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Jewish Holidays
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur

Jewish Holidays
The month of September has several Jewish holidays, including Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which are referred to as High Holy Days or High Holidays. In Judaism, they are known as Yamim Noraim or “Days of Awe.” These are also the only Jewish holidays not based on historical events.

“Many prefer the term High Holy Days over High Holidays because the former emphasizes the personal, reflective, introspective aspects of this period.” For more, see High Holy Days

This year, Rosh Hashanah (New Year) will begin on the evening of September 9 and end in the evening of September 11. In Hebrew, the name translates to the “beginning (head) of the year.” According to the Hebrew Bible, Rosh Hashana is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve—the first man and woman. It’s also the inauguration of humanity’s role in God’s world.

In Tract Rosh Hashana (New Year) of the New Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, authors Michael Levi Rodkinson and Joseph Leonard Levy write, 

The Scriptures do not in any way treat of the subject of the calendar, a matter of the greatest importance from an historical standpoint nor do they state from what period the year was begun to be reckoned, although there is a passage (Ex.xii. 2), “This month shall be unto you, the beginning of months; it shall be to you, the first month of the year” which obviously points to Nisan (about April), as not only the most important month, but also as the beginning of the year. (p. 28) 

The customs for this 2-day celebration include greeting others with the words, L’Shanah Tovah, a phrase that loosely translates to “for a good year.” Other customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed out ram’s horn), which intends to awaken listeners from their “slumbers” and alert them to the coming judgment. Symbolic foods such as apples and honey aim to usher in a sweet new year.

Rosh Hashanah is also the day of Yom HaDin, which is referred to as Judgment day. On this day, it’s customary to open three books: the book of life, for the righteous among the nations; the book of death, for the most evil who receive the seal of death; and a book for those living in doubts with non-evil sins.

In the evening of September 18, Yom Kippur, a Day of Atonement begins. It ends in the evening of September 19. This holiday marks the holiest day of the Jewish year and is traditionally observed with a 25-hour period of fasting. It’s also a time of prayer and synagogue services.

In Yiddish Tales, author Helena Frank writes, 

Erev Yom Kippur, Minchah time! The Eve of the Day of Atonement, at Afternoon Prayer time. A solemn and sacred hour for every Jew. Everyone feels as though he were born again. All the week-day worries, the two-penny-half-penny interests, seem far, far away; or else they have hidden themselves in some corner. Every Jew feels a noble pride, an inward peace mingled with fear and awe. He knows that the yearly Judgement Day is approaching, when God Almighty will hold the scales in His hand and weigh every man’s merits against his transgressions. (p. 13)

By Regina Molaro

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