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    Food, fashions & festivities

    There are people who devote far more attention on the High Holydays to food, fashions and festivities than to penitence, prayer and charity.

    There can be little objection to starting a new year with a festive appearance.

    Food and fashions are certainly a superficial way of showing it is yom-tov. But they are part of a total mosaic that includes greeting cards, flowers and fruit, staying away from work, family meals after the services; even the anxious enquiries on Yom Kippur as to how each is fasting.

    Religious tradition adds other impressive features – white vestments, cherished melodies, old machzorim, historic prayers and especially the blowing of the shofar: even the very size of the milling yom-tov crowds.

    Ideally, a universal mood of spiritual exaltation, of inner communion with our Maker, would envelop us completely at this solemn season. But we are fallible and human, and few can maintain real spiritual fervour for long.

    We need customs and symbols that keep on impressing us with the meaning of the occasion and turn our thoughts again and again to the deeper spiritual issues.

    But the symbols are meaningful only when they succeed in arousing our minds and hearts.

    There are times when we achieve this best by closing our minds off from everything which is going on around us, even from the synagogue service, and communing with our own spirit.

    There are moments when we need to be still, to uncover our own souls, to face our own consciences.

    Not only on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It was indeed a wise person who said that someone who has not a moment for himself every day is not really a human being.

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