Yomim Nora'im or High Holy Days is a 10-day period of penitence
and prayer. It is also known as Aseret Ymay Tshuva, or Ten Days of Repentance. These ten days that begin with Rosh Hashana and end with Yom Kippur, are a time of Tshuva (repentance), Tefilla (prayer) and Tzedaka (charity). Jews have these 10 days to consider the sins of the last year and repent and ask Hashem and our fellow man for forgiveness before Yom Kippur. More about this later.
A great deal of time is spent in the synagogue on Yomim Nora'im, praying to
the Almighty that our sins be forgiven and that we be inscribed in the "Book" of Life.
With this the pious period sets in at a Fall sunset. No work is done save the house hold ones.
Shofar is blown, and people empty their pocketful of sins in the flowing water before greeting each other and the New Year. It is time for fun and food, and family and friends as prayers are hummed, greetings are exchanged and wishes are conveyed.
Zom (the fast) Gedalia:
It is observed on the day that follows Rosh. Tzom Gedalia commemorates the assassination of Gedalia ben (son of) Ahikam, the Jewish governor of Israel, a critical event after the destruction of the first Bait Hamikdash.
After the destruction of the first Bait Hamikdash and the subsequent exile, a small group of
Jews remained in Eretz Yisroel. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, appointed Gedalia ben Ahikam, a descendant of a prominent family of scribes, to govern Judean Jewry. Acting as a undercover agent of the King of Ammon, Yishmael ben Nesanyah, a member of the royal family, killed Gedalia on the 3rd of
Tishrei. This act marked the slaughter of thousands and the end of Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisroel. (See Melochim II, Chapter 25 and Yirmiyohu, Chapters 40-41)
Tzom Gedalia lasts from dawn to nightfall, and one may eat breakfast if one arises before sunrise for the specific purpose of doing so.
Shabbat Shuva :
The Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuva (the Shabbat of Return) because the Haftorah which is read on this Shabbat begins with the words Shuva Yisroel, (Repent O' Israel). Others call it Shabbat Tshuva (Repentance), as it falls in the Aseret Ymay Tshuva, (Ten Days of Repentance). This year (2000) Shabbat Shuva, is Saturday, October 7th, 2000.
It is customary for the Rabbi of the congregation to give a sermon on this Shabbat which includes the basic laws of Yom Kippur and Sukkot, and devoted to the theme of Tshuva and hopefully awaken and inspire people to correct their ways with Tshuva.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most sacred of the Jewish holidays. It is regarded as the "Sabbath of Sabbaths."
On Yom Kippur the Book of Life is closed and sealed. Those that have repented for their sins are granted a good and happy New Year.
Jews may not eat or drink, as fasting is the rule. It is believed that to fast on Yom Kippur is to emulate the angels in heaven, who do not eat, drink, or wash.
more on Yom Kippur...
However, the day before is devoted to eating. According to the the Talmud the person "who eats on the ninth of
Tishri (and fasts on the tenth), it is as good as fasting both on the ninth and tenth." Prayer is also down played so that Jews can concentrate on eating and preparing for the fast.