The ten days of awe are the Jewish High Holy days starting with Rosh Hashana and ending with Yom Kippur. The followers of Judaism throughout the world commemorate more than three thousand years of faith, custom, and history.
There are many similarities in the observance of this period worldwide but some significant differences in the Jewish homeland of Israel. The most important difference is that Israel is both the spiritual and secular homeland to millions of Jews who reside in the Land of Canaan. Many Jews and non- Jews alike view Israel as both a spiritual, political, and historical marvel. It is a very small nation but the center of great controversy and attention.
Jerusalem, the capital of Israel and center of controversy!
This is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur or the day of repentance. We have just completed this period in Haifa and throughout the world.
One of the ongoing themes of the Days of Awe is the concept that G-d has "books" that he writes our names in, writing down who will live and who will die, who will have a good life and who will have a bad life, for the next year. These books are inscribed on Rosh HaShanah, but our actions during the Days of Awe can alter G-d's decree. These "books" are sealed on Yom Kippur. This concept of writing in books is the source of the common greeting during this time is "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year" or G'mar Chatima Tova-- in Hebrew. I enjoy and am thrilled to wander around the beautiful city of Haifa during this period. Friends, neighbors, and yes even strangers greet each other with a warm G'mar Chatima Tova. Among the customs of this time, it is common to seek reconciliation with people you may have wronged during the course of the year. The Talmud maintains that Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and G-d. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person; righting the wrongs you committed against them, if possible.
Work is permitted as usual during the intermediate Days of Awe with the exception for the Sabbath during that week. Hebrew is the language of Israel and the ancient Hebrew calendar is still used in both religious observances and often in daily secular life. Therefore the people of Israel celebrate the days of awe in the language of the Jewish Torah and follow the calendar used in the days of the ancient temples in Jerusalem.
The ten days of awe begin with the Jewish New Year - Rosh Hashana. This is the day that celebrates the beginning of the world according to Judaism. It is the day of the birth of Adam and Eve. Rosh Hashana is both a day of celebration and also introspection. There are many joyful celebrations throughout the country that include the traditional dipping of apples into honey. This to commemorate the sweetness of life at what traditionally has been the time of the harvest. Special cookies and other foods are eaten at this time to enjoy the New Year. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated for two rather than one day due to confusion relating to the ancient calendar. It is not one hundred percent certain on which day the holiday was originally celebrated.
Yom Kippur is probably the most important holiday of the Jewish year. It is the last day of the days of awe. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast, and attend synagogue services on this day. Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of Tishrei.
The name 'Yom Kippur' means 'Day of Atonement', and that pretty much explains what the holiday is. It is a day set aside to atone for the sins of the past year.
Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath; no work can be performed on that day. It is well-known that you are supposed to refrain from eating and drinking (even water) on Yom Kippur. It is a complete fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur. The State of Israel comes to a virtual halt with the exception of all the important prayers on this most holy day of the year. Businesses and most public services are closed. Traffic is limited mainly with the exception of medical and security services. People commute to prayer by foot and often visit family and close friends to share this special day. The streets are mainly empty with the exception of worshipers on their way to and from prayer or young kids running outside on the streets or playing in the local parks. The lack of traffic gives the kids the opportunity to ride their bicycles up and down the hilly roads of Haifa or throughout the country.
Children enjoy their bicycles on Yom Kippur
Most people fast and spend much of the day in prayer. As always, any of these restrictions can be lifted where a threat to life or health is involved. In fact, children under the age of thirteen and women in childbirth do not fast.
Older children and women from the third to the seventh day after childbirth are permitted to fast, but are permitted to break the fast if they feel the need to do so. People with illnesses may or may not fast according to their medical conditions.
Most of the holiday is spent in the synagogue. In Orthodox synagogues, services begin early in the morning and continue until just before sundown which ends the religious observances. The evening service that begins Yom Kippur is commonly known as Kol Nidre, named for the prayer that begins the service. "Kol nidre" means "all vows," and in this prayer, we ask G-d to annul all personal vows we may make in the next year. It refers only to vows between the person making them and G-d. The services end at nightfall, with the blowing of the tekiah gedolah, a long blast on the shofar continuing the tradition of three thousand year
Israel is a nation of individuals. You have the same wonderful qualities of human nature and all the short comings that you have anywhere. The ten days of awe give us the opportunity to make choices and accept responsibility for our choices in the place where it all started!