Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater prepares for Rosh Hashana

Rabbi David Weizman blows a shofar during a service in 2002 at Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater. It is an “alarm clock” for Jews.

BOYZELL HOSEY | Times (2002)

Rabbi David Weizman blows a shofar during a service in 2002 at Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater. It is an “alarm clock” for Jews.

CLEARWATER — Jews throughout Pinellas County and around the world are preparing again for the High Holy Days — Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

From Rosh Hashana, the joyful new year ushered in with apples dipped in honey, through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement that comes 10 days later, Jews will reflect on their lives. They will pray, seek forgiveness from each other and God, and focus on improving themselves in the year to come.

Perhaps the loudest call to awareness for Jews everywhere is the blast of the shofar.

The shofar, or ram's horn, has biblical origins in the Book of Exodus, when the ancient Israelites were summoned to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.

Rabbi David Weizman of Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater is bringing that wakeup call to children as young as 3. One recent morning, he held up a long, smooth, spiral shofar to show a group of preschoolers seated on the carpeted floor of a synagogue classroom. The small children were wide-eyed as he lifted the horn and sounded the longest note from a traditional series of notes — a long, plaintive sound that seemed unending.

"What does the shofar sound mean?" teacher Tami Wolf asked the children.

One alert 4-year-old, Ronald Causby, son of Ronald and Jennifer Causby of Seminole, was ready with the answer.

"It means wake up, everybody," he said, "because it's a new year."

The blowing of the shofar is just that — a call to awaken the listeners' better instincts, to inspire them to make the new year a better one than the year before.

"It's an alarm clock that gets us excited for the new year," said Rabbi Danielle Upbin, wife of Weizman and associate rabbi of the synagogue. "It wants us to wake up, step up and be the best we can be."

She noted that blowing the shofar is the only mitzvah, or moral requirement expected of Jewish people, that is done with the breath alone, rather than through actions or words.

"That is a soul connection," she said. "We give voice to the breath of life by blowing the shofar."

Rosh Hashana begins at sundown on Wednesday, ushering in a 10-day period that culminates when Yom Kippur begins at sundown Oct. 7.

Rosh Hashana celebrates the birth of the world and is joyful, Weizman said. With traditional apples and honey, Jews celebrate their lives and the lives of all of God's creations.

"The apple and honey are favorite symbols for the children," said Upbin. The star shape in the middle of an apple, she said, is used to teach the children that they, too, have an inner star — their own unique light to give to the world.

"In the 10 days in between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, a transition takes place. There is a transition from the world to the self," Weizman said. "In the 10 days of introspection, we focus on ourselves and our mission in this world."

In Judaism, he said, you have the chance to wipe the slate clean and begin the new year as a better person.

The seriousness of Yom Kippur, the last day, carries a lesson that children can understand as well as adults, Upbin said. That is the concept of "teshuvah," or a turning back to the path of right actions, the moral way. Small children learn to say they are sorry for hurting another child, making a hurtful comment to parents, or taking someone's toy.

On the wall of the synagogue's school hangs a cardboard mitzvah tree, with flaps shaped like leaves. Each leaf states a child's good deed, such as helping a friend or cleaning up the classroom. Inside the flap is the name and picture of the child.

Older children delve deeper, Weizman said.

"We teach them about repentance and renewal," he said. "They need to think about what they did wrong, how they can correct it, and how they can become better people in the new year."

Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater prepares for Rosh Hashana 09/23/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 23, 2011 7:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays power their way to 5-1 win over Orioles before embarking on crucial road trip

    The Heater

    St. PETERSBURG — The Rays didn't get many hits in the early going Wednesday, but they got a couple that went a long way and that was enough to beat the Orioles, 5-1.

    Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) hugs catcher Jesus Sucre (45) after Souza's solo home run in the seventh inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. Man accused of sexually assaulting 5-year-old girl


    ZEPHYRHILLS — Pasco sheriff's deputies have charged a Zephyrhills man with sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl in his care.

    Brett Campbell [Photo Courtesy of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Florida GDP growth in first quarter 2017 ranks 21st among states, still outpacing U.S.

    Economic Development

    Florida's gross domestic product or GDP rose 1.4 percent in the first quarter, slightly faster than the nation's growth of 1.2 percent and placing Florida 21st among the states for growth rates, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

    Not too hot. Not too cold.

    These Jackson Square Townhomes began hitting the west Hillsborough County market late last year and continued to be sold into the first quarter of 2017. The real estate sector was the biggest driver of Florida's gross domestic product, which rose 1.4 percent in the first quartrer of 2017.  [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  4. Coming to Netflix in August: 'The Defenders,' 'Death Note' and more

    Krysten Ritter, Finn Jones, Charlie Cox and Mike Colter in Marvel's The Defenders.
  5. Report: $36 million worth of guns stolen in Florida in four years

    Public Safety

    An estimated $36 million worth of guns was stolen in Florida from 2012 to 2015, according to an analysis released this week by the Center for American Progress.

    Broken glass litters the floor of Tampa Arms Co. after thieves drove a pickup  through the front of the gun store and stole more than 40 weapons, including handguns and semiautomatic rifles. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]