Rosh Hashanah: Jewish holidays come early

9:55 AM, Sep 4, 2013   |    comments
Yosef Shapiro, 10, center, and Adam Dham, 9, make a type of bread, known as Challah, at the Chabad Jewish Center in Cape Coral on Sunday, for Rosh Hashanah.
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(News-Press) -- Members of the Jewish faith say the earliness of the religion's holidays this year won't impact much beyond travel issues, but there are reasons why the dates are significant.

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins at sunset Wednesday, the earliest occurrence of the holiday since 1899. Hanukkah, commonly thought of as the Jewish Christmas, begins for the first time the night before Thanksgiving.

"We Jews are used to having the holidays move around on the calendar," said Rabbi Marc Sack, the new leader at Temple Judea on A&W Bulb Road in south Fort Myers. "But, this is early."

In 2012, Rosh Hashana began the evening of Sept. 16. Jewish holidays officially begin the night before their calendar date.

"The Jewish New Year is right on time ... for the Jewish calendar," joked Rabbi Bruce Diamond of the Community Free Synagogue in Fort Myers. He explained that on the Jewish calendar, according to the Torah, the date of Jewish holidays does not change from year to year.

Diamond said Rosh Hashana is celebrated on the same day every year, but the lunar-based Jewish year is not the same length as a solar year on the calendar used by most of the western world, so the date shifts on the western calendar.

According to the Jewish calendar this new year will be 5774. On the Gregorian calendar it is still 2013.

Diamond said that the earliest Rosh Hashana can be is Sept. 5, 6 or 7. That shift in the Jewish calendar is done to make up for its inexactness. Additionally, he said the shift is made so that Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year and considered a Sabbath holiday, does not fall on a Friday or Sunday.

"If it did that would mean two days of Sabbath," Diamond said, when Jews are traditionally not allowed to work or cook. "That would be a hardship," he said.

Diamond said that there isn't much changed because of the earliness of the holidays.

"It doesn't make much of a difference," he said. "It could affect the snowbirds. They usually come down after the High Holidays. The Jewish snowbirds may be coming earlier."

Rabbi Sack, installed as leader of Temple Judea in July, said that as a culture, Jews are comfortable with dichotomy. "Jews have had to live in two worlds, we're used to it," he said. "This doesn't strike us as being that unusual."

However, he added, one area that the early holiday can make an impact is in family celebrations.

"My wife and I have four children across the globe," he said. "Them coming home for the holidays is much more difficult." That difficulty comes in the form of the beginning of school for many areas the day after Labor Day.

"It is unusual, and it may affect who is is sitting around the table or who is standing next to you at temple," Sack said.

"Everything seems to be in a bit of a crunch time," said Larry Hershman of Cape Coral, a member of Temple Judea. "This is the first time I can remember that Hanukkah is on Thanksgiving."

This holiday juxtaposition is the first since President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving in 1863. Due to the complexities of the Jewish calendar this co-mingling of holidays won't occur again for 77,789 years.

"It's kind of a shrug your shoulders thing," Sack said. "It's cute, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving together. You may be having potato latkes (part of the Hanukkah celebration) with your turkey."

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