By Yadira Betances
---- — The local Jewish community is preparing to conclude its High Holy Days with the observance of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which will begin at sundown on Friday, Sept. 13.
This is the earliest time since 1899 that Jews have celebrated the High Holy Days, which began at sunset Sept. 4 with Rosh Hashana. This year, the Jews are welcoming the year 5774.
“The Hebrew calendar is lunar based, so the High Holy Days can fall any time between Sept. 5 to Oct. 4,” said Rabbi Robert Goldstein, spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel at 7 Haggetts Road in Andover. The next time the High Holy Days will be celebrated this early will be in 2089, he said.
Rosh Hashana, which opens with the blow of the shofar or ram’s horn, is a holiday marking the creation of the world when Jews start a period of introspection prayer and inner transformation.
Rabbi Zalman Borenstein of Chabad of Merrimack Valley in Andover said the shofar is blown with a deep long sound, followed by three more blows ending with smaller sounds.
“It’s almost like the reflection of a person crying from a small sob to screaming,” he said. “Blowing the shofar is from the depth of our soul and a feeling coming from inside of us.”
The 10-day period that follows concludes with Yom Kippur.
On the eve of Yom Kippur Friday, Temple Emanuel is hosting a healing service featuring music and a place to sit with other people who are hurting.
“Yom Kippur is a soulful day, a day of examination and people come with great sadness, but it is also a day of great hope,” Goldstein said.
Rabbi Miriam Philips, director of life-long learning at Temple Emanuel, said the music and time of reflection that will be part of the service “will help people who are broken be part of a community in their journey toward healing,”
Jodi Blankstein, cantorial soloist at Temple Emanuel, said the service will be based on Jewish traditions featuring eight pieces of poetry and music that she will sing with Laura Weiss, minister of music at South Church in Andover.
“(The pieces) will speak of spiritual uplifting and a feeling of healing and renewal. We want people to feel surrounded by spiritual music and support,” Blankstein said.
Rabbi Howard Mandell, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in Andover, said the High Holy Days offer Jews an opportunity to examine three essential areas vital to their spiritual and emotional well-being — one’s relationship with themselves, with God and with friends and family.
Rabbi Zalman Borenstein, originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., has been leading High Holy Day services along with his father-in-law, Rabbi Asher Bronstein of Chabad of Merrimack Valley in Andover.
Borenstein vividly remembers attending Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services with 10,000 members at his synagogue in New York.
“It was very spiritual when you have so many people singing in unison or praying in silence together,” said Zalman Borenstein, who is hoping to establish a congregation in North Andover with his wife, Mushkie.
He said one way to make services more engaging is by adding prayers in English, chanting prayers, stories for children and adults.
“The holy days are not just a commandment; it’s part of our present life, too,” Borenstein said. “They may come every year, but this year is different from last and we’re not the same person we were last year.”
Zalman and Mushkie Borenstein will host a grand Sukkot party on Sunday, Sept. 22, from 1 to 3 p.m. at their home, at 42 Lincoln St. in North Andover.
“This is a new beginning in North Andover,” just like Rosh Hashana, Borenstein said.