Every Person's Guide to the High Holy Days

Jason Aronson, Inc., 1998

Every Person's Guide to the High Holy Days is intended to help people properly prepare for the Days of Awe and to also assist them in understanding the prayers that have become part of the High Holy Day Machzor. The goal is to be basic but comprehensive, providing both home and synagogue observances that are essential to the Days of Awe.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement are known in Jewish tradition as the Yamin Noraim (the Days of Awe). Rosh Hashanah is the beginning and Yom Kippur is the culmination of the special ten awe-inspiring days within which Jews are afforded the opportunity of a spiritual recovery of strenuous personal effort. Whereas most Jewish holidays celebrate national events in Jewish history, on these holy days Jews are instructed to scrupulously examine their deeds, and more significantly, their misdeeds during the preceding year. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur's goal is nothing less than an ethical and religious reassessment of one's life. On the Days of Awe, Jewish tradition teaches, God decides who shall live and who shall die during the coming year. The liturgical prayers attempt to influence God's decision.

On the High Holy Days, worshippers hold in their hands a book called the Machzor containing the liturgy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. For Jews lacking the knowledge of the High Holy Day liturgy, the Machzor remains a "sealed book" whose grandeur and sublimity are by and large uncomprehended. It would be in accord with sound pedagogic practice to make this book a vehicle for a more profound understanding of the basic teachings of Judaism.

The volume also includes the special customs during the month of Elul preceding the Days of Awe, a chapter on the shofar and its significance, reference to the Selichot penitential prayers and several exercises in repentance, the meaning of sin in Jewish tradition, explanations of the basic prayers found in the Machzor and a variety of topics related to both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur filled with as many good deeds and accomplishments as the number of seeds in a pomegranate.

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