Temple Har Shalom prepares for the High Holy Days | ParkRecord.com
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Temple Har Shalom prepares for the High Holy Days

September and early October are a special months for the Temple Har Shalom and Jewish people around the world.

It’s the time of the year where they celebrate the High Holy Days, said Temple Har Shalom Rabbi Joshua Aaronson.

"The High Holy Days should be looked upon as a single season, and within this season, there are a number of festivals and observances," Aaronson said during an interview with The Park Record. "The two most important of these are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur."

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year.

"That’s what the Hebrew phrase means, and it’s the exact same principle that’s involved with the idea of January 1," Aaronson said. "This month, we will be moving from the year 5772 to 5773, which is, according to tradition, since the Creation."

The Holy Day and festival is when the Reform Jews, who were established during the French Revolution, celebrate the birth of the world.

"It’s also the beginning of time for introspection and where we look to evaluate the year that has passed," Aaronson said. "We make a check list of what we’ve done well and what we can work on."

Yom Kippur, on the other hand, means Day of Repentance.

"That’s the period when we ask God for forgiveness for our sins over the past year and inscribe us in the Book of Life for the next year," Aaronson explained. "These observances are separated by a 10-day period, which is referred to as the Days of Awe. It is customary during those days to seek the forgiveness of those we have wronged."

At the end of Yom Kippur, the congregation participates in the Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

"Sukkot is the Hebrew word for booth, and we build these booths to give thanks and that culminates into another festival called Simchat Torah," Aaronson said. "Simchat Torah means the ‘rejoicing of the law’ and celebrates the completion the cycle, where we do an annual reading of the Torah."

One of the most significant acts of this time of the year is the sounding of the shofar, which is a ram’s horn, which signifies the beginning of the observances.

"The sounding of the shofar has a number of different meanings," Aaronson said. "One focuses our attention of who we are and what we’re about, and another is a call to action that puts us in the proper frame of mind for this period of the year."

Music and ritual are important elements throughout the observances and festivities.

Tamar Havilio, who has been the cantor for the Temple Har Shalom, for eight years, leads these services, which include singing and spoken word.

"The High Holy Days, of course, are very nostalgic for people," Havilio said during an interview via Skype from Jerusalem. "They come because they want to hear a certain melody, or they’ve heard something throughout the years and generations and come to the synagogue on a holy day to hear the cantor and the rabbi’s words."

The duty of the cantor is to sing and perform the music, which is comprised of ancient and new elements.

"Kol Nidre is a mi’Sinai tune and mi’Sinai means that the song came from Mount Sinai," Havilio said. "The song was given, like the tablets of the law (the 10 Commandments), at Sinai."

Another litany presented during the services is the Avinu Malkeinu, which is recited on the fast days, Havilio said.

"Some of the melodies, of course, will be used by Rabbi Joshua during the Shabbat, which is the Jewish day of rest," Havilio said. "The melodies that I have brought to the congregation these past eight years have sort of become Temple Har Shalom’s melodies."

The liturgical theme in Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is that members of the congregation are opening new chapters in their lives.

"The theological and philosophical difficulties of the High Holy Days is the question, ‘Are you going to be written into that book for the next year?’ or ‘Is your destiny or fate written?’" Havilio said. "That is dependent upon your repentance or ability to give, basically, to charity and make the world a better place for yourself and others.

These days are also a checkpoint to find where you are in the world, and with your family and yourself."

Reflecting on the past year can be a heavy task, but also has the possibility to be happy, said Joy Erickson, membership and volunteer coordinator for the Temple Har Shalom.

"For me personally, these days are joyful," Erickson said. "I always find myself getting run down emotionally and physically this time of year, but then (the cantor) comes and I feel an amazing renewal of my spirit.

"The music, and what Tamar brings, sets the stage and creates the feel and the drama for the high holy days," she said.

"That’s why there is such brilliance to our Holy Days," said Havilio. "There is a sense of lovingness from community to seeking God or seeking something holier than what we have in this world.

"For me as a cantor, the Holy Days are stressful, but they are actually my most favorite time," she said. "Between the music and the people, Temple Har Shalom is an amazing place. I have been to many congregations and I know many rabbis, and Temple Har Shalom is a very inclusive place. I come to Park City once a year, and, I would come more if I could, but I feel the warmth of the congregation, rabbi and the community.

There is an ambiance of listening, praying together and feel a real sense of connectedness."

Havilio decided she wanted to be a cantor in 1990, while she was a budding actress living in Chicago, Ill.

"I went to synagogue at Temple Sholom and, for the first time, saw a woman cantor whose name was Aviva Katsman," Havilio said. "I saw her leading the services and she inspired me. I fell in love with what she was doing as a cantor.

"It was the culmination of the combination for the love of Judaism, music and prayer that fit together for me," she said.

Katsman took Havilio under her wing and encouraged her to attend Hebrew Union College, which is the seminary for the reformed movement.

"She also had me substitute for her when she had her baby," said Havilio.

Eight years ago, Havilio, who now teaches the same program in Jerusalem, wanted to move back to the United States.

"I missed being a cantor in a U.S. congregation, because it’s very different than being one here in Israel," she said.

Luckily, Aaronson, who was looking for a cantor and through the ACC, American Conference of Cantors, which is in league with the Central Conference of America Rabbis, CCAR, met Havilio.

"It’s become a tradition for us and for Temple Har Shalom for me and my family to come to Park City for the High Holy Days," Havilio said. "I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be outside of Israel."

The Temple Har Shalom, 3700 Brookside Ct., will celebrate its High Holy Days beginning with Rosh Hashanah on Sunday, Sept. 16 (see accompanying story titled The Temple Har Shalom’s High Holy Days schedule). For more information, visit http://www.templeharshalom.com.


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