Steamboat's Jewish community Har Mishpacha to celebrate High Holy Days

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Rabbi Stephen Booth-Nadav

— In Genesis in the Torah, when Abraham is told to sacrifice his son Isaac, an angel calls out to stop Abraham and tells him to sacrifice the ram that is caught in the bushes instead of his son.

From this story, Rabbi Stephen Booth-Nadav said, comes the shofar, a ram’s horn used as a ritual item in Jewish religious services.

“Throughout the High Holy Days, there are 100 separate blasts of the shofar,” Booth-Nadav said Monday.

The High Holy Days start this week with Rosh Hashanah, which begins at the new moon Wednesday, and continues for 10 days through Yom Kippur on Sept. 14.

Booth-Nadav is the rabbi for Har Mishpacha, the Jewish community in Steamboat Springs, and will be leading the services that start with the celebration of year 5774 in the Hebrew calendar.

Rosh Hashanah marks the start of the new year, Booth-Nadav said, and is a time to reassess the past year personally and as a community.

“We’re human beings,” he said. “We set courses for our lives, and we go off course. It’s the nature of things.”

The shofar will play a major role in Thursday’s Rosh Hashanah service.

“Whenever I do it for people, they’re blown away,” Booth-Nadav said. “It’s this ancient sound.

“You could say that the shofar is the most important prayer. We all send our prayers that are beyond words up to God with the blasts of the shofar.”

The blasts of the shofar are a beseeching, he said. In the tradition of Rosh Hashanah, which also is known as Yom Hadin or the Day of Judgement, God is sitting on the throne of judgement, and when He hears the shofar, He gets up and moves to the throne of compassion.

“Judgement has to be tempered with compassion or the world does not exist,” Booth-Nadav said.

Booth-Nadav said the Hebrew word that often is wrongly translated as meaning sin actually is an ancient archery term that means to miss the mark.

“The idea is for us to for one day a year to really look how you've tried and you've missed,” Booth-Nadav said about Yom Kippur, which closes the High Holy Days on Sept. 14. “How do you want to adjust for the new year?”

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement and starts with a communal annulment of vows at sundown Sept. 13 known as Kol Nidre.

Although the offenses are personal, the prayers are said in the plural, Booth-Nadav said.

“You’re asking for forgiveness from God for mistakes that you didn't make,” he said. “We’re a human community. All human mistakes are likely to have happened somewhere in this community. ... For this ritual, we take responsibility for the whole community.”

The prayers on Yom Kippur grant forgiveness for offenses against God, Booth-Nadav said, but forgiveness for offenses against others requires seeking it of them.

The response from God to the shofar and the prayers is to impart the strength to be merciful to others, Booth-Nadav said. “What’s hopefully happening is I get the strength to be compassionate to others.”

As Rosh Hashanah begins Wednesday night, Booth-Nadav said he will talk about the shofar’s beseechment of God for compassion, but he also will touch on another aspect of the ritual sound during Thursday morning's service.

The shofar blast, he said, is broken into three main types: a solid sound, a blast broken into three parts and a blast broken into nine parts.

It’s a shattering, he said, that comes to remind us of the brokenness of our lives, the community we live in and the world.

A new lesson for this year, Booth-Nadav said, is that there’s a lot of brokenness in the world that’s not going to be fixed.

“We’re asking God for the strength to do what we can do in the face of this brokenness,” he said.

Booth-Nadav said the Holocaust victims he works with are able to repair enough to live whole lives though the brokenness might never be fully healed.

The shofar will sound one last time at the end of Yom Kippur on Sept. 14 with sundown prayers.

A sustained note, it will signal the repair and completion of the ritual after the Day of Atonement.

All of Har Mishpacha’s High Holy Days services will take place at the clubhouse at The Ranch at Steamboat, 1800 Ranch Road. Services begin with Erev Rosh Hashanah at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday and follow with Rosh Hashanah at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Kol Nidre at 7 p.m. Sept. 13, a Yom Kippur service at 10 a.m. Sept. 14 and sundown prayers at 6 p.m. Sept. 14.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

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