To help you prepare for the High Holy Days

So many of our holy days and holy days have observances centered around the home. The High Holy Days are synagogue centered with a huge emphasis on community as well as our own individual introspection!

The following is a short introduction to help you prepare:

Selichot – a special program and service (means ‘petitions’) generally held the Saturday night prior to the start of Rosh HaShanah to help prepare our hearts and souls for the upcoming holy days. Kehillah’s Selichot programs are interactive and uplifting. Definitely worth attending!

Kever Avot – it is traditional to visit the graces of loved ones around the High Holy Day season, connecting us to generations past and as a demonstration of our love and appreciation.

Rosh Hashanah – literally, ‘head of the year’/our New Year, even though it falls in Tishrei, the seventh month on the ancient Hebrew calendar! The Rabbis gave this day special significance and designated it as the new year, celebrating the creation of the world, marked by the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah morning.

Symbols  and Vocabulary

Shofar – ram’s horn blown as a wake up call to arouse our hearts and souls to examine our actions over the past year and set about improving.

Round Challah – often with raisins is traditionally eaten. The circular shape is a reminder of the ongoing cycle of life

Apples and Honey are eaten as a reminder and hope that we be blessed for a sweet year ahead

Yom HaDin – Rosh Hashanah is known as the Day of Judgment and tradition describes a Book of Life in which our fates are inscribed for the year. We are asked to enagage in Tzedakah, Teshuvah and Tefillah to set us on a course for a healthy, happy, blessed year ahead.

Tzedakah – ‘performing acts of justice through giving’, usually monetary donations, seen as our obligation to help others and share some of that with which we have been blessed. It is appropriate to make donations in support of one’s synagogue and community, in appreciation.

Teshuvah – often translated as ‘repentence’, I prefer ‘a re-turning’ to our best selves, a key concept of the High Holy Days

Tefillah – sincere prayer from the heart, whether scripted or spontaneous; the word is actually a reflexive verb meaning ‘judgment of oneself’

Greeting for Rosh Hashanah – L’shanah tovah tikateivu v’teichateimu, May you be written and inscribed for a good year

Yom Kippur – literally, the Day of Atonement or at-one-ment, on which we abstain from eating and drinking to put us in a more humble mood in order to be able to intensify our work of examining and reflecting on our actions over the past year. Much of the day is spent in synagogue during which we engage in prayer and reflection leading to forgiveness and healing.

Kol Nidre – the name given to the service on the eve of Yom Kippur, but in actuality, the name of one of the most beloved liturgical prayers we offer as we seek forgiveness. Yizkor (memorial service) is part of Yom Kippur afternoon. The day ends with a final tekiah gedolah/grand blast of the shofar and a beautiful Havdalah ceremony.

Greeting for Yom Kippur – G’mar chatimah tovah, May the inscription in the Book of Life be a good one for you

Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman

Congregation Kehillah of Arizona