The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah (literally ‘head of the year’). It usually falls during September or early October.
It marks the beginning of the High Holy Days, a ten-day period of penitence and introspection.
Synagogue services offer us the opportunity to reflect on the past year and to look forward to the year ahead. It is the time of year is when we focus inward and consider what changes we would like to make in our lives.
We celebrate two days of Rosh Hashanah.
On the first day of Rosh Hashanah we have an Erev, or evening, Rosh Hashanah service, followed the next morning by a service where we have the opportunity to listen to the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn). This is an iconic symbol of Rosh Hashanah serving to arouse people to repentance.
We follow the morning service with a community potluck luncheon. Typical foods at this time include a round, braided sweet bread (challah) to symbolize of the circle of life, apples and honey and honey cake, to symbolize a sweet new year.
Later that same day, we have a Tashlich service at Lafarge Lake. Tashlich is a Rosh Hashana custom where we walk to a river or another flowing body of water to shake out our pockets to symbolically cast our sins into the water.
On the second day, we have a morning service only.
Our mahzor, (special High Holiday prayer book) is written in both English and Hebrew.
All are welcome to join us. Burquest's High Holiday services are open to members and non-members alike. Tickets are available through the office.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a day of fasting, is considered our most sacred day of the year, ending the ten days of penitence (and our High Holiday services). According to tradition, it is on Yom Kippur that God decides each person's fate, so Jews are encouraged to make amends and ask G-d and others for forgiveness for sins committed during the past year. Our services include Kol Nidre (the evening before), morning services, an afternoon break, Yizkor (remembrance service), and the N’eilah (concluding service), followed by a community potluck to Break the Fast.
Sukkot, a week-long holiday that occurs five days after Yom Kippur.
Sukkot celebrates the gathering of the harvest and commemorates the miraculous protection Gd provided for the children of Israel when they left Egypt. We celebrate Sukkot by dwelling in a foliage-covered booth (known as a sukkah). Burquest erects a small sukkah outside our building wherein we shake the lulav (citron fruit) and etrog (frond of the date palm).
Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah
Shemini Atzeret, literally ‘Eighth Day of Assembly’, (after Sukkot) and Simchat Torah, meaning ‘Rejoicing in Torah’, celebrate the conclusion of one, and the beginning of another annual cycle of readings from the Torah. As in Israel, we combine these two holidays into one day. During our evening service, we dance and carry our two Torahs around inside our sanctuary seven times. We have food, more dancing, food, music, and a fun time.
Come help us re-roll one of our Torahs to the beginning of the scroll.
Hanukkah, the ‘Festival of Lights’, celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after the successful Maccabean revolt in the 2nd century BC. In commemoration, we light candles on each night of the eight day festival.
At Burquest, we have a community candle lighting ceremony, followed by a potluck luncheon and lots of homemade latkes (a type of fried potato pancake).
Purim (meaning ‘Lots’) celebrates the saving of the Jewish people from extermination, during the 5th Century BCE in Persia, as described in the Book of Esther (‘Megilat Ester’).
For this holiday, we listen to the reading of the Megillah, and have a community celebration followed by a potluck luncheon which will include eating Hamentaschen – traditional three cornered cookies.
Pesach, also known as Passover, is a week-long holiday that celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. There are several mitzvoth (commandments) unique to this holiday: matzah (the eating of unleavened bread), maror (the eating of bitter herbs), chametz (abstention from eating leaven), b’iur chametz (removal of leaven from the home) and hearing the Haggadah (participation in the seder meal and re-telling Passover story).
For this holiday, we clean our kitchen the weekend before, removing all chametz i.e. foods with leavening, or rising agents, like yeast. (We do seal items we wish to keep in a separate cabinet which is not opened for the duration of Pesach).
In addition, we usually host a community Seder, a ritual feast that marks the beginning of Passover.
Shavuot (meaning ‘Weeks’) was originally a harvest festival, but now also commemorates the giving of the Law (the Torah) at Mount Sinai. Traditionally, Shavuot is celebrated by going to synagogue to hear the 10 Commandments, having festive meals of dairy foods, staying up all night to learn and reading the Book of Ruth.
Other Special Days
Other occasions we commemorate are:
Tu B’Shevat, (New Year of the Trees). In contemporary Israel, the day is celebrated as an ecological awareness day, and trees are planted in celebration.
Tisha B’Av, an annual fast day in Judaism, on which a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of both Solomon's Temple by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in Jerusalem.
Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day is the national day of Israel, commemorating the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. The day is marked by official and unofficial ceremonies and observances.
Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is observed as Israel's day of commemoration for the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.