GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Rabbi Aaron Gaber said there’s a star inside everyone, and the Jewish New Year — which begins tonight at sundown — is the perfect time to bring it out.
The leader of Beth Judah Congregation in Ventnor spoke to a small group of residents Tuesday at the Health Center at Galloway on West Jimmie Leeds Road about the Rosh Hashana holiday.
The holiday, which will bring in the year 5774, begins at sundown and will conclude Friday night. Jews, who follow the lunar calendar, will observe the holiday for two days. It is also the start of the “Ten Days of Repentance,” when Jews will ask God for forgiveness from their sins.
The 10-day period ends on Yom Kippur — a day of atonement — which begins at sundown Sept. 13 and concludes the night of Sept. 14.
Rosh Hashana is often considered a time of new beginnings, and Jews have special customs, such as wearing new clothing or eating a new fruit they hadn’t eaten in the past year. Another custom is eating apples and honey for a sweet new year.
Gaber told the story of an apple tree who asked God why he wasn’t made as tall as the neighboring oak trees. The apple tree was so short he couldn’t see the stars, Gaber said.
But then Gaber took an apple and cut it in the middle horizontally. He showed his audience the inside of both halves of the fruit — which has a star shape in the middle.
“We sometimes don’t feel as adequate as other people,” he said. “But in fact we have within us a star and an ability to grow and be more than we are today. On Rosh Hashana, we have a second chance and we can start all over again fresh.”
The holiday is one of the most popular on the Jewish peoples’ calendar, and Gaber said many volunteers were at the synagogue Sunday to help add enough chairs. They expect about 800 people to come to synagogue for the holiday, he said,
But for those who could not make it, Gaber said he went on several trips around the community to visit with people and talk about the holiday.
“This is a holiday about making connections (with fellow Jews and God),” he said. “I want to make sure people can connect.”
David Waldman, a resident at the center, said his sister planned to visit him so he could spend dinner with his family. But he appreciated Gaber stopping by and talking about the lessons of the holiday.
“(The holiday) is a chance to do it again a little better, brighter and closer to God,” he said.
Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport, of the Chabad at the Shore on Ventnor Avenue, said the synagogue is having special lessons on the Sunday before major holidays this year to encourage people to learn more about their meanings.
During services at local synagogues, the congregation will hear a shofar — a large horn — blown. Rapoport said it should serve as a wake-up call to strive for something better.
“It’s an opportunity to introspect on what we accomplished the previous year and focus on how much good we can bring the world,” he said. “A new year brings new potential. What we accomplished last year is not enough. Now we must ask what we can do with the new year.”
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