No matter which synagogue L.A. Jews will attend this High Holy Days season, they will all partake in Kol Nidre Services, recite prayers, hear the blowing of the shofar, and ask for forgiveness for the sins committed in the past year. Year after year, the same symbolic rituals are performed out of a sense of duty and obligation to 3,000-year old traditions.
While these ritual observances are important in themselves, many people don't know the meaning behind them or why they do them. The purpose of many classes being offered this year in various synagogues and Jewish centers throughout Los Angeles is to bring meaning and a practical understanding to the High Holy Days by teaching the vast and complex traditions. These classes attempt to bring people closer to God, as well as to each other, by coupling texts and commentaries with personal inspiration.
Rabbi Daniel Bouskila of The Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel is hoping to do just that in his class, "Forgive and Forget: is it possible?" which will be held on Saturday, Sept. 15. In this class, Bouskila will emphasize the need of man to seek from others, and not just from God.
Bouskila says it is easier to come before God and ask for forgiveness, but much more difficult to confront personal relationships. "I hope that people will understand that the High Holy Days and Yom Kippur in particular are where we not only come before God, but where we face each other and seek better relationships." Bouskila plans to draw upon the works of Maimonides and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveichik to "help facilitate conversations between people at this time when we come together as communities and families."
Rabbi Avraham Union of the Jewish Learning Exchange plans to use texts of Jewish philosophy and mysticism to teach his classes for the High Holy Days. Union will be teaching a class for Rosh Hashanah called "The Healing Power of Return," and a class for Yom Kippur titled "The Truth of Forgiveness." His intention is to bring the "holy" into holidays by providing people with a depth of understanding and appreciation that will help them to become more spiritual and inspired. "Inspiration comes with knowledge, understanding and an appreciation for the tradition," Union told The Journal. His classes will be taught on Monday, Sept. 10, and Monday, Sept. 24.
Project Next Step holds classes geared toward Jews who have little or no background in Judaism. These classes, taught by Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom, provide a basic lesson on the meanings of the holidays, as well as a discussion on the emotions of Yom Kippur.
Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim is taking a different approach to its classes for the High Holy Days. Rabbi Lisa Edwards has been teaching classes every Tuesday night on how to spiritually prepare oneself for the High Holy Days. These classes emphasize the
meaning of various High Holy Day symbols. In one class, the Beth Chayim Chadashim choir sang a liturgy about T'shuvah (repentance). The piece is meant to represent the discord of the soul. "You are not always in harmony with yourself while going through T'shuvaah," said Davida Cheng, vice president of the synagogue.