Religious Observances


High Holy Days graphic High Holy Days graphic

High Holy Days 5784

September 2023

The High Holy Days are fast approaching. 

As before, the services are offered to you with much passion by our beloved spiritual leader, Cantor Leon Litvack and with the usual fervour and sharing of spirit through community participation.  If you have not been to one of Leon’s services, now is the chance to see what you have been missing and to join with fellow Jews in our congregation in the observance of these special days in our calendar from the start of Rosh Hashanah to the end of Yom Kippur, commonly referred to as the Days of Awe.

Link to details below for the High Holy Days services at Beth Israel Synagogue. 

Link to call for readers, singers and other contributors.

Link to Cantor Leon’s High Holy Days Messages.

Link to ‘How to Machzor?’.

Services Details

Erev Rosh Hashanah – September 15
Rosh Hashanah 1 and 2 – September 16 and 17
Erev Yom Kippur – September 24
Yom Kippur – September 25

Please contact:  for details about specific times and if any arrangements are required for you to attend.  A Zoom link is available for those persons wishing to attend the services but cannot do so in-person. 

Return to this page frequently for possible revisions.

Call for Readers, Singers and Other Contributors!

What is absolutely paramount is that attendees to the services participate as readers and even musically.  Please, please, please contact (Ron Molnar et. al.) if you are at all interested in actively taking part in the services!  Just to tweak your interest, here are items how you can participate:

  • English and Hebrew Readings: participate as a reader (English and/or Hebrew) in one or all of the services. 
  • Kohanim:  we need your participation!

Ron ( ) will provide you with details about each of these events and how you can participate.



Cantor Leon’s Message for High Holy Days (5784) : 

Dearest friends,
     The High Holy Days are nearly upon us, and I look forward to being with you, for a slightly longer period than usual. This year we will be able to celebrate Erev Sukkot together, by way of a special service to mark the marriage of Jared Gallay to Sheri Chapman. We wish them and their families a hearty Mazal tov!
     I have been thinking in recent weeks about sacrifices: the theme that I have chosen for this year. Rosh Hashanah has as one of its highlights the story of Akeidat Yitzchak — the near-sacrifice by Abraham of his son. You will recall from our Torah reading that our Patriarch is held back at the last moment by a messenger from God, and a ram is sacrificed instead of Isaac. It’s a stirring story, and points to the lengths to which one might go, and the efforts that one might make, to express true faith. On Yom Kippur, the liturgy describes the various sacrifices that the Kohen Gadol offers, to atone for the people of Israel.
   It’s interesting to think that the prayers we now offer in synagogues are replacements for the sacrifices of ancient times that were offered at the Temple in Jerusalem. In our machzor we read the following:
   Our worship is one of prayer and sacrifice and praise. But when we think of the piety of our ancestors, who from their meagre store of cattle and grain, the yield of the shepherd’s care and the farmer’s toil, offered their best in the service of God, can we be content with a gift of mere words that costs us neither labour nor privation? Shall we not feel impelled to devote of our substance to the service of God? Shall we not give of our store to the relief of suffering, the healing of sickness, the dispelling of ignorance and error, the righting of wrongs, and the strengthening of faith?

     These are serious considerations: our prayers are only a sacrifice substitute; aren’t there other practical things that we can be doing to demonstrate the depth of our devotion to God and to other human beings? This question will form the basis of this year’s spiritual exercise. We will also explore the nature of the sacrifices that were offered in the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple).

     We will have lots of music, including a new piece that combines the best of Luciano Pavarotti and Elvis Presley (if you can imagine that!). There will be lots of congregational participation, including by the young people. We are fortunate to have among us a young person who will share the shofar-blowing duties, and I hope that the young people will contribute to our discussion about sacrifices in their own unique way.
     Please do come out and support our services in person, and join in the fun. If you can’t make it, we will be broadcasting our services on Zoom as well.

     I am so looking forward to seeing everyone. Our program kicks off on Friday 15 September. Let me take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year!

With love from Cantor Leon


Cantor Leon’s Message for High Holy Days (5783) : 

Dearest friends,

I am so very pleased to be able to travel to Canada in person for this year’s High Holy Day services. I’ve been longing for a return to the land of my birth, to share Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with all of you, and to visit with family and friends. It will be a time to recall all that has happened in the interval: the sadness, the struggles, and the bereavements, but also the joys, achievements, and simchas that are all part of life’s ever-revolving circle.

There will be wonderful music, of course — more than ever before! I’ve been busy writing new arrangements, which I’m eager to share with you. This year, for the first time, we will be offering an Erev Rosh Hashanah service with guitar accompaniment throughout, to welcome in the New Year with joy and with open arms. We will also have a special ‘Kumzitz’ gathering during Rosh Hashanah, in which we will sing together some easy-to-learn melodies, to mark our spiritual reawakening and to elevate us to new heights. I’m especially keen to share with you a new piece called ‘B’Motzaei Menucha’ (‘At the outgoing of the day of rest’), which includes the lines ‘Receive all who seek Your Presence;/Let their plea reach Your heavenly abode’. We are a wonderfully welcoming congregation, and we look forward to sharing our services with all who wish to join us.

The theme I’ve chosen for this year is ‘Reunions’, which seems quite appropriate, in that we are just learning to be together in person again. What will it be like? How will we behave? What will we say? Will everything seem ‘normal’, or will a new reality emerge? We shall find out, as we share our thoughts about gathering with one another, for worship, for friendship, for community, and for celebration!

One of the central themes of these High Holy Days is Teshuvah: a Hebrew word often mistranslated as ‘repentance’, but which actually denotes ‘return’. As we congregate again at Beth Israel, we have many good reasons for celebrating our return — our reunion. I look forward to being there to welcome you, and to lead us on this incredible journey, back to where it all started, and back to where we all belong.

Wishing you a wonderful Shanah Tovah,

With love and best wishes from Cantor Leon
A link to the Kumzitz Booklet is given here:  Kumzitz Booklet rm
To receive a copy of the REUNIONS exercise, please request a copy from .   Please PRINT this and use it to write your thoughts for the discussion on October 5 in the afternoon.  Bring along what you have written on Erev Yom Kippur (October 4) to give to Cantor Litvack, or submit via email by Oct. 3, 2022 on behalf of Leon to: 


In the meantime, here is Leon’s message from last year.

Cantor Leon’s Message for High Holy Days (5782)

Dearest friends,

I hope you have had a pleasant summer, and that you have enjoyed the loosening of restrictions in relatively good humour. Vaccinations are proceeding at pace, and we trust that the coming year will be one of health, peace of mind, and freedom!

Once again we are forced to hold our High Holy Day services online. I can’t tell you how much of a disappointment this is to me personally: travel is still difficult and uncertain, and we are not sufficiently free of the virus to be able to return to indoor worship, in the way that brings so much joy and fulfilment to all of us. We have learned to cope with the virus, and the medium of Zoom has offered some compensation: we were able to hold services for Chanukah, Pesach, and Shavuot. We were also able to tune in to the all-important Friday nights (for the conduct of which the community is blessed, through having our own people come forward to give of their time and expertise). I’d like to thank everyone who was – and continues to be – involved in making these services happen: they’ve meant so much to so many!

We’ve had much to contemplate over the last year, much to cope with, and much for which we need to be thankful. The High Holy Days are, quite rightly, a time for reflection, for taking stock, and for planning how we will conduct ourselves in the coming year. Undoubtedly the Jewish year 5782 will be different from 5781 – hopefully in the best of ways. We long for a return to our regular scheme of activities, to meeting friends and family without reservation, to return to our workplaces, to return to school or university, and to travel more freely and extensively. We will also (God willing) soon be able to come back to shul, and to our regular cycle of communal worship. Until we can do so, it would be useful to ask ourselves what this will mean for us: how is worshipping in the synagogue, with a physical minyan (quorum of ten people), with prayer books, with a sefer Torah that we can feel, and even kiss, different from doing it online, at a distance? How is getting dressed up to come to shul – thus requiring some effort, and making it a special occasion – different from sitting in the living room in our more casual clothes, looking at a screen, perhaps with a coffee or can of pop in hand? While we might have lost something in being apart, it’s useful to ask, what have we gained, in terms of being carefully guided through services and rituals onscreen? The pace online is certainly slower, and no one is in danger of getting lost in the many pages of a physical Hebrew prayer book! What I’m saying is that you might be able to draw out some positives from worshipping during this extraordinary period. We wouldn’t like to have it this way any longer than necessary; but what have we learned, that we can take forward in our Jewish lives, in the coming year?

You might keep these questions in mind as we approach this year’s Zoom services. There will, of course, be the wonderful music that makes our congregation so unique. My own musical repertoire has grown hugely over the past year, as I’ve written and shared new compositions with you. My collection of “backing tracks” (so ably produced by our team of talented guitarists) has grown to nearly a hundred! While they are extremely useful for conducting online services, I hope that we will soon not need them! The music won’t be lost, though: I plan to introduce more instrumental accompaniment into our in-person worship, to enrich the soulful nature of prayer.

In addition to our usual run of High Holy Day services, I will be conducting a special Selichot service on Saturday 28 August, to get us in the mood for what is to come, and to help us prepare spiritually for the so-called “Days of Awe”. Some of these penitential reflections date back to the ninth century, and are found in the siddur of Rav Amram Gaon (the first sage to compile a complete liturgy for the synagogue).

Rosh Hashanah services begin on Labour Day at 4 pm. I hope that you will join us, and I hope (God willing) that in the year 5782 we can all be together again in person, to enjoy the community and fellowship that makes our congregation so special.

With love and best wishes for a Shana Tova from Cantor Leon


Dear congregants, 

You might also be interested in listening to two of Leon’s Thoughts for the Day broadcasts on Jewish themes:

These short messages are broadcast by the BBC and our own Cantor Leon is a contributor.  Check them out.



How to Machzor?

For the virtual services this year, the Machzor content will be provided online but i you prefer to follow the on-line service with the Lev Shalem Machzor open in front of you, Machzors can be borrowed before the High Holy Days and MUST be returned before the end of September. To borrow a Machzor, just let Ron ( know that you want one. We will arrange a common time for people to pick them up.

Mahzor Lev Shalem is the book that we use for the High Holy Day services. This is a very user-friendly Mahzor with English translations of all passages and prayers and transliterations of the prayers that are said aloud in Hebrew, so that everyone can participate. It also has symbols to indicate where we bow, when the cantor resumes, and choreography instructions, when we stand etc.

Have a look at a Mahzor example