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Eid, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury


September 2009 is a very significant month. During this month, while Muslims are awaiting their Eid Ul Fitr [one of the largest religious festivals of the Muslims] on completion of one-month fasting, Jewish people around the world are also waiting to celebrate Rosh Hashanah [Jewish New Year], on September 18, 2009. To majority of readers in Bangladesh, in particular, Rosh Hashanah is yet a very new word. Even before few years, none of the local press even covered the Jewish festivals nor there had ever been any article in Bangladeshi media on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah or other Jewish festivals.


Eid Ul Fitr:


Eid ul-Fitr or Id-ul-Fitr, often abbreviated to Eid, is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Eid is an Arabic word meaning "festivity", while Fi?r means "to break the fast" [nd can also mean "nature", from the word "fitrah"] and so the holiday symbolizes the breaking of the fasting period. It is celebrated starting on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal.


Eid ul-Fitr is a three day celebration and is sometimes also known as the "Smaller Eid" as compared to the Eid ul-Adha that lasts four days and is called the "Greater Eid".


Typically, Muslims wake up early in the morning and have a small breakfast [as a sign of not being on a fast on that day] of preferably the date fruit, before attending a special Eid prayer [Salah] that is performed in congregation at mosques or open areas like fields, squares etc. Muslims are encouraged to dress in their best clothes [new if possible] to attend the Eid prayer. No adhan or iqama is to be pronounced for this Eid prayer, and it consists of only two raka'ahs. The Eid prayer is followed by the khutbah [Sermon] and then a supplication [dua'] asking for forgiveness, mercy and help for all living beings across the world. The Sermon also instructs Muslims as to the performance of rituals of Eid, such as the zakat. It is then customary to embrace the persons sitting on either side of oneself, whilst greeting them. After the prayers, people also visit their relatives, friends and acquaintances and some people also pay visits to the graveyards. Eid ul-Fitr is not a day of rest, because there is no basis for rest in the Qu'ran.


Rosh Hashanah:


Rosh Hashanah ["head of the year,"] is a Jewish holiday commonly referred to as the "Jewish New Year." It is observed on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, as ordained in the Torah, in Leviticus 23:24. Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holidays or Yamim Noraim ["Days of Awe"], or Asseret Yemei Teshuva [The Ten Days of Repentance] which are days specifically set aside to focus on repentance that conclude with the holiday of Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is the start of the civil year in the Hebrew calendar [one of four "new year" observances that define various legal "years" for different purposes]. It is the new year for people, animals, and legal contracts. The Mishnah also sets this day aside as the new year for calculating calendar years and sabbatical [shmita] and jubilee [yovel] years. Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of man whereas five days earlier, on 25 of Elul, marks the first day of creation.


The Mishnah, the core text of Judaism's oral Torah, contains the first known reference to Rosh Hashanah as the "day of judgment." In the Talmud tractate on Rosh Hashanah it states that three books of account are opened on Rosh Hashanah, wherein the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an intermediate class are recorded. The names of the righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life, and they are sealed "to live." The middle class are allowed a respite of ten days, until Yom Kippur, to repent and become righteous; the wicked are "blotted out of the book of the living."


Rosh Hashanah is observed as a day of rest [Leviticus 23:24] and the activities prohibited on Shabbat are also prohibited on Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is characterized by the blowing of the shofar, a trumpet made from a ram's horn, intended to awaken the listener from his or her "slumber" and alert them to the coming judgment. There are a number of additions to the regular Jewish service, most notably an extended repetition of the Amidah prayer for both Shacharit and Mussaf. The traditional Hebrew greeting on Rosh Hashanah is Shana Tova for "a good year", or shana tova umetukah for "a good and sweet year." Because Jews are being judged by God for the coming year, a longer greeting translates as "may you be written and sealed for a good year" [ketiva ve-chatima tovah]. During the afternoon of the first day the practice of tashlikh is observed, in which prayers are recited near natural flowing water, and one's sins are symbolically cast into the water. Many also have the custom to throw bread or pebbles into the water, to symbolize the "casting off" of sins.


Yom Kippur:


Yom Kippur, also known in English as the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn and important of the Jewish holidays. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.

Yom Kippur is the tenth day of Tishri. According to Jewish tradition, God, or "YHVH" ["The One Who Was, Is and Shall Be"], inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into a "book" on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God [bein adam leMakom] and against his fellow man [bein adam lechavero]. The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt [Vidui]. At the end of Yom Kippur, one considers one's self absolved by God.


The Yom Kippur prayer service includes several unique aspects. One is the actual number of prayer services. Unlike a regular day, which has three prayer services [Ma'ariv, the evening prayer; Shacharit, the morning prayer; and Mincha, the afternoon prayer], or a Shabbat or Yom Tov, which have four prayer services [Ma'ariv; Shacharit; Musaf, the additional prayer; and Mincha], Yom Kippur has five prayer services [Ma'ariv; Shacharit; Musaf; Mincha; and Ne'ilah, the closing prayer]. The prayer services also include a public confession of sins [Vidui] and a reenactment of the special Yom Kippur avodah [service] of the Kohen Gadol in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.


Yom Kippur is a strict day of rest and of fasting.

Five additional prohibitions are traditionally observed, as detailed in the Jewish oral tradition [Mishnah tractate Yoma 8:1]:


1. Eating and drinking

2. Wearing leather shoes

3. Bathing / washing

4. Anointing oneself with perfumes or lotions

5. Sexual relations


Total abstention from food and drink usually begins 30 minutes before sundown [called tosefet Yom Kippur, lit. "Addition to Yom Kippur"], and ends after nightfall the following day. Although the fast is required of all healthy adults, it is waived in the case of certain medical conditions. Virtually all Jewish holidays involve a ritual feast, but since Yom Kippur involves fasting, Jewish law requires one to eat a large and festive meal on the afternoon before Yom Kippur, after the Mincha afternoon prayer. Wearing white clothing is traditional to symbolize one’s purity on this day. Many Orthodox men immerse themselves in a mikvah on the day before Yom Kippur.


While we are celebrating Eid, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and other religious festivals, let us also learn to respect every religion in the world, and promote the idea of religious tolerance and confront religious extremism. One the people of faith are united in one line in favor of peace, denouncing killing of innocent people in the name of Jihad, we surely can ensure a beautiful world for our future generation.

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