Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,
You may be aware that as a Reform-affiliated congregation, we celebrate many holidays more briefly than our Conservative and Orthodox family and friends. Passover, for instance: Reform Jews observe seven days of Pesach, while Conservative and Orthodox Jews outside the land of Israel observe eight. Long ago, many Biblically-rooted holidays gained an “extra Diaspora day.”
The original reason for this had to do with ensuring that new moon and full moon were being appropriately marked, and keeping Diaspora celebrations aligned with those in the Holy Land. (If you’re curious about this, read Why Some Holidays Last Longer Outside Israel at MyJewishLearning.com.)
But an interesting thing happened with Rosh Hashanah. All of the other holidays that got an extra Diaspora day remained their original length in Israel (and Reform Judaism opted to maintain their original length even in the Diaspora)… but Rosh Hashanah became a two-day festival both in Israel and in the Diaspora. Rosh Hashanah lasts for two days no matter where we are.
At CBI we have always observed two days of Rosh Hashanah, and this year will be no exception. And this year, like last year, we’ll be diving into a Contemplative Second Day of Rosh Hashanah. (That’s Friday, September 22 this year.)
The sanctuary will shift: we’ll sit in a circle, facing inward into the circle and inward into ourselves. Our use of the machzor (high holiday prayerbook) will shift: we’ll use the same book, but we’ll daven fewer words, and go deeper into the ones that we do chant and sing. Our Torah reading will shift: instead of three aliyot, we’ll have a contemplative Torah service experience led by Rabbi Lori Shaller.
Like last year, on the second day of Rosh Hashanah we’ll place a special table in the middle of our circle, on which members of the community will be invited to place meaningful objects. On the second day, we invite you to bring something with you that has spiritual or emotional significance for you, and place it on the table during our davenen.
If you’re one of our second day “regulars,” we hope you’ll enjoy this deeper dive into the liturgy and the meaning of this very special day. And if you’ve never before joined us for second day of Rosh Hashanah, we hope you’ll consider giving it a try. The second day of Rosh Hashanah is a special day with its own unique energy. We look forward to opening that up for you this year in this rich way.
Blessings to all,
Rabbi Rachel and Hazzan Randall
ps: here’s our High Holiday Schedule for 5778 / 2017 in case you need it.