Rabbi Nissan Kornfeld of Chabad Mercer Island knows that to engage members of the tribe, one often needs to lower the barriers of entry, often beyond the synagogue formalities.
To accommodate those who would otherwise not participate in formal Rosh Hashanah synagogue services, the rabbi is promoting a brief, open to all, 30-minute Rosh Hashanah ceremony that includes the primary observances of the holiday. As this is for the whole family, there will also be special prizes for children.
The “Community Tashlich and Shofar Service” will take place at 5 p.m. on Sept. 21 in Luther Burbank Park.
Tashlich is an ancient practice rich in symbolic and mystical meaning, which is customarily performed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. A brief prayer is recited near a body of water, preferably containing live fish; “in which we express our prayerful hope that G‑d cast our indiscretions into the depths of the sea, and that we be granted a good and sweet new year filled with G‑d’s abundant and manifest blessings.”
The sounding of the shofar is the central mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah. Typically, it is part of the Rosh Hashanah synagogue services. However, if for any reason one did not attend services, the shofar sounding can be fulfilled throughout the day of Rosh Hashanah. The mitzvah of shofar also contains many deep and inspiring messages for people to reflect upon.
“According to Jewish tradition the gates of heaven are open on the New Year, and G‑d accepts prayers from everyone,” Kornfeld said. “That served as our inspiration to create Rosh Hashanah opportunities for everyone in the community.”
This local initiative comes as the world marks 50 years since the late leader of Chabad, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, initiated the worldwide Mitzvah Campaigns, a historic undertaking that took Jewish observance to the streets.
“The Rebbe insisted that Judaism be made accessible to all Jews,” Kornfeld said. “During the High Holiday period, accessibility can mean different things to different people. For some it means shorter, more user-friendly services, for others it means a nonjudgmental atmosphere, while for still others accessibility means affordability, and no expectation of membership or affiliation. Our goal is to lower the barriers of entry, and to encourage each and every Jewish person to actively participate in the observances of Rosh Hashana.”
Rosh Hashanah begins this year at sundown on Sept. 20 and extends until nightfall on Sept. 22, leading into Shabbat.
For more information about this ceremony, contact Kornfeld at 206-851-2324 and firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.ChabadMercerIsland.org.