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High Holy Days - About the Holidays

The High Holy Days begin on the first day of the Month of Elul (the twelfth month on the Hebrew calendar—usually between August and September), where Jews prepare for the coming New Year through deep introspection and repentance. Elul culminates in S'lichot, and is followed by Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, also known as the Days of Awe. Five days after Yom Kippur we celebrate the fall harvest and commemorate the Israelites' 40 years wandering the desert with Sukkot. Finally, with Simchat Torah, we celebrate the annual cycle of Torah readings and the beginning of the new cycle.

S'lichot

S’lichot is a time of reflection and contemplation as we take stock of our lives during the past year.
 
Moses spent three 40-day epochs on Mount Sinai: During the first he received the first set of tablets, which he broke upon seeing the Golden Calf. During the second he pleaded with God to forgive the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf. At the end of this period God reconciled with the Jewish people and told Moses to hew for himself a second set of tablets, so Moses went up for another 40 days with blank tablets in hand. On the 40th day of the third period God fully pardoned the Jewish people, and Moses descended the mountain with the Ten Commandments inscribed on the second set of tablets.

This third period, a period of good will and forgiveness, began on Rosh Chodesh Elul and concluded on Yom Kippur. Since then these 40 days on the calendar have been designated as days of good will before God, and Yom Kippur as the Day of ultimate pardon and forgiveness.

Rosh HaShanah

Observed on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, Rosh HaShanah (literally, “Head of the Year”) is the celebration of the Jewish new year and marks the beginning of the Yamin Noraim—a 10 day period of prayer, self-examination and repentance, which culminates with the fast day of Yom Kippur.

Despite elements of joy and celebration, Rosh HaShanah is a deeply religious occasion. The customs and symbols of Rosh HaShanah reflect the holiday’s dual emphasis: happiness and humility. Special customs observed on Rosh HaShanah include the sounding of the shofar, using round challah, and eating apples dipped in honey for a sweet new year.

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur (literally, “Day of Atonement”) is observed 10 days after Rosh HaShanah with fasting, prayer, repentance: the sacred act of teshuvah. Yom Kippur is the holiest of all Jewish Festivals and holidays.

Yom Kippur enables us to put aside our physical desires and to concentrate on our spiritual needs through quiet reflection, self-evaluation, community, and prayer. It is customary in the days before Yom Kippur to seek out friends and family whom we have wronged and personally ask for their forgiveness.

Sukkot

Sukkot, a Hebrew word meaning “booths” or “huts,” is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur on the 15th of Tishrei and is marked by several distinct traditions as we give thanks for both the fall harvest and commemorate the 40 years of Israelite wandering in the desert after Sinai. 

Sukkot in Your Home

Everything you need for celebrating Sukkot in your home! Find out how to build a sukkah, order your lulav and etrog, find activities to do with your family, and more. The Sukkot Home Celebration Kit includes instructions on building your own sukkah, activities to do with your family, traditional Sukkot recipes, and more. Download Kit >

Don’t feel like going to the hardware store for your sukkah-making materials? Make sukkah-building easy! Purchase a pre-made sukkah kit. Visit siegersukkah.com for ordering information. Own your own lulav and etrog for Sukkot! Many Judaica stores in Los Angeles sell them as a set. In the past, we have ordered from Brenco Judaica, brencojudaica.com.

Food is an integral part of Jewish tradition, and Sukkot is no exception! Stuffed vegetables and the use of seasonal fruits are just two ways that food is incorporated into this harvest holiday. Every family has its own traditions that make each holiday special. 

Simchat Torah

Celebrate the completion of the annual reading of the Torah. Affirm our view of the Torah as an Eitz Chayim Hi, a tree of life. Dance around the synagogue and embrace the Torah. The concluding passages of the Torah are read, and immediately following, the opening section of Genesis is read; we never stop reading Torah, we end only to begin again.

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