High Holidays | Reconstructing Judaism

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High Holidays

Jewish Time

The Hebrew name given to the holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is Yamim Nora’im, the Days of Awe. At the heart of our preparations for the Days of Awe is the concept of change and transformation. Jewish tradition understands that human beings are not perfect. We make mistakes that affect others as well as ourselves, but these errors of judgment, omission and commission need not remain with us forever. On Rosh Hashana, we celebrate life and the possibility of new beginnings. We affirm the freedom and responsibility we have to conduct our lives with decency and morality. On Yom Kippur, we focus on the mistakes we make when we fail to exercise our freedom with responsibility. We seek atonement and forgiveness for our mistakes, and we experience the fragility of life. We realize that we want to make a meaningful difference by the way we live our lives while we still can.1

  • 1. Adapted from A Guide to Jewish Practice, Volume 2—Shabbat and Holidays
Rabbi Deborah Waxman

Video Greeting for Rosh Hashanah

In this Rosh Hashanah video message, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., president of Reconstructing Judaism, explores the ways in which remembering the past is crucial to moving forward into a sweet New Year. 

Seedling sprouting through crack in the stone
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Hashivenu: A Podcast on Resilience

The deep themes of the High Holiday season drive us to make sense of what's truly important, and sustain us as we strive to recapture those ideals We speak with Rabbi David Teutsch and Rabbi Deborah Waxman about the meaning they find in these holidays.

From the Archives: Hashivenu on Teshuvah

As the High Holidays approach, we invite you to revisit our conversation with Rabbi Vivie Mayer on "Teshuvah and Forgiveness."

Seedling sprouting through crack in the stone
Seedling sprouting through crack in the stone
Shofar surrounded by hand-drawn pomegranates and apples

Embracing the Stranger—Within and Without

We invite you to explore our creative showcase on embracing the stranger, created for the new year of 5778.

Yom Kippur Resources

For Yom Kippur this year, we've selected some reflections on sin, forgiveness, and transformation, with the hope that you can draw upon them for insight and motivation.

High Holiday Resources

God in Metaphor: A Guide for the Perplexed

Rabbi Toba Spitzer explores the obstacles to prayer posed by stale language about God, and suggests new language that may ease our way in finding connection.

Article
News and Blogs

Rosh Hashanah Message: In Order to Move Forward, We Must Look Back

In this Rosh Hashanah video message, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, president of Reconstructing Judaism, explores the ways in which remembering the past is crucial to moving forward into a sweet New Year. 

News

High Holiday Message from Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D.

At Rosh Hashanah, as we turn to new beginnings, we seek to repent—to do teshuvah—for what we have done wrong. And we can also affirmatively foster ourselves toward resilience—toward a thriving, loving outlook in spite of whatever challenges we encounter in life. In this video, I explore themes of resilience embedded into Jewish practice.

Video

Human, Why Do You Sleep?

Examination of Rabbi Kelilah Miller’s papercut, “Human, Why Do You Sleep?”

Article

What Are You Asking For? A Meditation on Psalm 27

A guided meditation on Psalm 27

Article

Yom Kippur at Lincoln Memorial

Kavvanah written for Yom Kippur services at the Lincoln Memorial, 2015. 

Article

The Shofar and the Tears of Our Mothers

Kavvanah for shofar blowing on the High Holidays

Article

Hagar the Stranger

To love the stranger represents an outrageous leap out of the typical moral economy, in which we do kindnesses and expect to be repaid in kind. In loving the stranger, we transcend self-interest.

Sermon

Addressing Race as a Jewish Community

As a time to take responsibility for communal wrongs, Yom Kippur calls us to learn about and grapple with issues of race in America.

Sermon

Hagar: The Immigrant Worker

This provocative Rosh Hashanah sermon draws parallels between Hagar, Sarah’s mistreated servant, and today’s immigrant workers.

Sermon

For The Sake Of The World

Rabbi Toba Spitzer grapples wtih the traditional notion of Jewish chosenness, arguing that our Torah is integral to the maintenance and perfection of this world—even as we acknowledge that other people’s teachings, other people’s truths, are also a path to redemption. It matters that  Judaism survives—not just for our own sake, but because it’s good for the world, and because we have unique work to do.

Sermon

What is Sin? A Text Study

Study sheet on the different interpretations of “sin” throughout Jewish history.

Document

Nitzavim and Teshuvah

Study sheet on the relationship between Parashat Nitzavim and themes of teshuvah.

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Gates, Locked and Unlocked: A Yom Kippur Text Study

This text study examines the vivid image of gates closing at the end of Yom Kippur.

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Teshuvah and Compassion

This study sheet on teshuvah and compassion draws our attention to the interplay between our ability to forgive others, and God's ability to forgive us. 

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