiday symbol.

"This is done to sweeten the new year," Baer said. "After the meal, we go to services as a family."

Rosh Hashana activities will resume at 10 a.m. Thursday at the synagogue and will conclude with a tradition known as Tashlich at Hagerstown City Park at 4:30 p.m.

For Tashlich, family and friends go to water to symbolically cast away the sins of the past year and to resolve to be better in the year to come, according to the Jewish Outreach Institute Web site. Locally, the Tashlich is held at City Park and cracked corn is thrown in the park lake, Baer said.

Allan Seidman is president of Congregation B'nai Abraham, which he said is experiencing a growth period. "We currently have about 108 families," he said.

Seidman said his family, too, combines home and synagogue activities for this high holiday.

"We are asking God for a good year on Rosh Hashana," he said. "It is an expression of optimism."

Yom Kippur, which begins Sept. 25, is a more somber holiday when Jews ask God to inscribe them in the Book of Life, Seidman said.

"We don't eat on Yom Kippur but there are traditional meals before and after the day of atonement," Seidman said. And there are services at the synagogue throughout the day.

Congregation B'nai Abraham is at 53 E. Baltimore St. Fred Raskind has been rabbi at the synagogue for the past year.

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