The High Holidays

Woman looking toward the light

What Do Jews Mean by Repentance (Teshuvah)?

Professor Yehudah Mirsky reflects on the history and meaning of one of the most important concepts during the High Holidays. What does the Torah say about repentance? How do Jews repent today?

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More Stories

Shofar, apple, and Jewish prayer shawl

Eric Yoffie '69 rewrites the Yom Kippur "Al Het" prayer to atone for the failures, flaws, and faults of Jews on all sides of the debates on Israel.    

A woman praying with head bowed

Rabbi Ron Kronish '68 writes about the tension "between thinking about how we can make the upcoming year a better one for ourselves and our community and also for all of humanity" in the Rosh Hashanah liturgy.

A family performs the kapparot ritual with two hens and a rooster, circa 1901

What explains the strange Yom Kippur ritual of spinning a live chicken over your head? Professor Reuven Kimelman traces its 1,000-year history through foul and fair.

Josh Gondelman adjusting his glasses

Comedian Josh Gondelman '07 relishes the chance to say he's sorry on Yom Kippur. "Admitting my shortcomings and asking for forgiveness is when I feel my most Jewish," he writes. 

Prayer book

Professor Reuven Kimelman takes you line-by-line through the Rosh Hashanah Amidah, explaining the full meaning of the nearly 2,000-year-old prayer. 

Shofar with Hebrew writing

Feminist scholar Marcia Falk '68 offers a radical reworking of the liturgy for the High Holidays. The Ten Days of Turning, as this holiday period is known, involve "meeting oneself face-to-face, opening the heart to change," she writes. 

An etrog

Historians Jonathan D. Sarna and Zev Eleff trace the history of the Sukkot citrus fruit from when they cost 25 cents a piece (cheap!) to becoming exotic luxuries. Along the way, there were plenty of scandals.

Jewish foods for High Holidays

Apple upside-down cake, potato dumplings, Kosher chocolate mousse truffle cake, and more High Holidays recipes from Brandeis University Press books.  

Drawing of a group of women in a European synagogue from 19th century.

In 2019, historian Jonathan D. Sarna discovered the first literary American Jewish novel, "Cosella Wayne." It provides invaluable insights into how Judaism was practiced around the world at the time. This excerpt describes a Yom Kippur service in 1840s Germany. 

Fruit from the High Holidays

Have questions about Rosh Hasnahah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simhat Torah? We've got answers.