Celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur



Celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
Rosh Hashanah
and Yom Kippur
High Holy
High Holy Days
Definition: “High Holy Days” refers to the ten-day
period between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New
Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
This period is also known as the “Days of Awe,” or
Yamim Noraim.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the most
widely observed of all Jewish holidays.
They include crucial ceremonies, prayers, and
observances that carry special meaning for Jewish
Major themes include:
 Repentance
 Renewal
 Soul-searching
 Gratitude for God’s forgiveness.
According to Jewish tradition, God uses the ten days
between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to decide
the fate of all people for the coming year.
Jews believe that all people can alter the course of
their destiny through:
 Repentance
 Prayer
 Acts of charity
Background: Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year” and is
traditionally celebrated as the first day of the
Jewish New Year.
The festival is celebrated for two days—the first
and second days in the month of Tishrai (roughly
mid-September to mid-October on the Gregorian
Leviticus 23:23–25
The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites:
‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to
have a day of rest, a sacred assembly
commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular
work, but present an offering made to the LORD
by fire.’”
Celebration: Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah is primarily
a time of reflection and
repentance for sins made
during the past year, and a
re-commitment to follow
God with more diligence in
the year to come.
Celebration: Rosh Hashanah
No work is permitted on the two days of Rosh
Much of the days are spent in prayer at the
synagogue. The people live in the tension
between God as Supreme Judge on one hand,
and merciful Father on the other.
Ezekiel 18:30–32
“Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you,
each one according to his ways, declares the
Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your
offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.”
Ezekiel 18:30–32
yourselves of all the offenses you have
committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit.
Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take
no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the
Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!”
Commemoration: Rosh Hashanah
The sounding of the shofar (a ram’s horn, blown
somewhat like a trumpet) is the central ritual of Rosh
Numbers 29:1
“On the first day of the
seventh month hold a
sacred assembly and do
no regular work. It is a day
for you to sound the
Commemoration: Rosh Hashanah
The shofar is blown 100 times each day. The
ritual symbolizes:
 The giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16–19).
 God’s coronation, sovereignty, and kingship (Psalm 98:6).
 God’s grace as demonstrated through Abraham and Isaac
(Genesis 22).
 Man’s need for repentance (a moral “wake up” call).
 The coming Messiah, who will bring physical and spiritual
peace to Israel (Isaiah 27:13).
Celebration: Rosh Hashanah
Jews perform the Tashlikh
ceremony on the first day of
Rosh Hashanah. People
throw bread crumbs or stones
into a body of running water,
symbolically casting off their
Celebration: Rosh Hashanah
People are expected to
partake in a festival
meal on both days of
Rosh Hashanah as a
form of celebration.
Background: Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) marks the
holiest day of the Jewish year.
Called by the Bible, the “Sabbath of Sabbaths,”
it is primarily a time of fasting and repentance.
Leviticus 16:29–34
“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth
day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and
not do any work—whether native-born or an alien living
among you—because on this day atonement will be
made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD,
you will be clean from all your sins. It is a Sabbath of rest,
and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.
Leviticus 16:29–34
“The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his
father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on
the sacred linen garments and make atonement for the
Most Holy Place, for the Tent of Meeting and the altar,
and for the priests and all the people of the community.
This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to
be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”
Celebration: Yom Kippur
Jews spend most of the Day
of Atonement in the
synagogue. They “afflict
their souls” by fasting from
food and water, reflecting,
and praying.
Leviticus 23:27–28
“Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of
Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation,
and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food
offering to the LORD. And you shall not do any work on
that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make
atonement for you before the LORD your God.”
Commemoration: Yom Kippur
It is customary to go to a
mikvah (ritual bath) before
celebrating Yom Kippur. The
bath symbolizes man’s act of
purification and regeneration,
as well as his “new birth”
through teshuvah
Commemoration: Yom Kippur
Jews observe five prayer services during Yom
 Maariv is conducted on the eve of Yom Kippur.
 Shacharit is the morning prayer.
 Musaf immediately follows Shacharit.
 Minchah includes a reading of the Book of Jonah.
 Neilah is the closing prayer service at sunset.
Commemoration: Yom Kippur
Several passages of Scripture are read aloud
throughout Yom Kippur, including:
 Leviticus 16:1–34
 Numbers 29:7–11
 Isaiah 57:14—58:14
 The Book of Jonah
Commemoration: Yom Kippur
The Day of Atonement also includes a number
of special prayers:
 Evening service begins with a recitation of Kol Nidrei (“all
vows”), which is a plea to be released from all unfulfilled vows
and commitments we may have made in the previous year.
 The congregation recites a series of confessionals, including
the Avodah.
 Prayers of Yizkor (remembrance for deceased family
members) are also said.
Commemoration: Yom Kippur
The Neilah, or closing service, is a liturgy that depicts
the heavenly gates closing—leaving an individual one
final opportunity to confess, repent, and plead his or her
The service closes with a recitation of the Shema
(Deuteronomy 6:4–5), and the congregation proclaims
“Next year in Jerusalem!”
Deuteronomy 6:4–5
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD
is one. Love the LORD your God with all your
heart and with all your soul and with all your
The High Holy Days are a time for repentance,
or teshuva, which includes:
 Regret for the past
 Desisting from sinful behavior
 Confession before God
 Resolving not to sin in the future
Fasting is an important part of the holiday’s
introspection and repentance.
Fasting is a way to focus on spiritual matters, a
reminder of our frailty and our duty to act
charitably and compassionately toward those
less fortunate, and a means of self-discipline
and penance.
The Jewish understanding of teshuvah is based
on the belief that man is created with free will
and is capable of doing either good or bad.
Repentance must be both a change of the heart
and a change of action (Psalm 34:14).
Our ability to practice repentance is a reflection
of God’s grace.
The Midrash says: “My children, give me an
opening of repentance no bigger than the eye of
a needle, and I will widen it into openings
through which even wagons and carriages will
pass through.”
International Fellowship of Christians
and Jews
30 N. LaSalle Street, Suite 4300
Chicago, IL 60602-3356

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