The Days of Awe
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
For 10 days in the fall, Jews around the world begin a very special period called the Days of Awe. This 10-day span begins with Rosh Hashanah, the two-day start of the Jewish New Year, and ends with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Rosh Hashanah is a joyous holiday, marking the new year and the birthday of the world, but it is also a time for reflection. Synagogues around the world will ring with the blast of the shofar — the ram's horn — calling communities together for celebration and contemplation.
During the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, Jews are enjoined to reflect upon the past year, seeking forgiveness from those they may have knowingly or unknowingly harmed or otherwise offended. The theme of all 10 days is that repentance, prayer and charitable deeds are the keys to closing out the old year and starting the New Year off right.
On Yom Kippur, Jews come together for a final confession of their sins in order to begin the new year with a proverbial clean slate. Tradition has it that one cannot come before God for these confessions before having first approached our family, friends and neighbors with requests for forgiveness.
Prayer and fasting are the hallmarks of this day and many refrain from other luxuries, like the wearing of leather shoes. The day is designed to focus attention only on those things which truly matter.
Yom Kippur concludes with a final blast of the shofar, a final cry as the gates of heaven are considered to close.
Shanah Tovah U'metukah (a happy and sweet year)!