Finding Meaning

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The Good Rabbi

By Skip Hellewell

To better understand the Jewish High Holy Days, which started at sunset on Sept. 9, I went to see Rabbi Elimelech Goorevitch at the Chabad Jewish Center. Chabad is an orthodox Jewish movement, said to be the fastest growing, planted in Laguna 24 years ago by Rabbi G and his energetic wife, Perel. You likely have seen the Rabbi and his sons over the years, walking to Sabbath services on Coast Highway near Montage. Perhaps, like me, you’ve been impressed by their profound reverence for the Sabbath.

It’s an adventure to visit with Rabbi G. It might be disrespectful to say it’s like talking to Moses, but it is a visit to the ancient world of the Hebrew Torah. I came with questions, seeking answers. The Rabbi, wary of facile facts, spoke to the deeper “wisdom, understanding, and knowledge” of Chabad Judaism. Queries were countered with deeper thoughts born of the Torah. I wish our talk could have been longer, but here are five things I learned.

First, Rosh Hashanah marks the Jewish New Year and lasts two days. It is a time of study, prayer, contemplation and repentance, a tradition observed by observant Jews for nearly four millennia. The ram’s horn is a symbol and is sounded in celebration.

Second, it’s also the birthday of the human race, honoring the sixth-day creation of Adam and Eve. Rosh Hashanah thus observes the partnership of mankind with God, meant to link earth to heaven.

Third, there is the ceremony of “Tashlich” where the sins of the prior year are cast into the sea as crumbs as commanded in the Book of Micah. Chabad Laguna does this ritual of renewal and rejuvenation at Montage Beach, following afternoon prayers on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

Fourth, Rosh Hashanah begins the Jewish High Holy Days, 10 days that end with Yom Kippur.  Included in the middle is a Sabbath observance—Shabbat Shuva (meaning “return”).

Finally, Yom Kippur—translated Day of Atonement in English—is a day of fasting, prayer, charity, and recommitment to God.  For the repentant it is a day of atonement, thus the holiest day of the year in Judaism.

This year, High Holy Days is special for the Chabad Jewish Center—after years of renting, they closed escrow and are now owners of their building. They should be congratulated; it’s been a long time since a new church property was acquired in Laguna. In addition, the son of Perel and Rabbi G—Rabbi Eli Goorevitch with wife Faygie—are beginning a Dana Point Chabad Center.  It’s a good thing to see the churches of Laguna growing. In this, there is meaning.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. Email: [email protected].


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

Salt Chrch, 8681 N. Coast Hwy, 10:00 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m.  There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.





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