The Museum of

       Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays





from the New York Tribune, dated Sep 15, 1901.


The days of awe are upon the Ghetto. The Gentile and the reformed Jews may be absorbed, as usual, with business, but the orthodox Hebrew must now make his peace with the God of his fathers, and to think even of the affairs of this world at this sacred season is a sin. On Friday evening the Jewish New Year began ,and the days or mourning continue practically until the close of Yom Kippur, September 23.

Not all those days can be spared from work, but the first and the last two days of the period are kept religiously. To touch food or drink on the twenty-four hours of the Day of Atonement is to mark one's self off from the orthodox, and to work on that holy day is in effect to proclaim one's entire alienation from Judaism. Among the orthodox not only is fasting general, but the children of a religious household are puffed up with pride when their parents give them permission to observe the custom. To go without eating and drinking is the outward sign of near approaching manhood or womanhood, and is valued as such.


Blowing the Shofar.

(Photograph by Mandelkern.)

The New Year, known in the Old  Testament as the Feast of Trumpets, was not originally a day of sadness, as it now is. The custom of observing it with fasting and weeping is of comparatively modern origin; that is, modern as modern goes in Jewish history. It dates from the destruction of the Temple and the abolition of all the rites enjoined by Moses. Even now the New year is a time of gloom chiefly because it preludes the coming of the awful day, when the acts of the years are judged and the Book of Life closed by the recording angel. The near approach of the solemn moment is announced by the blowing of a ram's horn, strange relic of the days of the sojourn in the desert, and of the time when Israel was a race of shepherds and had not been made a nation of city dwellers and traders.

The new year festival is looked upon by the reformed Jews not only as the "Sabbath of Sabbaths," but as a day for family reunions, and it is observed by thousands of Jews who never attend religious services on any other day except the Day of Atonement.

The horn, called the "shofar," is an insignificant object, and its note is a squeak not unlike that of a child's bladder balloon. Yet, when the priests blow on the rams' horns, the traditions of the race declare that the walls of Jericho fell down, and they seem to possess miraculous power still, if one may judge by the emotion of the hearers. Three times is the horn sounded. Each blast is a different note, and each has a meaning of its own. Special men sound the "shofar," and have to be trained to it, for it is not the easiest task in the world. It is, moreover, a position of honor. The trumpet is the voice of God, as it were, calling to penitence for sins committed during the year.

Before the moment when the "shofar" is to be raised to his lips the man will completely cover his face with his prayer shawl, and spend some moments in rapt communion with Heaven. then comes a silence. After the briefest pause, he raises the horn to his lips and sounds it. One blast, then a pause, and another blast, and another.

The hearers interpret it thus: "The God of Israel knows your sins of the past year. He is settling your account. Punishment awaits during the coming year those who do not repent."


An Attitude of Prayer.

(Copyright 1901, by Mandelkern, N. Y.)

And with the last echo of its shrill call the tears, groans and prayers of the congregation burst forth. "The angry Eternal One (Blessed be He!) may be appeased; so let us pray, brothers. Let us pray!"

New Year over, the Day of Atonement comes. On the eve of this day, the one remaining sacrificial act of the Hebrew rites is observed. Not until a new temple stands on Mount Zion and silver trumpets again call Israel to the Hill of David can any other sacrifice be made. On this one day, exile forgotten, the blood of animals is offered up.

The members of the family, the men with their heads covered, gather around the table, and the father, praying, holds over the head of each in turn a living fowl. The fowl, like the scapegoat of the ancient day, is then killed, bearing the sins of the individuals over whose head it had been held.   next ►►

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