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Published: Saturday, 10/4/2008

Holy Days are a time to improve oneself


It is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, and personal improvement as Jews who welcomed the Jewish new year at sundown Monday are now in the midst of the Ten Days of Repentance.

The Jewish High Holy Days lead up to Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, which will be observed starting at sundown Wednesday.

"It is a time of prayer and meditation and for resolution - how can we be better?" said Rabbi Edward Garsek of Congregation Etz Chayim, an Orthodox synagogue on Woodley Road.

It is especially important to repent and forgive during the High Holy Days, Rabbi Garsek said.

He said the Shulkhan Arukh, or Code of Jewish Law, states that a person who has wronged someone must go to that person and ask for forgiveness and truly be sorry for what they have done, before they come to God for atonement on Yom Kippur.

The person should seek forgiveness whether they committed a major wrong or something minor, Rabbi Garsek said.

"Sometimes people will come up and say, 'Rabbi, I don't think I did anything but if I did, if I made you angry or upset, please accept my apologies.'•"

Rabbi Moshe Saks of Congregation B'nai Israel, a Conservative Jewish synagogue in Sylvania, said the holy days are a time for renewal and change and for looking forward to the new year, which is year 5769 on the Jewish calendar.

He said he felt a responsibility during the holy days this year to address the issue of kosher food, in light of news reports about mistreatment of animals and the hiring of illegal immigrants at a large kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa.

"What we're doing in the Conservative movement is we want to put another kosher symbol on all products that specify that the food meets not just ritual but ethical concerns," Rabbi Saks said. "Most Conservative rabbis across the country will probably give a sermon about this during the Holy days."

Soon after Yom Kippur is Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, which begins at sundown on Oct. 13. Before the holiday starts, Jews construct sukkahs, or temporary outdoor shelters, in remembrance of the ancient Israelites' 40 years of wandering in the desert.

- David Yonke

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