THE HIGH HOLIDAYS EXPLORED
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The term High Holidays, or in Hebrew Yamim Nora-im, starts with Rosh HaShanah (literally translated the “Head of the Year”) and concludes with Yom Kippur “The Day of Atonement.” Rosh HaShanah is celebrated for two days.
Rosh HaShanah Dates
• 2020: Starts at sunset on September 18 through September 20
• 2021: Starts at sunset on September 6 through September 8
• 2022: Starts at sunset on September 25 through September 27
• 2023: Starts at sunset on September 15 through September 17
Today, we think of Rosh HaShanah as the start of the Jewish calendar’s “new year.” However, there are actually four distinct “new years” mentioned in Judaism text:
• The first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan (which generally coincides with late April/early May, was used to calcuate the length of a king’s reign. It was called “the New Year of Kings.”
• The first day of the Hebrew month of Elul (which generally concides with August/early September was the time when 10% of cattle in the Land of Israel were marked and then sacrificied at the Temple in Jerusalem.
• The first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei (which generally coincides with September) is “the New Year of the Years,” and also considered the agricultural new year as well as the “birthday of the world.” Around the second century C.E., this day became known as Rosh HaShanah.
• The 15th day of the Hebrew month of Sh’vat (which generally coincides with late January/early February) is called the New Year of the Trees. This is a holiday known as Tu B’shevat, and students often engage in environmental-related activities, such as planting trees, seedlings, etc.
As the website MyJewishLearning.com explains,
Although…Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) occupy [only a few], they lie within a web of liturgy and customs that extend from the beginning of the preceding Hebrew month of Elul through Yom Kippur…Recognizing the psychological difficulty of self-examination and personal change, the rabbis instituted a 40-day period whose intensity spirals toward its culmination on Yom Kippur, a day devoted entirely to fasting and repentance.
This is also the time of year when community members come together for religious services as well as engage in personal reflection—a time when we look back at our actions during the past year. Taking responsibility for our own acts is a precursor to improving our own lives.
Considered the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, starts 10 days after the beginning of Rosh HaShanah, on the 10th day of Tishrei. This period between the holy days is a time of repentance and self-reflection. Jews fast on Yom Kippur from sunset to sunset and refrain from work.
Yom Kippur Dates:
2020: Starts at sunset September 27 through September 28
2021: Starts at sunset September 15 through September 16
2022: Starts at sunset October 4 through October 5
2023: Starts at sunset September 24 through September 25
According to ReformJudaism.org
Yom Kippur is the moment in Jewish time when we dedicate our mind, body, and soul to reconciliation with our fellow human beings, ourselves, and God. As the New Year begins, we commit to self-reflection and inner change. As both seekers and givers of pardon, we turn first to those whom we have wronged, acknowledging our sins and the pain we have caused them. We are also commanded to forgive, to be willing to let go of any resentment we feel towards those who have committed offenses against us. Only then can we turn to God and ask for forgiveness. As we read in the Yom Kippur liturgy, “And for all these, God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, and grant us atonement.”