When I started a new chapter in my life as a freshman at Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!), I met people left and right.
As Jews, we approach every autumn with the understanding that a new year is starting and that the High Holy Days are up and coming. In between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we observe the Days of Awe, or the Yamim Noraim.
Turn the Torah scroll.
Turn back to Genesis
for the Rosh Hashana reading.
As the Torah scroll is rolled,
one person is on one side
pulling forward -
back to the beginning.
One person is on the other side
releasing the past.
Shabbat Shuvah is the Sabbath between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The name is derived from the opening word of the haftarah reading that urges us: Shuvah Yisrael ad Adonai Elohecha, “Return, O Israel, to the Eternal your God.”
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a concept I came to understand in my early adult years. But this was my understanding during my childhood:
by Rabbi Elisa F. Koppel I’m not ashamed to admit it: I like shoes. I’m not quite obsessive about them, but I probably have more pairs of shoes than I need, and I’m always finding new ones – you know, the ones that would be perfect with that one outfit.
The blessing after the reading of haftarah always sanctifies the day on which it is read. Throughout most of the year, that day is Shabbat, but haftarah is also read on the High Holidays.
“Wake up, wake up, you sleepers from your sleep, and awake you slumberers from your slumber.” (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah 3:4)
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.