9/28/2008 9:06:00 PM Days of Awe begin for area Jewish families
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Barbara and Marvin Fruchter prepare their apples and honey as part of their traditional celebration of the Jewish High Holy Days.
Marvin Fruchter dips a wooden honey ladle into its yellow honey pot, then drizzles the thick, sweet nectar onto an apple slice his wife, Barbara, has just cut in honor of the Jewish New Year which begins at sundown tonight.
"Rosh Hashanah begins on a sweet note," Marvin explains. Apples and honey in particular signify the hope that the coming year will be sweet and good.
The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah - which in Hebrew means "the first of the year" - ushers in a 10-day period known as the Days of Awe. The 10 days culminate in the holiest day of the Jewish year: Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, which begins at sundown on Oct. 8 and ends at sundown on Oct. 9.
It is a solemn time because Jews believe it is the day God seals the Book of Life containing the fate of each person for the coming year.
Jews spend the day fasting and praying in their local synagogue.
"In prayers, you ask for forgiveness for things you may have done wrong," Marvin said.
"We're all asking to be looked on favorably in God's eyes," Barbara added.
Rabbi William Ber-kowitz of Prescott's Temple B'Rith Shalom says that for Jews, this time of year is a time for deep introspection and generosity of spirit.
"This is the time of year we devote to strengthening the ties amongst us, trying to put aside disagreements or controversies," he said.
Ideally at this time of year Jewish people are supposed to seek out anyone they might have wronged and apologize.
"But an apology by itself is not sufficient," Berkowitz said. "You must do everything you can to make the transgression right."
Traditionally, Ber-kowitz said, Jews believe that on Rosh Hashanah a person's deeds from the past year are written down in God's book.
During the next 10 days - as the gates of repentance begin closing for the coming year - people can get God to amend the list through their apologies.
Then on Yom Kipper, God seals the list - and a person's fate for the coming year - with the final blowing of the shofar, or ram's horn.
Berkowitz uses a baseball analogy to explain the Days of Awe: "It's like you're given extra innings to come back and straighten out as much as possible that which you've gotten wrong.
"We also teach that it's not enough to apologize," he continued. "A sincere forgiveness has to be the answer."
The Fruchters say the Days of Awe are a very emotional time for Jews, when family and friends get together, especially on the first two days, and old hurts and slights, real or imagined, are forgiven and forgotten.
Then on Yom Kipper almost everyone attends their synagogue or temple, Berkowitz said, adding that, "A whole community gathering together to wish each other a good, sweet New Year is a great feeling."
Anyone wishing to attend services at Temple B'Rith Shalom, which means Covenant of Peace, is welcome, Berkowitz said.
Call the Temple at 708-0018 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for more information.