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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. The Guide may be ordered from the Reconstructionist Press.

A High Holiday Message

A High Holiday message from Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., president of Reconstructing Judaism

Rabbi Deborah Waxman standing in front of a bookcase, addressing the viewer
Rabbi Deborah Waxman standing in front of a bookcase, addressing the viewer
Seedling sprouting through crack in the stone
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Hashivenu: A Podcast on Resilience

We speak with Rabbi Barbara Penzner on the power of the High Holidays to help us find discernment and renewal.

From the Archives: Hashivenu on Teshuvah

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

Seedling sprouting through crack in the stone
Seedling sprouting through crack in the stone
Women wrapped in tallit on beach as sun goes down

Tashlikh Reconstructed

This video produced by Meir Mehmet, a member of Kehillat Israel in California, sheds new light on a High Holiday tradition, and demonstrates what it means to reconstruct Judaism for our time.

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 in the new year. 

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

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.


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. 


Of Kings, Messages, Journeys: Parables of Teshuvah

This study sheet contains two parables of the King and the returning son by the Baal Shem Tov, as well one of Kafka's parables, “The Imperial Messenger,” which has some intriguing echoes of and stark contrasts with the first two stories.


Teshuvah: A Reconstructionist Perspective

A study sheet on the evolving concept of teshuvah over the ages.


Text Study on Nitzvavim: Turning in Teshuvah

A text study on Parshat Nitzavim on teshuvah, featuring teachings from Itturei Torah and Rabbi Sandy Roth (of blessed memory).


Light and Darkness

In this video, Rabbi Deborah Waxman offers a High Holiday message of hope in spite of the problems confronting the world and the personal travails we all face.


Being Part of the Universe

In these excerpts from the diaries of Mordecai Kaplan, the message of Rosh Hashanah is reframed as one of radical responsibility to a higher calling.


Can a Reconstructionist Sin?

Since Reconstructionist Judaism affirms a conception of God as a force, power or process — but not as a supernatural Being who can be addressed and can respond — what happens to the notion of sin? Rabbi Richard Hirsh argues that Reconstructionist theology makes it more, not less, important that we take on the responsibility for judgment, atonement, apology and repentance


How to Make Yom Kippur Meaningful for Our Children

Yom Kippur is probably the most challenging holiday to explain meaningfully on a child's level. Rabbi Devorah Bartnoff, z”l, offers goals and techniques for teaching and experiencing Yom Kippur. 


Finding Forgiveness

A perspective on forgiveness as a spiritual practice as well as a moral act


Fall Holiday Glossary

This file contains a helpful glossary of terms for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. It begins with a letter to parents suggesting themes to think about during the holiday season.


High Holiday Liturgy

Rabbi Alan LaPayover (RRC ‘02), recorded the prayers of the Reconstructionist liturgy for the High Holiday services. The sound files are available for listening and download from links on this page.


Rabbi Fredi's Challah

Rabbi Fredi Cooper's challah recipe


The Quiet Themes Come to Life

Elsie Stern looks back on the fall Jewish holidays, and ahead to a year of productive conversations at RRC.