The Jewish High Holidays are coming to an end Now what?
As I write these words there are just a few days left for the Jewish high holidays and I am dreading going back to a normal schedule. As a Jewish and Israel educator, this time of year is so busy but also so fulfilling. How do we take these important days with us into the rest of the year? What even are the Jewish high holidays?
The Jewish month of Tishrei, the first Jewish month, is now coming to an end.
Four holidays follow one another throughout the month of September or October, depending on the year (the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar whereas the Gregorian is solar). These four holidays are Rosh hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the most known holidays.
Many counties in the U.S. that have a Jewish population will be off on either one or both of Rosh Hashana days and Yom Kippur as well, therefore assisting parents and children to celebrate these holidays and attend synagogue services. According to the 2020 PEW survey about Jewish Americans, 46% of Jewish Americans said they fasted some or all of Yom Kippur and about the same number attended services for high holidays as well.
These two holidays are the most known because of their significance in Jewish tradition. We believe that we are being written and sealed by God for the upcoming year in the books of life, livelihood, good deeds, redemption and forgiveness. These days are spiritually meaningful and carry a lot of weight, which has brought generations of Jews to come to synagogue and observe these days.
But the High Holidays do not end there! Just three days after Yom Kippur starts the holiday of Sukkot during which simply put ‘we live in huts and shake around some plants’ (this is how we describe the holiday to my non-Jewish in-laws). We build temporary homes like the people of Israel did when they were traveling the desert. There is something quite powerful being exposed to nature, being fully in God’s world, right after he has sealed us in the various books. It is also a mitzvah (commandment) to be happy during this holiday so after the two serious holidays we have experienced, Sukkot is full of happiness, celebration and joy.
The end of Sukkot brings with it also the end of the Jewish high holidays.
While we believe that on Yom Kippur we are sealed for the upcoming year, observant Jews continue to say Psalm 27 everyday until the 6th day (day before the last) of Sukkot, Hoshana Raba. We believe that the true final judgment for the year is given on this day and our fun and joyous week is actually another opportunity to improve God’s final decisions about us for the upcoming year!
But now what? What happens afterwards?
Well we go back to normal life, to a regular schedule and our next holiday is Hanukkah which is two months away!
However, being a Jewish person means that we don’t just let go of these experiences and move on with our lives, we take them with us to our regular schedule and our everyday lives. After celebrating, introspecting, connecting and growing, we take all of our experiences from the past month with us. We think about how we want to become better people during the upcoming year and now is the time to act upon it!
This is actually when the hard part begins. In the back of our minds we know that we have been written and sealed and yet, we owe it to ourselves to become better people, to find ways we can improve personally, professionally and religiously- whether that is with ourselves, our family and friends, our work or with God.
So I wish you a happy ‘after the chagim’ (chag=holiday in Hebrew) and may you take this time to grow, using the experiences from this past month, applying them to your life this year.
Netta Asner-Minster is a Jewish and Israel educator, currently working as a Shlicha (Israeli emissary) in Washington DC. Netta previously served in the IDF Spokespersons Unit and worked as an ‘Onward Israel’ counselor as well as a tour guide in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Netta has a BA in International Relations and Jewish history from Hebrew University and is currently pursuing an MA in Jewish Education at Hebrew University.
To see more of Netta’s content- https://www.instagram.com/nettaasner/
Reach Netta: email@example.com