Rosh Hashanah Prayers

I can feel the difference in my prayers whether I’m in Israel or chutz l’aretz, outside of Israel.  They always seem more concentrated and focused here.  Rosh Hashanah was no different.  But there is more to it than the essential kedusah, or holiness to the land of Israel.  There is an entire atmosphere that is more conducive.  Here are a few reasons that came to mind based on my experiences praying in Efrat and Tsufim:

  1. People regularly see members of their Jewish community around town (at least in the residential areas, essentially everyone is Jewish!) and therefore they will not need to catch up on the latest news and chitchat during services.
  2. In the places I have been, people are much less materialistic and lower income that Jews abroad, and so their new Yom Tov clothes are nothing too fancy.  Just a new white shirt for the men and a dress for the women that at any synagogue in the United States would seem really casual.  In other words, it’s not a fashion show.
  3. The rabbi does not need to give an hour-long sermon because it is not the only time that he will see members.  Most of the people who turn up at synagogue are likely to also come during the year (especially on the men’s side).  Member dues are not the main source of funding anyways – the State is.
  4. If you speak Hebrew, you have a much easier time following the prayers.  Someone abroad who has not had a high level of Jewish education will find the prayer service difficult to connect to.  Heck, even those of us who have learned a great deal need to study before the High Holidays to dissect the liturgical poems that show up only once a year.  I know that personally, as my Hebrew has vastly improved over the last year, so has my ability to connect to what I am reading in the machzor.

On that upbeat note, I will insert a bit of reality.  Politics, especially Jewish community politics, is everywhere.  I got a dose of reality about intense debates over kiddush hosting, chasing after people to pay their dues, and how to decide who gets what aliyah (blessing over torah reading) during Simchat Torah.


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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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