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What are the rules for the Ten Days of Repentance?

by Mrs. Dinka Kumer

  

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The Ten Days of Repentance begin with the two days of Rosh Hashanah and conclude on Yom Kippur. Obviously, the High Holy Days have rules all their own, so let's talk about the seven remaining days in between.

What to do:

During these seven days of repentance, we want to be at our spiritual best, so G-d will deal with us kindly and seal us for a good new year on Yom Kippur. One should increase in Torah study and performance of mitzvahs, even being stricter than usual. He or she should increase in giving charity. It is recommended to work only the minimum required during the Week of Repentance in order to have more time for these holy activities. Certainly, a person should seek to mend his or her interpersonal relationships (even with your mother-in-law…). 

Repentance is a combination of pain and joy; pain due to the sin, and joy due to the return to G-d.
In the Amidah prayers during the Ten Days of Repentance, certain words are added or altered in a number of the verses, which are clearly marked in siddurs and machzors. Also, during these days, the long 'Avinu Malkeinu' is recited during the Tachanun prayer. It is customary in many communities (specifically Sephardic communities) to recite Selichot during this week.

It is customary not to marry during the Days of Repentance.

The Shabbat that falls during the Ten Days of Repentance is called both "Shabbat Shuvah" and/or "Shabbat Teshuvah".1 Before Shabbat commences, many light a 24-hour candle (commonly used for a yahrtzeit) which is called a "Teshuvah light".

What to know about repentance:

The Jewish act of repentance—as seen in the Hebrew word 'Teshuvah', meaning 'return'—denotes a return to one's true Source in G-d, and his or her true being as a Jewish person.

It is more important to repent for a sin in doubt than a sin one surely did, since a person tends to be more remorseful for the latter than the former.

Repentance is a combination of pain and joy—pain due to the sin, and joy due to the return to G-d. It includes bitter regret over past wrong doings and a happy resolve for the future.

True repentance can totally transform sins of the past, into actual good merits.

Sins are the cause of our prolonged exile. Therefore, once we repent, the exile will automatically vanish, and the era of the redemption will commence. May it be now!

Footnotes

  • 1. The Haftorah read on this Shabbat begins with the words "Shuvah Yisrael" ("Return O Israel"). Shabbat is also the appropriate time to take the repentance of the Ten Days of Penitence to an entirely higher level -- a repentance characterized by joy. See Tanya, volume three ch. 9-10.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Repentance
Holidays » Yom Kippur » Repentance

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Teshuvah
Repentance. Or, more literally, "return" to G-d. Teshuvah involves regretting the past and making a firm resolution not to repeat the offense.
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.
Tachanun
Sections of the prayers involving confession and asking for forgiveness. Tachanun is omitted from the prayers on the festive days of the Jewish calendar.
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.
Amidah
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
Sephardic
(adj.) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
Selichot
Penintential prayers recited before the High Holidays and on Jewish fast days.
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.
yahrtzeit
The (Jewish calendar) anniversary of a person's death.