High Holidays: The Shofar Sounds Early This Year

No, you are not imagining it. The shofar will be calling Jews to New Year services earlier this year.

The earliest the first day of Rosh Hashanah can fall is Sept. 5. It happened in 1899 and again this year. Since days begin at sundown of the previous day, Erev Rosh Hashanah services are Wednesday evening, Sept. 4. The Hebrew year 5774 begins on Rosh Hashanah.

Whether it’s the haunting tones of the shofar that stir Jews’ souls or some other phenomenon, synagogues are traditionally flooded with worshippers during the Days of Awe. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services are so full that most congregations require tickets to ensure regular attendees can find a seat in the congregation they support all year long. To lower the barriers that might keep people away, many synagogues offer free or low-cost admission to students and those on fixed incomes, but most require reservations ahead of time.

In Portland, Havurah Shalom has rented a space large enough to welcome the community to free High Holiday services for many years. This year the Reconstructionist congregation returns to the Tiffany Center, where they often host more than 1,000 worshippers.

We have invited congregations to post their holiday services on the ojlife.com website. So if you are looking for somewhere to worship this year, please visit ojlife.com/calendar or visit your own congregation’s website.

And don’t worry, by Passover, holiday dates will be more in sync with the secular calendar. To keep the lunar-based Jewish year in sync with the solar year (the 12 lunar months’ 354 days are just over 11 days short of the 365.25 day solar cycle), the Jewish calendar adds a leap month seven times in a 19-year cycle. Since the Hebrew year of 5774 is a Jewish “leap year,” Adar I is inserted before the month of Adar (termed “Adar II” in leap years).

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