Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur


Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur - September or October

Every Fall we reach the High Holiday season on the Jewish calendar.  Over the course of 23 days we have  Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish New Year);  Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement);  Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret (festivals of thanksgiving) and Simchat Torah (a celebration of the Torah).


Rosh Hashanah (“Rosh” pronounced with a long ‘o’ as in ‘row;’ “Hah-shah-nah”) is the Jewish New Year.  Although the two days of the holiday are joyful, the dominant feeling  is serious and introspective.  As the New Year begins, we are called upon to take stock of what we have been doing and where we are going with our lives.  We are one year older, and about to start another year together.  Are we living our lives correctly?  If not, how do we change?  Practices include many hours of prayer services in which we examine these questions.  During those services we blow the Shofar, a rams’s horn, to help call our attention to the need for this spiritual examination. Work is generally avoided, much like on the Sabbath.  Meals will often begin with something sweet, like apples and honey, to symbolize our hope for a sweet New Year, and we often wish each other a Sweet, Healthy and Happy New Year.  Rosh HaShanah marks the beginning of a 10-day period called the Ten Days of Penitence, during which we approach people in our lives and ask them for forgiveness in case we have offended them in any way – even unintentionally or unknowingly.


Yom Kippur (“Yom” with a long ‘o’; “Kippur” as in the English words “key poor”), the Day of Atonement, comes at the end of the Ten Days of Penitence. It is the culmination of that period, and is a solemn day of fasting and prayer.  Work is avoided like on the Sabbath.  When health permits, adults will avoid eating and drinking, and avoid extensive washing, shaving, and wearing leather and sexual activity.  It is NOT permissible to endanger your health, however.  All medications must be taken, along with any food and drink necessary for taking those medications. If someone cannot fast safely then they should not. Those who cannot fast completely may choose to eat much more simply and discreetly, and only as much as necessary.  The meal before the fast is a special occasion, and the meal following the fast is very joyful.  In between are many hours of  prayer services in which we call our attention to the need to set our lives upon a proper course.  When the day ends after sunset, we hope to be ready to begin the New Year with a renewed sense of direction in our lives.


Gut Yohr – which is Yiddish (Jewish-German) for “Good Year;”  and

Shanah Tovah – (pronounced “shah-nah toe-vah”) which is Hebrew for “Good Year.”