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What are the Ten Days of Teshuvah (repentance)?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein and Mrs. Dinka Kumer

  

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The great Jewish philosopher and codifier of Jewish law, Maimonidies, writes: "although it is always an appropriate time for Teshuvah (remorse, repentance, and return); the ten days from [the onset of] Rosh Hashanah until [the conclusion of] Yom Kippur are exceptionally fitting for this, and Teshuvah during that time is accepted immediately".1

Maimonidies learned this secret from the sages of the Talmud who discovered it hidden in a recorded prophecy of Isaiah.

The prophet says2 "Seek out G-d while he may be found". Surely G-d is always present, but (as we know from experience) He is not always easily found.

Our sages tell us3 the prophet is referring to the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. At that time G-d "may be [more easily] found". During this time the prayer of an individual is as powerful as the prayer of a community. Can you imagine the power of communal prayers during this period!

It is no coincidence that there are precisely seven days of repentance in between the High Holy Days4, since these days stand for the seven-day weeks of the entire year.

The Sunday of the Days of Teshuvah stands for all Sundays of the past year and the new year to come. In regards to the year gone by, we focus on regretting our misdeeds on all the Sundays. For the new year, we resolve that all future Sundays will reflect our renewed clarity and strength to do right. This past-future repentance applies to all the seven days, which correspond to all the days of the year.

During the Ten Days of Repentance, a person strives to reach an exalted level of repentance that spiritually supra-cedes any and all sins (in addition to the level that repairs sins). At that exalted level, sin is irrelevant, and repentance is all about drawing that much closer to G-d.

See also "What are the rules for the Ten Days of Repentance?"

Footnotes

  • 1. Maimonidies Laws of Teshuvah 2:6
  • 2. Isaiah 55:6
  • 3. Talmud Tractate Rosh Hashahah 18a
  • 4. Rosh Hashanah is two days, and Yom Kippur is one day. This leaves us with seven non-holiday days of Teshuvah.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Holidays » Yom Kippur » Repentance

Teshuvah
Repentance. Or, more literally, "return" to G-d. Teshuvah involves regretting the past and making a firm resolution not to repeat the offense.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Isaiah
1. One of the greatest prophets, lived in the 7th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Isaiah. The book is filled with prophecies concerning the Messianic redemption.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.