by Rabbi Alex Freedman
Rosh Hashanah is over and next week’s Yom Kippur feels far away. What are we supposed to do now?
Don’t think of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as separate and distinct holidays. Instead, consider them bookends to a single extended season – the time for Teshuvah. This Hebrew word means “repentance” but it connotes forgiveness, return, and second chances. On Rosh Hashanah, we sang during UNetaneh Tokef “on Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.” The in-between days are the test for the new commitments we made on Rosh Hashanah. What happened when we went home after services? Did we start living by our new commitments? Or did we fall into familiar patterns? Based on this in-between week, we set the tone for the year ahead.
Known as the Ten Days of Teshuvah, Jewish Law urges us to be at our very, very best during these days, even if we take on practices we cannot otherwise sustain every day of the year, like going to Minyan. This is spiritual crutch time.
I learned the following from my teacher Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem: The 10 days of Teshuvah include both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which leaves seven in-between days. Each day of the week leaves its mark on that day for the entire year. So today, Thursday, sets the tone for every Thursday in 5783. The next day, Friday, sets the tone for every Friday in the year ahead, and so forth. If we want the year to go as we wish, we have to set the tone early. Otherwise we revert to old habits.
I wish you a meaningful Yom Kippur. But before that, I wish you a productive Ten Days of Teshuvah.