Something to bear in mind is that, for a lot of people, this particular set of holidays brings up memories of loss and remembrance for loved ones who have passed away. One reason for this is that on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), there is a special memorial service called “Yizkor” (Remembrance), in which everyone in the sanctuary is invited to take some time to reflect on the memories of lost loved ones, and special prayers for the dead are chanted. (For more on the meaning of Yizkor, click here.)
There are other reasons why this particular set of holidays evokes memories of love and loss, as well as the passing of time and generations. The themes of the holidays ask us to mark the transition of time, from one year to the next, and to acknowledge this loss and remembrance. For older congregants especially, there’s a good chance that they have memories of many years of marking the Jewish New Year and coming to synagogue for the High Holy Days with spouses, family, and friends. Finally, the music of many of the prayers evokes feelings of poignancy, solemnity as well as a mix of both sorrow and hope. For people who are newcomers to High Holy Days services, it’s good to know that some of the people present at services may be feeling a heightened sense of vulnerability as these once-a-year melodies and traditions trigger memories of life, love and loss.