For the next two days, Brenda Cole will live life without the assistance of electricity.
Cole is taking part in a stricter form of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana. The practice, Yontif, is performed as a way to understand Rosh Hashana.
“I don’t go to class, so I have to work with my professors and hope that they accept that I am Jewish so that I don’t get penalized for missing classes,” the special education sophomore said.
Rosh Hashana is a two-day celebration that marks the beginning of Yamim Noraim — or the Days of Awe — during which Jewish people take time to reflect and ask for forgiveness of any wrongdoing, said Yonaton Sadoff, rabbi for the Hillel Jewish Student Center. Yamim Noraim ends with Yom Kippur on Oct. 9.
“It’s a time of rebirth, a time of renewal and time of ridding a lot of baggage that holds us down. It’s sort of giving us a chance to see who we are and start again,” Sadoff said. “Beyond that, it’s also a time of rejoicing. It really brings the family and the community together in a way that they are not during the rest of the year.”
Sadoff said Jewish people believe the world was created on Rosh Hashana and at this time of year, God chooses who will live to the next year and who will not.
“Some people might say it’s scary, but the greatest thing about Rosh Hashana is that it gives people a chance to take stock and unburden themselves of wrongs they’ve committed to others through a process of reconciliation,” he said.
The holiday is marked by several services within the synagogue.
“You sanctify the day by saying a blessing over wine,” Sadoff said.
“There are prayer services in the evening and in the morning and they tend to be sort of long. On Rosh Hashana, they can really last three to five hours depending on where you go.”
It’s tradition to eat foods such as apples and honey to represent the sweetness of the new year, Sadoff said. Also, hearing the blowing of a ram’s horn in the synagogue is a long-standing practice.
And since repenting is a theme of the holiday, Jewish people practice Tashlikh, which is a symbolic representation of how people rid themselves of sin, Sadoff said.
“We go to a running body of water, such as a river, and cast away something,” he said. “A lot of times, we bring bread crumbs, or you could just empty your pockets and throw lint in there.”
Cole, who originally is from Chicago, said it’s hard to celebrate the holiday away from her family. To compensate for that loss, she turns to Hillel.
“I have my little Hillel family and a lot of people have offered that I can come home with them. That makes me feel a lot more at home,” she said.
Hillel offers several services to students year round, said Jessica Katz, student life coordinator and program director of Hillel.
“We have our traditional (Rosh Hashana) dinners and we try to create an atmosphere for students since a lot of students can’t go home for the holiday,” she said.
A free Rosh Hashana dinner will be held at 6:30 p.m. this evening and will be followed by a prayer service at 7:30 p.m.
Students are encouraged to RSVP at the center for the dinner or via e-mail at www.msuhillel.org.