Teshuvah – Repentance
Teshuvah – repentance is the central theme of this Yomim Noraim period that begins with Rosh Hashana and concludes ten days later on Yom Kippur. It is a period of introspection and self-improvement with the goal of living a more diligent life in our relationship with God and in our relationship with other people. According to Maimonides, teshuvah is a three step process. It is first necessary to recognize that certain past actions or behaviors are inappropriate. This is known as hakarat hacheit — recognition of a sinful act. Following this step is vidui, a verbal declaration of our wrongdoings, and finally, kabbala l’atid – a resolution not to repeat this act in the future. Only through such a process are we able to effect a change in behavior. Although teshuvah is a process that can be invoked throughout the year, it is particularly effective during these ten days that were the historical climax of Moses’ receiving the second set of tablets from God, thereby securing His divine forgiveness. All of the external actions and ritual that occur during this time of year are intended to motivate us to evaluate ourselves and to change for the better.
The Ten Days of Repentance
The Ten Day period of Repentance from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur is traditionally days of greater Jewish observance. It is during these days that we try to be particularly careful, both in our relationship with God and in our relationship with other people. It would certainly be appropriate to take on some additional diligence in the performance of mitzvot during this week. Although the halacha writes about avoiding bread baked by a non-Jew during this week (bread which, if properly supervised, is acceptable throughout the year), an additional diligence in not speaking lashon harah is also appropriate. We approach this period with the hope that our increased sense of spirituality will set a model for us to follow during the year.
As is customary, provisions have been made for the lighting of candles at the synagogue prior to the beginning of Kol Nidrei. Candles will be available in the lobby outside of the gift shop. Candle lighting is 6:50 p.m. Those women who light at home and then plan on driving to shul should have in mind that they are not accepting Yom Kippur with the lighting of the candles.
Yom Kippur is marked as the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. It is on this day that we stand before God in judgment, and the observance of the day as well as the preparation for it, indicate our mood of awe and trepidation. It is one of the few times when we are obligated to fast even on Shabbat.
Yom Kippur Eve
Many men have the custom of immersing themselves in the Mikvah on the eve of Yom Kippur. This indicates spiritual preparation for the coming day. A special Mincha that includes Vidui is recited early on that day to allow for the serving of a festive meal before the fast begins. Many also follow the custom of Kapparot on Erev Yom Kippur, either using a live chicken which is then given to a poor family, or using money which is then given to charity. Before leaving for Kol Nidrei, there is a beautiful custom of parents blessing their children. This blessing is more extensive than the traditional parental blessing on Friday evening. The text of this blessing can be found in most Machzorim.
This service is one of the highlights of the High Holy Day period. In it we ask for the annulment of any vows or promises that we have been unable to keep, and that we be able to pray together in one community. Kol Nidrei starts before sunset, allowing men the opportunity to put on the tallit and recite a blessing over it. Many also have the custom of wearing a white garment, as a sign of purity. The garment traditionally worn by men is the kittel. Additionally, both men and women avoid wearing gold jewelry on Yom Kippur in order not to bring to God’s attention the transgression of the golden calf (eigel hazahav).
The laws of Yom Kippur obligate us to abstain from eating and drinking, from washing or anointing for pleasure, from wearing leather shoes and from marital relations. If for reasons of illness a person needs to eat or take medications, One of the rabbis should be contacted.
The services on Yom Kippur are lengthy but meaningful. We encourage you to come early and start the day with us, and to stay late as well.
Please click here for the Yomim Noraim davenning times.