Log in Subscribe

Shofar soundings and Chazzan chants signal new beginnings


LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Rabbi Mendy Bukiet began his weekend of prayer and reflection at sunset on Friday through sunset on Sunday in observance of Rosh Hashanah. He walked to Chabad of Bradenton, a local Jewish temple, for each daily worship service and did not engage in modern distractions, such as cell phones, e-mails, or use any unnecessary  electricity.

Rabbi Mendy Bukiet at his traditional Jewish temple, Chabad of Bradenton, prepares for Rosh Hashanah.

A leader and follower of the ancient religious traditions of Judaism, Bukiet guided the congregation through three inspiring services of prayer and reflection for the high holiday.

"In the seventh month, on the first of the month, there shall be a sabbath for you, a remembrance with shofar blasts, a holy convocation," as stated in Leviticus 16:24.

This holy day was instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25.

"It s a new beginning God gives us as an opportunity to take stock of the next year," Bukiet said. "It is the good, the bad and everything in between and offers us a second chance to make a connection with God."

In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah literally means "head of the year" or "first of the year." It is commonly known as the Jewish New Year and it is a time of great introspection of the passing year and the planning of changes for the upcoming year.

Guests heard beautiful chants from the chazzan (cantor), a representative of the congregation who sings and chants prayers, and through English translations of what was taking place and the meaning of the prayers.

The holiday's name "Rosh Hashanah" is not found in the Old Testament, but is instead referred to as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar).

Ricki Robin, from left, Colleen Shapiro, Marianne Zoll, and Lauren Fine helped to prepare for Rosh Hashanah holy holiday at Chabad of Bradenton.


Click here to watch Dr. Steven Shapiro, a resident of Lakewood Ranch and local dentist, remove the Torah from the Ark.

"A person can always strive to be better," Bukiet said.

The services lasted hours each day and filled the temple with shofar (a ram's horn which is blown in four different notes) soundings, Torah readings (books from the Old Testament), apples and honey (symbolic of the sweetness of life) and pomegranate seeds.

"We eat pomegranates full of seeds which remind us that every one of us are full of good deeds," Bukiet said.

Bukiet also said congregants eat a head of a fish as a remembrance to strive to be in front and ahead as opposed to being behind at the tail.

There are 300 active members of Chabad of Bradenton and they reach out to over 1,000 families across the nation.

Laura Fine is a medical doctor specializing in allergies and is visiting her family from out of town for the holy week. Fine and her mother Marianne Zoll had helped to prepare the synagogue for the holiday and view Rosh Hashanah as a time for family.

"I think the holiday means family to me," Fine said. "I think of apples and honey and a fresh start."

Zoll hugs her daughter and agrees.

"We all come together here and help each other as a family," Zoll said. "In a way we are all family at Chabad."

For a synagogue that started with three families, the congregation is committed to inviting the public to join, and no financial obligation is necessary.

"Everyone is invited here and we are open to the whole community," Bukiet said. "During financial hard times no one should feel like they don't belong."

The synagogue emphasizes to the outside community that they don't have to pay to pray.

The most obvious observation about this synagogue is the division of the room through a mechitzah or a divider. Traditional Judaism calls for the separation of the sexes during prayer to ensure a time of total devotion.

 Rabbi Mendy Bukiet and Marianne Zoll at Chabad of Bradenton arranged the synagogue on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

Centered between the congregation is an ornate ark which holds the Torah, the holy scriptures. The Rabbi stands on the bimah, or an elevated platform, with the machzor, a high holiday prayer book containing special prayers recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The podium where the scripture is read is the schuchan.

Over the high holiday weekend, Bukiet walked from his home to the synagogue and wore a white cloak, called a kittel, during some of the Rosh Hashanah worship services. Some women covered their head with a yarmulkah of kippah and a tallit (prayer shawl). Men wore a skull cap, called a kippa.

But somewhere in the midst of Rosh Hashanah, family and friends are reminded of the coming New Year and the sweetness of life as one community.  The Rabbi is now in preparation of the next high holiday, Yom Kippur, which will be recognized the following weekend through fasting, prayer and repentance.

"Rosh Hashanah is a time when God forgives us and we have proper rest," Bukiet said. "This sets us up for the proper time at Yom Kippur and we are holy, we are pure and have made changes in our life."


No comments on this item

Only paid subscribers can comment
Please log in to comment by clicking here.