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Rosh Hashanah

Home > Holidays > Rosh Hashanah's Guide to Rosh Hashanah
The Month of Elul
Ten Days of Repentance

Rosh Hashanah: Ten Days of Repentance

Like the old saying goes, better late than never. Jews have a period of ten days for a crash course in repentance; the Asseret Yemai Teshuvah, or the ten days of repentance, as they're known, begin on Rosh Hashanah and end on Yom Kippur.

During the ten days of repentance, God is judging everyone from the highest rabbi to the lowest congregant; in order to guarantee God's mercy, Jewish people pray, give charity, and try to improve their actions-speaking less gossip, being more considerate of others.

This time is also used to ask family and friends forgiveness for any transgressions committed and also forgive those who ask our forgiveness. Just as only God can forgive the sins committed against God, sins committed against a person can be forgiven only by that person.

The ten days of repentance include two special days. The first is the Fast of Gedalia, a fast day named for Gedalia Ben Achikam, a governor of Judea who was murdered in 6th century BCE by misguided citizens. Like all fast days, the day is aimed at arousing people to repent and improve their actions.

The second noteworthy day is the Shabbat that falls during the ten-day period, Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of repentance. Rabbis recite special sermons on this Shabbat, urging their congregants toward repentance. Years ago, this Shabbat was one of two that rabbis/speakers would give a sermon, showing what they had learned the previous six months. (Now, apparently, they're much more learned.)

Selichot, the special prayers that began the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah, continue to be recited during the ten days of repentance.

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