As the Jewish faithful head into the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah, which begins Wednesday at sunset and marks the Jewish New Year, there is plenty of tumult for rabbis to ponder with their congregations.

The High Holy Days are "a season that dares you to hope for better times to come" and that "reminds us of our need to help people of all faiths everywhere," said Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum of Temple Israel in Lawrence.

It's a time "to ask the hard questions of ourselves and what we have done the past year," said Rosenbaum, adding that it's also a time to pledge to "do better this year."

Among the news topics rabbis said are likely to come up in their sermons: a Florida minister who says he will burn copies of the Muslim holy book Quran, two wars overseas, a struggling economy and Israel's future.

Rosenbaum said he will talk about the threatened Quran burnings - a move Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the war effort in Afghanistan, says could endanger U.S. troops fighting there.

The Quran burning is "reminiscent of what the Nazis did" by burning Jewish holy books, Rosenbaum said. "It is an affront against all humanity."

Rosenbaum and Rabbi Leslie Schotz of the Bay Shore Jewish Center said the Jewish faithful should focus during the holy days on self-reflection and dedicating themselves to living a better life.

One of the issues they won't be dealing with directly during the High Holy Days is the mosque controversy because the issue is too explosive.

"I think it's just too emotional for people," said Schotz. "People feel very strongly one way or the other."

Rosenbaum also said he would not talk directly about the mosque controversy, but will refer indirectly to some of the principles involved, such as freedom of religion and sensitivity to relatives of 9/11 victims.

Jews will start the Rosh Hashanah holiday with services Wednesday and traditional meals that include apples and honey. That will be followed by longer services - some as long as six hours - at synagogues Thursday and Friday. The holiday ends Friday at sunset.

One highlight will be the blowing of the shofar, a trumpet made from a ram's horn, during services. The sound is meant to awaken the faithful symbolically from their "slumber" in preparation for the coming judgment.

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