Jews after sundown on Wednesday filled synagogues to observe the start of Rosh Hashanah, a holiday that marks the Jewish new year and commemorates the creation of Adam and Eve 5,774 years ago.
While the Hebrew calendar may not be scientifically accurate, the concept is a powerful one, said Rabbi Carolyn Braun of Temple Beth El in Portland.
“We have the idea we are celebrating the birth of the world,” she said.
The two-day holiday kicks off a period for both rejoicing and of introspection, culminating in Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown on Friday, Sept. 13.
During this period, Jewish people in Maine and around the world seek forgiveness and atonement.
Like any new year celebration, though, Rosh Hashanah is also festive.
On Wednesday while leading a Rosh Hashanah service at the Cedars, a senior living community in Portland, Braun repeatedly blew a ram horn, a shofar in Hebrew, sending an ancient, trumpet-like call of alert down the corridors.
She also sang several melodies in Hebrew while nearly 20 residents sang along with her.
At one point, at he closing of a silent prayer, Carl Lerman, 86, sang an impromptu solo of Psalm 19:14, using a melody he had sung at his wife’s funeral.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer,” he sang, using several variations of the melody.
Despite wearing a neck brace, his voice held strong.
Braun was visibly moved.
“To me, that is one of the essences of what the holiday is about,” she said after the service of Lerman’s performance.
“It is meant to evoke that kind of passion.”
When asked about the significance of Rosh Hashanah, Lerman offered a simple explanation:
“Happy new year,” he said. “That’s what it means.”
Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at