A Yamim Noraim Primer by Rabb Avi Baumol
An Introduction to the Concepts and Prayers of the Holiest Days in the Jewish Year
The Yamim Noraim (high holy days) are the most intense Synagogue holidays of the year . Many new prayers are recited and new practices never before seen in the typical synagogue experience. Even the most experienced ‘shul-goers’ sometimes are overwhelmed, not truly understanding the specific prayer or struggling with the philosophical foundations of the days themselves. Some questions might be: Are we supposed to be happy or frightened on Rosh Hashana? Is Rosh Hashana about a day of judgment? The birthday of the world? The beginning of the Jewish year? How are we to understand some of the customs surrounding the lead up to Rosh Hashana? What are the ways to prepare ourselves for the ‘day of judgment’? What unique prayers should I be mindful of during the high holidays? And what about Yom Kippur, why does that day even exist? Why is there an additional prayer on this day? What are piyyutim and how do they play a role in the synagogue service?Due to the myriad of questions relating to the holiday in general and the prayers in particular I have written a primer on the topics of Rosh Hashana, the ten days of repentance and Yom Kippur. I hope this can provide insight and perhaps inspiration to take on the high holidays and see them for what they are—a chance for return and rejuvenation.
Year first published: 2020