Los Angeles Jewish Home's Blog

The Meaning of the High Holy Days

The High Holy Days begin this year on Sunday, September 13th, with the eve of Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah comes on Day 1 of the month of Tishre. On Day 10 of the very same month comes Yom Kippur. The eve of Yom Kippur is thus on Tuesday, September 22nd.

But what are these holidays really all about?
We know that in the simplest terms, Rosh Hashanah is the New Year, based upon the birthday of the creation of the world, and Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. Yet there is so much more to the holidays than that.
The Rabbis linked the 10 day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and entitled them "The Days of Awe" or "Yamim Hanora'im." For the Jewish People, this has become a period of transformation. In other words, if you went to every service, ate apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah and fasted on Yom Kippur, but you came out of the 10 day period unchanged, then you missed the entire point of the holiday season.
This is best captured in one particular prayer of the High Holy Days. Do you remember the one that says, "On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed, who shall live and who shall die?" That image of a Book of Life is haunting, ridiculous or profound, depending upon how you look at it.
With seniors at the Jewish Home, we talk about how this is not to be taken literally. However, everyone can find great meaning in looking at their past—things that have happened to them and things they have done. Indisputable is the idea that our words and actions are imprinted in history and time. We know what we do and say matters, just as we understand what has been said to us and done to and for us matters. Life is therefore meaningful and we are each impactful, no matter where we live or how often we interact with others.
The Unetaneh Tokef, which is the name of the above prayer, crescendos with some brilliant advice: REPENTANCE, PRAYER and TZEDAKAH can remove the severity of the decree. What does this mean? Regardless of your past, regardless of the wounds you may be living with, regardless of the injuries you may have inflicted on others, hopefully unintentionally, but even intentionally, regardless of your mistakes, your biggest regrets, you can change your future via sincere apology, prayer, introspection and giving of yourself through charity or deeds of loving kindness.
Judaism is so optimistic! Judaism is so healing if we allow its blueprint to guide us toward growth and betterment. The power of the High Holy Days is that we are all in it together. Each of us has our own story, our own pain and our own triumphs. But we trek through this invitation of renewal as a community.
Please consider joining the Jewish Home seniors and staff in celebrating the High Holy Days. Services and holidays meals are open to the community on our Eisenberg Village campus in Reseda. Please contact Allison Tepper at (818) 774-3386 or EVRSVP@jha.org for more information. Tickets are required.
You can also reach out to loved ones with our beautiful holiday card, featuring The Twelve Tribes stained glass created more than a century ago. Please contact Denise Horowitz at (818) 774-3324 or Denise.Horowitz@jha.org to purchase.
From everyone at the Los Angeles Jewish Home, we wish you L'Shanah Tovah!