It might have been just a normal Thursday for most Americans, but for about 2 percent of the population who adhere to the Jewish faith, it was Rosh Hashana, the first day of the new year.
After morning services, worshipers from Fort Mill’s Jewish congregation, Temple Kol Ami, stood on banks of the Catawba River at Riverwalk and welcomed in the year 5775 with Tashlich, a ritual many Jews partake in on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashana.
The congregants, who ranged in age from toddlers to senior citizens, said prayers praising God and asking for his guidance in forgiving sins from the past year. They they tore up pieces of bread and tossed them in the river.
“It’s a metaphor,” said Rabbi Yosef Levanon, who leads Temple Kol Ami.
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By mentally assigning personal sins to the pieces of bread, people can throw them into the river, ready to start the year anew, Levanon said.
Rosh Hashana, isn’t a celebration, per se, but it is a happy occasion, said Ana Resnik, who had three generations of her family at Riverwalk on Thursday. During Rosh Hashana, you “check off all the good boxes,” and reflect.
“It’s a good chance to look back and to try to do better,” Resnik said.
In addition to starting the new year, Rosh Hashana marks the start of the Days of Awe, or days of repentance, when observant Jews seek forgiveness and apologize for wrong deeds over the last year. This period concludes with Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement.
Unlike Christians, who may ask for forgiveness each week, Jews ask for forgiveness once a year, said Micaela Shaw, 16, who called Rosh Hashana “a time for starting over.”
“Jews (ask for forgiveness) once a year and it carries over for a long time,” she said.
Rituals such as Tashlich and services during the holidays connect the entire Jewish community, Shaw said.
Even Jews who never attend services or worship throughout the year often come out to services during the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, said Ana Resnik’s husband, Alan.
“Services are very inspirational, not just for your faith but for everyday life,” Shaw said.
Before they cast their sins into the river, the congregants also sang “Avinu Malkeinu,” a prayer said or sung, only during the High Holy Days. It asks God, “our father, our king” to answer prayers and to “deal with us charitably and lovingly save us,” even though people are not worthy of such kindness.
For many, Tashlich, though not religiously mandated, is a beloved tradition carried on year after year, said Levanon, who explained that the practice began in the Middle Ages. People enjoy meeting after services and talking, sometimes with people they haven’t seen for a year.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” he said.