As the sun sets around the globe September 18, 2020, Jews everywhere are marking the beginning of the year 5780 of the Jewish calendar with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. And they are doing so with an eye to preventing a surge in COVID-19.
The resurgence of infections in Israel prompted the government to issue a second nationwide lockdown right at the onset of the Jewish high holiday season.
Many Jews, who would attend Rosh Hashanah services at their temple, are opting to tune in to online services. According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, the pandemic has “given rise to countless online services, collaborations and innovations that will allow Jews around the world to have diverse, robust holiday experiences online.”
It reports there are even options for Orthodox Jews who do not use technology on the sabbath or holidays. Many Orthodox synagogues, which are not holding online services, are meeting in person, with precautions. And “The Orthodox Union has collected lessons from dozens of rabbis and leaders, while Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City, for example, has uploaded prayers and sermons for multiple services, including a Sephardic one, that you can tune in for at your own pace.”
The holiday is based on Leviticus 23:23-25, which states: “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the Lord.”
It is followed by Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year. Leviticus 23:27-28: “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.”
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