The ten days beginning with the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and ending with the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) are known as the “Ten Days of Teshuvah” (you’ll sometimes see this translated as the “Ten Days of Repentance”). During this stretch of time, the tradition encourages all of us to think about who we may have harmed over the course of the last year, whether intentionally or by accident, and whether by word or by deed. We’re invited to take time to reach out to people personally and take responsibility for our mistakes. The idea is to talk privately with family members, friends or anyone else we feel we may have wronged. We do our best to admit our mistakes, seek forgiveness from those we have hurt, and offer to make amends. This can be a really powerful exercise for families, including families with young kids.
There’s another major aspect of these holidays, and it is that these are the Jewish holidays when Jewish people, and their family members of all backgrounds, come out of the woodwork every year and gather in large numbers in synagogues. (The other most popular Jewish holidays—Passover and Hanukkah—take place mainly in peoples’ homes, not in the synagogue.)
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have been part of the rhythm of marking time for centuries, and the fact that Jewish communities all over the world are similarly gathering during these holidays gives a lot of people in the Jewish community a warm feeling of connection and solidarity.
Return to the Guide to the High Holy Days or view as a PDF.