Holiday prayer bears weight of disas ters

first_img The prayers and charity of Jews worldwide and especially in the United States, however, have helped the Gulf Coast “avert the severity’ of H urri canes Katrina and Rita, said Cohn, rabbi emeritus of San Bernardino’s Congregation Emanu El. Tuesday morning services will not be the first time locally that the stirring words of “Une tane Tokef’ bear extra weight. Six years ago, a member of Congregation Etz Hadar in Red lands lost two children in a boating accident. The following Rosh Hashana, members of the small, conservative synagogue knew two names for “who by water.’ “Our rabbi at the time actually said that verse in a low and hushed tone,’ said Janice Yel lon, 44, of Redlands. Yellon, Etz Hadar’s ritual chair woman, said the prayer shouldn’t cause Jews to live in fear that tomorrow might be their day to die, but should re mind them to live their life as though it could be. “When we see natural disasters, we realize it could happen here. We could have an earthquake and the Seven Oaks Dam could crack,’ Yellon said. The most recent major disaster to befall this region was the Oc tober 2003 wildfires, which be gan only weeks after Rosh Has hana. Several people died in the Old and Grand Prix fires. But the fires were an all-too-close-to- home reminder of the precari ousness of living in Southern California. Sheila Norton, who was forced to evacuate her home in Up land’s San Antonio Heights neighborhood, cried on her hus band’s shoulder last Rosh Has hana as Jews at Chabad of the Inland Empire in Rancho Cuca monga recited “who by fire.’ “In our entire area, there was no death whatsoever. Even though there was loss to homes and property, their lives were safe,’ said Norton, whose home survived unscathed. “It’s a feeling that our prayers are answered,’ she said. “It gives me more faith.’ 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Rosh Hashana is a time for Jews to repent for the sins of the past year theirs and the world’s and pray for the year to come. The poem “Unetane Tokef’ (pronounced “Oonay-taanay Towkeff’) is one of the most important prayers of the High Holidays. It reminds Jews of the “severe decrees’ that can befall humanity among them, flood, fire, war and earthquake. The poem, often read locally in Hebrew and English, states that the harshness of such disasters can be lessened by repentance (teshuvah), prayer (tefillah) and charity (tzedakah). “We really don’t know what our fate is for the next year,’ said Rabbi Jonathan Kupetz of Temple Beth Israel in Pomona. “But at the end, it does remind us that there are things within our control: teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah.’ But, as Rabbi Hillel Cohn of San Bernardino said, “You can do all the prayer you want, or all the repentance you want, or all the charity you want, but how can you avert a natural di saster?’ /justified:It’s part of a prayer recited every Jewish New Year: “How many shall pass away and how many shall be born Who by fire and who by water.’ But only one month after na ture laid waste to much of the Gulf Coast, this verse carries new salience and asks new questions. “Sometimes, we don’t think about what might happen. We are simply saying it because it is the text,’ said Rabbi Gil Al chadeff of Temple Sholom of Ontario. “But because of what is happening now, just before Rosh Hashana, the two huge hurricanes really affecting life in the Southeast, it really gives us the impact of this powerful world.’ Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown tonight, is a far cry from the binge drinking and college bowl games associated with the U.S. twilight of the calendar year. Also known as the Day of Judg ment, it is the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, which end 10 days later with a day long fast on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. last_img

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