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Ten Days of Repentance - Teshuvah (Review of Books)

Ten Days of Repentance - Teshuvah (Review of Books)

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The Ten Most Intense Days of the Year Days of Awe Edited by S.Y. Agnon (Schocken, 1948) Entering the High Holy Days By Reuven Hammer (JPS, 1998) As you read this, we are in a significant time of transition in the Jewish world. The days linking Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are very intense, causing us to look deep within and to perform an accounting of our soul. These ten days are known as the Days of Awe.
The Ten Most Intense Days of the Year Days of Awe Edited by S.Y. Agnon (Schocken, 1948) Entering the High Holy Days By Reuven Hammer (JPS, 1998) As you read this, we are in a significant time of transition in the Jewish world. The days linking Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are very intense, causing us to look deep within and to perform an accounting of our soul. These ten days are known as the Days of Awe.

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Published by: Rabbi Jason A. Miller on Aug 30, 2010
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Congregation Agudath Israel -
The Voice
October 2003Book ReviewReviewed by: Jason A. Miller, Rabbinic InternThe Ten Most Intense Days of the Year
 Days of Awe
Edited by S.Y. Agnon (Schocken, 1948)
 Entering the High Holy Days
By Reuven Hammer (JPS, 1998)As you read this, we are in a significant time of transition in the Jewish world. The dayslinking Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are very intense, causing us to look deep within and to perform an accounting of our soul. These ten days are known as the “
 Aseret Y’mei Teshuva
,” theten days of repentance. During these days, we continue reciting the
 selichot 
(penitential) prayers, as we devote our thoughts and actions on repentance. In the month leading up to thisholiday season, we try to set the tone for reflection and self-introspection. During these ten days,the stakes are raised as we come closer to the metaphorical image of the closing of the gates of repentance – a time when we must seek forgiveness from God and from our fellow humans.There are several good resources to help us delve into the meaning of these days, and tomake us feel the sense of awe that permeates our souls during this time. Agnon’s
 Days of Awe
,while written half a century ago, has certainly not lost its value. In his chapter on “The DaysBetween,” Agnon cites several midrashim showing the importance of these ten days.Commenting on the verse from Isaiah, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found,” Rabbah bar Abuha says: “‘He may be found’ during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.”Indeed, we feel closer to God during this week and a half. While we return to work and toschool in the interim, we have not forgotten our lofty mission during this break from holy day
 
2 prayers in synagogue. Agnon draws on wisdom from the Torah, rabbinic sources, the liturgy,and Jewish codes of law for reflection, repentance, and renewal. His book is divided into threesub-books – Rosh Hashanah, The Days Between, and Yom Kippur. In the newer printings of 
 Days of Awe
, a new foreword is included by Rabbi Arthur Green, the well-known modernmystic. Agnon’s work is a masterpiece and should be read a little at a time beginning in themonth preceding Rosh Hashanah.The
tefillot 
(prayers) of the High Holy Days are our greatest entrée into the power andspirituality of this time of year. However, for many of us, the prayers are confusing and themachzor (prayerbook) a challenge to follow. Rabbi Reuven Hammer, the current president of the Rabbinical Assembly, has assembled an easy to use guide to help us attain a deeper understanding of the origins of the prayers, the meaning behind the piyyutim (poems), and thespirituality hidden within the themes of the High Holy Days.About the Ten Days of Repentance, Hammer writes that the name of this time appears insources from the Land of Israel, including the Jerusalem Talmud. The concept of these days as aspecial unit of time in the Jewish year dates at least to the third century B.C.E. He explains theseten days as an opportunity for change. Metaphorically speaking, “Rosh Hashanah functions, for the majority of people, as the opening of a trial that extends until Yom Kippur… The Ten Daysof Penitence are crucial to the outcome of the trial, since our verdict is determined both by our attitude toward our misdeeds and by our attempts to rectify them by changing ourselves.” Muchof Hammer’s book is devoted to the liturgy of the Days of Awe, making it a suitable book to bring with you to services. If the mahzor is the passageway to the majesty and wonder of theHigh Holy Days, then Hammer’s book is the key to unlocking the door to this passageway.

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