We are currently in the Yomim Nora’im – the 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur – known as the Days of Awe.
During these 10 days, we are focused on Teshuva (Repentance) and preparation for Yom Kippur. Special insertions are added to our daily prayers which focus on the themes of G-d as King, G-d’s judgement, and G-d’s holiness. We also recall prayers referring to the Book of Life.
Remember us for life, O King Who desires life, and inscribe us in the Book of Life – for Your sake, O Living G-d … Who is like You, Merciful Father, Who recalls His creatures mercifully for life … Blessed are You, our G-d, the Holy King. (From additions to the Amidah during the Days of Awe).
These 10 Days of Awe (and the whole High Holiday period) are meant to recall G-d’s mercy. As Rabbi Wayne Dosick notes, although our “prayers are solemn and serious, they are also filled with joy and with hope. For Judaism teaches that G-d is ready and very willing to forgive the transgressions of those who come in sincere repentance.”
HaShem’s desire is for relationship with us. And the High Holidays are opportunities to meet with G-d in the most intimate of times. The 10 days help us to more intently focus on those things which hold us back in life, and from the presence of HaShem.
Although we should be focusing on repentance, forgiveness, and overcoming life’s obstacles every day – G-d, also knowing the procrastinate nature of humanity, has built into the calendar specific times in which we are obligated to deal with those shortcomings. Otherwise we might just continue to sweep them under the rug. For most of us, the last thing we want to do is go to someone we may have hurt in the last year to seek forgiveness. Or confront a person for the hurt they have caused us. But by doing so, and allowing forgiveness to take place, we remove more of those spiritual stumbling blocks. We are able to break free of the weight of guilt, shame, anger, and inadequacy.
The Days of Awe are awesome days because they are what you make of them. My deepest prayer would that they would be for you a time and blessing and restoration.
The Shabbat that always falls between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is very special, and called Shabbat Shuvah (literally, the Shabbat of Repentance). This Shabbat continues those themes which started during the month of Elul, flowing through Rosh HaShanah, and the 10 Days of Awe. Special prayers are added to the liturgy, and special readings for the Haftarah are read – emphasizing the themes of repentance and forgiveness.
The special Haftarah readings for Shabbat Shuvah are from Hosea 14:2-10, Joel 2:15-17, and Micah 7:18-20. Each of the readings emphasize repentance, preparation, and G-d’s readiness to forgive.
G’mar Chatimah Tovah – May you be sealed for a wonderful New Year!
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