High Holy Days

Here you will find information about the high holidays: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Below you will also be able to download a PDF that has Shuvah’s 2023 service dates and times.

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah (head the year) is the Jewish New Year. The biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah (day of shouting or blasting) and is also more commonly known in English as the Feast of Trumpets. It is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days. It begins the Yamim Nora’im. (Days of Awe) specified by Leviticus 23:23–32 that occur in the early autumn of the Northern Hemisphere. These are the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when according to tradition humanity is judged. Therefore, it is a period of teshuva or repentance.

Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration that begins on the first day of Tishrei, which is the seventh month of the biblical calendar, but Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the civil year, according to the teachings of Judaism.  According to rabbinical tradition it marks the creation of Adam and Eve and is therefore the birth of humanities participation in the divine plan.

Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a ram’s horn), as prescribed in the Torah. Its rabbinical customs include attending synagogue services and reciting special liturgy about teshuva, as well as enjoying festive meals. Eating symbolic foods is now a tradition, such as apples dipped in honey, hoping to evoke a sweet new year.

The Hebrew common greeting on Rosh Hashanah is Shanah Tovah which is a wish for one to have a good year. Often Shanah Tovah Umetukah meaning have a Good and Sweet Year, is used. A more formal greeting commonly used among religiously observant Jews is L’shanah tovah tikatevu v’tichatemu meaning “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year”.  

Yom Kippur

A shofar and tallis

Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a day-long fast and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.

Yom Kippur is “the tenth day of the seventh month” (Tishrei) and is also known as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”) that commences with Rosh Hashanah. The ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are a time of introspection and repentance.

Given the seriousness and contemplative nature of Yom Kippur the following prohibitions are observed:

  1. No eating and drinking
  2. No wearing of leather shoes
  3. No bathing or washing
  4. No pampering oneself with perfumes or lotions
  5. No marital relations

Prayer services begin with the Kol Nidre prayer, which is recited before sunset. Kol Nidre is a prayer that dates to 9th century Eretz Yisrael. It is recited in a dramatic manner, before the open ark, using a lilting melody that dates back to the 16th century Then the service continues with the evening prayers (ma’ariv) and then concludes with Selichot (petitions for forgiveness).

The morning prayer includes more Selichot; woven into the liturgy of the machzor (prayer book). The morning prayers are followed by an added prayer (Mussaf) as on all other holidays. This is followed by Mincha (the afternoon prayer) which includes a reading of the entire Book of Jonah, which has as its theme the story of God’s willingness to forgive those who repent.

The service concludes with the Ne’ila (“closing”) prayer, which begins shortly before sunset, when the “gates of repentance” will be closed. Yom Kippur comes to an end with a recitation of Shema Yisrael and the blowing of the shofar which marks the conclusion of the fast.

Shuvah Yisrael’s Services

Download a PDF with all our service information, including Sukkot services.