Some might consider the High Holy Days early this year, but Rabbi Alan Berg of Beit Haverim says Rosh Hashana is right on time, as it always is, according to the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are what Berg calls movable feasts; they won’t fall on the same day every year. Michelle Minch, who with Berg is my mentor on the Jewish faith, explained the Jewish calendar.

Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the sun, the Jewish calendar is based primarily on the moon, with periodic adjustments made to account for differences between the solar and lunar cycles. The moon takes an average of 29.5 days to complete its orbit; 12 lunar months equals 354 days. A solar year is 365.25 days, a difference of 11 days. To ensure that the Jewish holidays always fall in the proper season, an extra month is added to the Hebrew calendar seven times out of every 19 years. If this wasn’t done, the fall harvest festival of Sukkot, for instance, would sometimes be celebrated in the summer, or the spring holiday of Passover would sometimes occur in the winter.

Jewish days are reckoned from sunset to sunset rather than from dawn or midnight. The basis for this is biblical. In the story of Creation (Genesis 1), each day concludes with the phrase: “And there was evening and there was morning ... “ Since evening is mentioned first, the ancient rabbis concluded that in a day evening precedes morning.

Berg says the new year is a time of atonement, renewal and remembrance.

“This is a time of renewal of the spirit and reconnecting with who we are and really thinking about who you need to thank, or who you need to say you are sorry to,” he said.

The High Holy Days begin with a cemetery service, where those who have died, in the past year and prior, are remembered. Rosh Hashana, which translates to “head of the year,” is the Jewish new year. It is the first of the High Holy Days, which culminate 10 days later on Yom Kippur. People will wish each other “joy of the new year,” and services feature the sounding of the shofar and special songs by the cantor.

There are specific rules for sounding the shofar and not just anyone can play it. Rob Hershinow, one of the religious school teachers, and Allan Kallik, the choir director, will sound the shofar at Beit Haverim services.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Rob Hershinow, a member of Beit Haverim, will sound the shofar during High Holy Day services.

The music used at Rosh Hashana is different from that of Shabbat services. Berg said the uniqueness and awe of the season is echoed with music that reverberates with the hopes and trials of ages past.

Yom Kippur is a solemn day of prayer and fasting. By today Jews should have made amends for their transgressions and asked forgiveness from God so they will be inscribed into the book of life for another year.

Our friends at Beit Haverim invite us to participate in the services planned for the High Holy Days. For a complete list of services, visit or call 503-344-4839. The congregation meets at 1111 Country Club Road in Lake Oswego.

One of the symbolic foods eaten at Rosh Hashana is challah bread that is woven into a circle. Raisins are added for Rosh Hashana, as a means of wishing all a sweet new tear.

Bon appetit! Eat something wonderful!

Almost Grandmother’s Challah

Makes 2 loaves

1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup warm water (105 F to 115 F)

2 tablespoons dry yeast

1 tablespoon plus 3/4 cup sugar

5 large eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

7 1/2 cups (about) all-purpose flour

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon water

Combine 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in a large glass measuring cup and stir until yeast dissolves. Let yeast mixture stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat 5 eggs until blended. Add oil, salt and 3/4 cup of sugar and beat until pale yellow and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Beat in 2/3 cup of warm water. Add yeast mixture and beat until blended. Remove whisk and fit mixer with a dough hook. Add enough flour, 1 cup at a time, to form a smooth dough, beating well after each addition. Beat on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding flour by the tablespoonful if sticky. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 2 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Add dough, turning to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, then with a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise in a warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough. Cover with plastic and clean kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes.

Grease 2 large baking sheets. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Divide each portion into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 9-inch-long rope. Braid 3 ropes together; pinch the ends together to seal. Repeat with remaining dough pieces, forming 2 braids. Place each braid on a baking sheet. Cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm area until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Whisk yolk with 1 tablespoon of water to blend. Brush dough with egg mixture. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Bake until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 35 minutes. Transfer loaves to a rack and cool completely.

Bread can be made one day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

(Adapted from Bon Appétit, March 1995.)

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