In the game “Truth-or-Dare,” I choose “truth” nearly every time. I’m not much of a dare-taker. Thus, if you and I were playing “Special Edition Truth-or-Dare: High Holy Days,” I would confess that the prayer Avinu Malkeinu provides me with both my second-favorite liturgical moment and my second-greatest pet peeve of the year’s liturgy. (Note: Even though I may have to repent for it, I will leave you in suspense about my favorite liturgical moment and my greatest liturgical pet peeve. Also, “Special Edition Truth-or-Dare: High Holy Days” is fictional, although I hereby declare copyright in the event Mattel or Hasbro comes knocking at my door.)
There are many elements which make the High Holy Days a unique experience. Often, congregations swell to double or triple their usual size, the musical settings of even common liturgy are different, and some might alter their dress by wearing either traditionally all-white garments or more formal wear than they would sport on Shabbat. Some congregations even have unique garments to dress their Torah scrolls in white.
What makes this holiday a favorite among secular Israelis, while it is almost forgotten by Jewish kids in the Diaspora?
Judaism is filled with ritualized counting. From the seven ordered days of creation, to the repetition of forty throughout the Tanach (Hebrew Bible), to God's exhortation to Abraham to "count the stars, if you can count them…" Currently, we are in the midst of counting the Omer, the days from Passover to Shavuot.