PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP) hosted its first Jewish Pre-Yom Kippur service on Oct. 8. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, when Jews are closest to God and most connected to the essence of their souls. It’s the holiest day of the year, when Jews come together, fasting and praying as one.
“The significance behind hosting our first ceremony is to foster and create an outlet for Jewish practice at NMCP,” said Lt. Yonatan Warren, Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training resident chaplain for Pastoral Care Services. “There hasn’t been practice here before so this gives us the opportunity to engage in a ritual that allows us to heal and symbolically cast out the things that have kept us from becoming our full selves.”
Tashlich is a ritual that many Jews observe during Rosh Hashanah. Tashlich means "casting off" in Hebrew and involves symbolically casting off the sins of the previous year by tossing pieces of bread or another food into a body of flowing water.
“Just as the water carries away the bits of bread, so too are sins symbolically carried away,” Warren said. “Since Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, in this way all who participate hope to start the New Year with a clean slate.”
Tashlich originated during the Middle Ages and was inspired by a verse uttered by the prophet Micah; “God will take us back in love; God will cover up our iniquities, God will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)”. As the custom evolved it became the tradition to go to a river and symbolically cast your sins into the water on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.
During the ceremony, Warren blew a shofar. The shofar is a Jewish instrument most often made from a ram’s horn, though it can also be made from the horn of a sheep or goat, that makes a trumpet-like sound and is traditionally blown on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. On Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is blown as a reminder to rededicate to the Torah study and to remind God of one’s original commitment and sincerity.
“My religion helped form me into the person I am,” said Andrea Luck, an NMCP staff member. “It helped me to be a better caregiver to the patients that I serve. I have become a better mother to my children and better wife to my husband. I’m thankful to God for every opportunity to be able to repent, show remorse for my sins and ask for forgiveness. I’m really appreciative for this ceremony.”
As the U. S. Navy's oldest, continuously-operating hospital since 1830, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth proudly serves past and present military members and their families. The nationally acclaimed, state of the art medical center, including its ten branch and TRICARE Prime clinics, serves the Hampton Roads area and additionally offers premier research and teaching programs designed to prepare new doctors, nurses and hospital corpsmen for future roles in healing and wellness.
For more news from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, visit www.navy.mil/local/NMCP/.