Holiest Days of Jewish Calendar a Time of Reflection

By Loiben, Joanne | The Billings Gazette (Billings, MT), September 24, 2016 | Go to article overview

Holiest Days of Jewish Calendar a Time of Reflection


Loiben, Joanne, The Billings Gazette (Billings, MT)


Rosh Ha'Shanah and Yom Kippur are just around the corner. These are the two holiest days in the Jewish calendar.

This year Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset on Oct. 2, and Yom Kippur at sunset on Oct. 11.

For an entire month prior to the holy days, Jewish people dedicate their time and energy to spiritually prepare themselves for the crucial days to come. During this month, called Elul, the shofar, a ram's horn, is blasted each day as a wakeup call reminding the Jewish people to begin their process of reflection and introspection. One theme runs deep throughout Elul, Rosh Ha'Shanah, and Yom Kippur -- teshuva. This Hebrew word is most often translated in English as "repentance," but the more literal meaning is "returning."

During the High Holy Day season, the Jewish people return to themselves and the decisions they have made in the past year. They return to their thoughts, words, and actions and reflect on times they may have missed the mark, which is the central concept of the Jewish understanding of sin.

If their words or decisions hurt other people, it is their responsibility at this time to return to those people and acknowledge what they have done to wrong them, and of course, ask for their forgiveness. The wrongdoing between people must be resolved before people can ask for the pardon of God and properly atone for their offense.

As the month of Elul counts the last days of the year, the Jewish people await Rosh Ha'Shanah, the holy day that starts the new year. Traditionally, Jewish people celebrate by eating plenty of honey, to symbolize a sweet new year.

This is also the time that the Jewish people are returning God to the throne through their prayers, as the theme of kingship is ever-present in the liturgy. The Jewish people hope and pray to be written in the Book of Life in the new year to come, which means it will be a year of blessings.

This does not imply that people are expected to be perfect; rather, it affirms that people are humans after all, and that the Jewish people have taken time to reflect on the significant moments in the past year, and have a better understanding of how to act in the coming year. …

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