Cultures all around the world celebrate the beginning of a new year with festivity and celebration. Whether it’s New Year’s Eve in New York City or Chinese New Year in Beijing, it is a time of joy and celebration.
The Jewish observance of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana) is no different – it’s a time of joy. However, after this festive observance, the Jewish calendar transitions to what is called the 10 Days of Awe, a reverent time of prayer and reflection leading to the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. What a contrast to what we may be accustomed to when entering a new calendar year.
These Days of Awe, also called the Days of Repentance, mark the beginning of an important season for every Jewish person around the world – the High Holy Days. These ten days are a bridge between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) follows this time of personal penitence and introspection in an eight-day festive holiday concluding with Simchat Torah (Joy of the Torah).
During the High Holidays, Jewish people from around the world visit Israel to honor this holiest season of the year. Despite the crowds, Jerusalem becomes a city of contemplation rather than its usual intensely urban busyness.