Naomi Less: "Hayom" - The Last Petition of the Rosh Hashana Musaph Service
Dear Congregants and Friends:
This is a special time of year at B'nai Jacob and congregations throughout the world. We want to make everyone feel at home in our congregation. Therefore, for newcomers to our services, we have created this guide to help answer some of the questions you may have about our synagogue and the unique customs we follow at our shul this time of year. We hope this edition will help enhance your enjoyment of our services. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact us.
L' Shana Tovah,
Rabbi Victor Urecki
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur Edition
For more on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services and times, go to our main holiday section which can be
1. Why does B'nai Jacob sell high holiday seats?
There are actually two reasons. The first is for practical and economic considerations. The Synagogue has to be set up for the holidays. This requires additional help to set up the additional chairs and bringing a cantor for this holiday season. The dues simply do not cover operating expenses, let alone the additional expenses accrued because of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Selling of seats, therefore, has become a good way to help alleviate some of the financial burdens during this time of year.
There is a religious reason for selling seats which is also very important. There is a strong tradition in our faith to have what is called a "makom kavua", an established place at services. There is something sacred and holy about praying in a fixed location year after year, possibly even in the same section or row that a grandfather or mother sat every holiday. To allow people to reserve such a seat, many congregations, like B'nai Jacob, offer a seating program. Even with our new seats and renovated sanctuary, the seating committee has done everything possible to keep everyone as close to their original seats
and sections as possible.
On the Second of Rosh Hashana, we have open seating and we encourage people who are sitting in the back rows to move forward to create a more intimate holiday experience.
2. Can I come without buying a seat?
The synagogue is open to all, and no one is ever refused entrance into our services. We have a visitor's section and many join us in that area (one of our ushers would be glad to assist any newcomers). If one is able to make a contribution after the holidays, it will be greatly appreciated.
3. I have a seat. How do I find my seat number?
With our new seating, this may be a problem even for an experienced and seasoned congregant. Located by both entrances are maps of the entire sanctuary. You may refer to them or ask one of our "gabbaim" (ushers) who will be happy to assist you.
4. I have a non-Jewish friend who would like to attend. Can she come and what is the best service and time for her to be there?
Members of other faiths are always welcome at our congregation. While we encourage them to come to our Late Friday Night Service, which has more English and is easier to follow, some do want to witness and be a part of this sacred time. If there is an open seat next to you, please feel free to have them sit with you or you may join them in our visitor's section.
The best time for them to attend is during the morning service where they will hear the sounding of the shofar, the sermon and musaf (additional service). That would allow them to be able to be a part of the beauty of the day (the shofar), be able to understand the deeper meaning of the service (the sermon), and hear the melodies of the season (the Cantor and Musaf).
5. I don't know any Hebrew. Is most of the service conducted in Hebrew?
We are a traditional congregation, and other than a few English readings and the sermon, the great majority of our service is done in Hebrew. Thanks to the hard work of Sara Cohen, much of the Hebrew is now available in a transliteration booklet found near many seats throughout the sanctuary. Please feel free to use them along with
the machzor ( High Holiday Prayer Book). As the Rabbi announces the page, he will also try to announce where the Cantor is in the transliteration booklet.
6. Do I wear a talit on Rosh Hashana?
Only during the morning services. The prayer shawl is in fulfillment of the commandment found in the Book of Numbers: "Speak to the Children of Israel and bid them to affix fringes to the corners of their garments...that ye may look upon it (them) and remember all the commandments of the L-rd..." (Numbers 15:37-41). The rabbis interpret this to be a commandment to be "seen" and, therefore,
ruled that a talit is only worn during the day, when there is sufficient light for the fringes to be easily noticed.
On Yom Kippur eve, because of the holiness of the day, the talit is worn at night.
In traditional congregations, the talit is worn by Jewish males. However, there are women in our congregation who do choose to wear a talit. We ask that you practice the custom you are most comfortable with in our synagogue.
7. I notice during the Torah service that the Rabbi is chanting something "in between" the aliyot (Torah honors). What is being said?
After a person is called up to the Torah, the Torah reader recites a blessing honoring the person who has just come up. He may also add a prayer for the person's family, or for someone who is ill, or in celebration of a simcha (joyous occasion). In addition, a blessing is added if the honoree would like to give a contribution in thankfulness. The prayer you are hearing is the rabbi offering those blessings to the person. If you have a loved one who is ill, and would like a blessing said on their behalf, you may approach the bima (altar) at any time during the Torah reading and ask one of the Torah "gabbaim" (ushers) to tell the Reader that you would like a prayer said. If possible, we would like to use the person's Hebrew name, as well as invoke the name of the individual's mother. Please have those names ready when the blessing is about to be said.
8. I have been given an honor called "Peticha". What is it and what if I'm late?
There are various honors at a religious service. One of the great honors on the holidays is "Peticha", opening the ark. Prayer in the Jewish faith is traditionally said standing, but because of the length of the service, the rabbis felt it was difficult to ask everyone to stand for the entire service. Therefore, the rabbis decided on which prayers the congregation should, if at all possible, stand. To indicate that, the ark was opened and people would rise in the presence of our sacred Scrolls.
While we try as best as possible to predict when a given honor is scheduled, we are sometimes ahead of schedule. If you miss your honor, the "gabbaim" will do everything possible to reschedule for a later part. This is not always possible, so we ask that you make it a point to take the great honor that you have been given seriously, and try to be early so as not to miss it.
9. What is Tashlich and what is the proper attire?
Tashlich is the beautiful time where Jews symbolically start fresh by casting out their sins into a body of water. For us, this means going on an afternoon of Rosh Hashana ( this year, on Thursday), taking bread to the Kanawha River, saying a blessing and tossing it in, indicating that we are beginning anew ( I like to call it: "The Splashin' of the Crust"). This is a brief ceremony, and has grown to become a great social time for all. While people dress accordingly for the morning service, this is a far more relaxed atmosphere and, therefore, casual clothes are certainly more appropriate.
10. Why is there a second day of Rosh Hashana?
Rosh Hashana is a one day holiday to be celebrated on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishri. Traditional Jews celebrated for two days, while many Reform congregations observe just one day. The reason for the difference comes from the fact that the lunar calendar was based on the announcement of the "bet din" (Jewish court) in Israel. The court would announce the beginning of the new month every 29 or 30 days, and then send messengers throughout the land to announce their declaration. Since many Jews outside the land of Israel would never receive confirmation of the court's ruling, they were unsure of when the new month began. This lack of information meant that every holiday would have to be kept for two days to make sure that the sacredness of the day would be maintained.
Since the doubt about the certainty of the calendar no longer exists (we now have an established calendar), many reform Jews have eliminated the second day for all holidays. Traditional Jews still maintain the second day as a reminder of the holiness of Israel and the beauty of the customs of the past.
11. The bima is further back. Am I allowed to pass in front of it while the service is going on?
The bima is the platform where the Torah and all our prayers are said. It is a reminder of the altar where the sacrifices were performed in Temple days. In our congregation, it is considered "disrespectful" for a person to pass in front of the bima when someone is "davening" (praying). We ask that people walk around the bima whenever possible.
12. I came to Yom Kippur services last year and I saw people wearing tennis shoes (and they do not match their suits and dresses!). What is going on...and am I overdressed?
The Torah says that on Yom Kippur, one must "afflict your soul" (Numbers 29:7). The rabbis interpret that to means denial of food and water for 24 hours, bathing, wearing make-up, sexual intercourse, and wearing leather. The wearing of leather was considered a luxury in ancient times and thus it became customary to go barefoot or wear canvas shoes to symbolize a day of afflicting one's soul.
13. I notice that a lot of people are talking during services. Is this part of Jewish ritual?
Unfortunately, either due to an inability to follow the service or the fact that they haven't seen each other all year, people do talk during services. Talking during services is not only rude to those trying to worship, but is extremely embarrassing to the image of B'nai Jacob and our faith. We hope that people this year will do more talking to G-d than their neighbors. However, if people do feel the need to converse with the persons near them, we ask as a courtesy not only to the Rabbi , Cantor and those trying to be close to G-d (and out of respect for our shul!), that they please go out to the lobby to talk !
We hope this will help add to your understanding of our synagogue. If you have any further questions, please e-mail us and we will add them to this page .
Rabbi Victor Urecki