Friday, October 7, 2011

Days of Awe

The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur  are known as the  Days of Awe(Yamin Noraim) or the Days of Repentance. This is a time for serious inward reflection , a consideration of the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kipppur.

  One of the ongoing themes of the Days of Awe is the idea  that G_d (A way of avoiding writing the name G_d so to avoid the risk of the sin of erasing or defacing the name), has "books" that He writes our names in, writing down who will live and who will die, who will have a good life and who will have a bad life, for the rest of the year. The books are written in on Rosh Hashanah, but our actions during the Days of Awe can alter G_d's decree. The actions that change the decree are "teshuvah, (repentance) tefilah (prayer) and tzedakah (charity). These "books" are sealed on Yom Kippur. This idea of writing in the "books" is the source of the common greeting "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year".

 Among the customs of this time, is seeking reconciliation with people you have wronged during the previous year. The Talmund maintains that Yom Kippur atones only for the sins between man and G_d.  To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek a reconciliation with the person and if possible, right the wrongs you have committed against the other person.

  Now another observed,but rarely practiced, custom is the observance of kapport. Basically, you buy a live chicken or another kind of fowl, and on the morning before Yom Kippur you wave it over your head reciting a prayer asking that the fowl be considered an atonement for your sins. The bird is then slaughtered and given to the poor ( or its value is given to the poor). Today, some Jews substitute a bag of money in place of the bird. This tradition is observed in its true form by Hasidic and occasionally Orthodox Jews. But most reform and Conservative Jews have never heard of this custom.

Work is allowed as usual during the intermediate Days of Awe, from Tishiri (1st month of the year)3 to Tishiri 9, except of course Shabbat (Sabbath) during the week.

 Two lesser special occasions take place during the days of Awe :

 Tishiri3, the day after the second dayof Rosh Hashanah is the Fast of Gedaliah . This commemorates the killing of the Jewish governor of Judah, a critical event in the time of the downfall of the first commonwealth.

 The Shabbat that occurs in this time frame is known as Shabbat Shuvah (the Sabbath of Return). This is considered to be an important Shabbat.


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