Today is October 23, 2017; the
Q: How is Rosh HaShanah 5778 Different from All Other Rosh Hashanahs?
A: On all other Rosh Hashanahs, The Parochet, the curtain in front of the Ark (see Exodus 26:33 for its Biblical origins) is replaced with a white one to emphasize the High Holiday themes of repentance, renewal and atonement, we find in Isaiah 1:16-18:
“Wash, cleanse yourselves, remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes, cease to do evil. Learn to do good, seek justice, strengthen the robbed, perform justice for the orphan, plead the case of the widow. Come now, let us debate, says the Lord. If your sins prove to be like crimson, they will become white as snow; if they prove to be as red as crimson dye, they shall become as wool.”
But on this Rosh HaShanah, our new parochet, which is not white, (purchased by the JWL to replace the one we’ve had since the 1950’s) will stay up for those who have not had a chance to see it.
Q: If this is the case, how will the important message of the Isaiah find symbolic expression in the synagogue?
A: Each Sefer Torah (Torah scrolls) will be dressed in a white Me’il (mantle) a garment of the Kohain Gadol (High Priest) who sought atonement for the entire nation on Yom Kippur. The very garments worn by the Priest were essential in effecting Atonement for the people of Israel because they contained intrinsic holiness. See https://www.templeinstitute.org/beged/priestly_garments.htm
Also, the Rabbi’s prayer attire is still white, as are the flowers which grace our Bimah.
Q: How about a compromise: Why not leave up the new Parochet for Rosh HaShanah and then put up the white Parochet for Yom Kippur?
A: Our new Parochet conveys important messages for the season as a whole. It addresses the history of our relationship with G-d and the role of prayer in talking to G-d, both of which are central to the High Holiday experience to all who worship with us.
As we celebrate with our new Parochet, let us also say Titchadesh (be renewed!), the traditional Rosh HaShanah greeting said to someone wearing a new garment.
May G-d grant us health, renewal of purpose, listen to our prayers, grant us atonement and strengthen our commitment to help both those who need and depend us and the stranger who is so easily forgotten. May G-d’s Torah inspire us to be the best we can be and to do the best we can to ameliorate the suffering of others because the Torah commands us to do so.
L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu, May you and yours be inscribed for a sweet, healthy year in 5778!
—Rabbi Simcha Prombaum