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Yorktown Rabbi Explains Meaning of Rosh Hashanah

YORKTOWN, N.Y. -- Yorktown residents of the Jewish faith will celebrate Rosh Hashanah starting Wednesday night. The holiday, which celebrates the Jewish New Year, begins the 10 day period known as the “days of awe” that concludes with Yom Kippur, the most holy holiday.

“Rosh Hashanah signifies the beginning of the year and the 10 days following, which lead up to Yom Kippur, are called the days of repentance,” said Rabbi Seth Sternstein of the Yorktown Jewish Center. “We focus our energies on repairing our relationship with God, our relationships with our fellow human beings and our relationships with ourselves.”

Sternstein said that, while Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are separate holidays, they are both times during which the Jewish people reflect on their behaviors and relationships. With the start of the New Year they can begin anew.

On Rosh Hashanah, the Rabbi will blow the shofar, traditionally made out of a ram’s horn.

“The sound of the shofar reminds us that God does remember everything and is kind of like an alarm, that it’s time to fix the wrongs in one’s life,” Sternstein said.

Yom Kippur is a time of judgment, he said.

“It’s a day in which we say the allegorical Book of Life is open and on which our fate is sealed,” Sternstein said. “It’s essentially the day where our verdict enters the book.”

To celebrate Rosh Hashanah there are different traditions, such as dipping apples in honey “for a sweet new year,” he said.

Sternstein said Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayers are said by the congregation.

“All of our prayers in Judaism are in the plural because we see it as our responsibility to see if we can help. It’s all a sense of 'we' throughout our faith,” he said. “And in this congregation, we are all an integral part of one another’s lives because this is a religion you can’t do as an island, you can’t do it yourself. We pray and repent for things that we may not have done, but we do it as a whole, all together.”

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