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The High Holy Days Of Judaism Essay Sample

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The High Holy Days Of Judaism Essay Sample

            The nation of Israel has been regarded as the chosen people of God of whom the first five books of the Holy Bible Old Testament are all about. During the time of Moses, the Israelites have notable experiences with the Lord, especially during the time of the Egyptian slavery. The people of Israel, being the chosen people of God were especially taken care by the Lord during their exile from Egypt to the Promised Land. The High Holy Days of Judaism are in commemoration and in celebration of the different important events in the history of the people of Israel. In this paper, we will understand that these celebrations and feasts are deeply rooted in the spiritual experiences of the Chosen People of God.


            Shabbat is a Hebrew word which means “rest”. (T. Rich) In Judaism, Sabbath falls on Saturday. But the Sabbath starts at sundown of Friday because a day in Judaism is from sunset to sunset. It is observed weekly by the Jews in remembrance of the creation of the world (Exodus 20:11) and their deliverance from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). “Sabbath also highlights their central religious belief that there is one powerful creator God who cares for his people.” (Religiousfacts.com)

            The Jews are prohibited to work of Sabbath. According to the Talmud which was written by the rabbis have 39 established categories of work which include cooking, washing clothes, constructing, repairing, writing, making a fire, cutting and fishing. Leviticus 23:3 states, “…ye shall do no work therein” and on Leviticus 23:7, the Jews were commanded as: “…ye shall do no servile work therein.”

Jews welcome the Sabbath at the sunset of Friday. Before sundown, the woman of each house light at least two candles at the exact time according to the Hebrew calendar. Each home prepares a nice meal and every house is cleaned before the Sabbath day comes. Everyone is even bathed and dressed properly. After the candles have been lighted, every family recites this blessing: “Blessed are you, Eternal One our God, Ruling Presence of the Universe, whom makes us holy with mitzvoth and gives us the mitzvah of kindling the Sabbath lights.” The food prepared during Sabbath is in accordance to the laws of Kosher. After the festive and tasty meal, families sing more songs. The Sabbath Prayer Services are held in every synagogue on Friday night, which is the main prayer service for the Conservative and Reform Jews. On the other hand, Orthodox Jews held the Saturday morning services as the main prayer service. Havdalah (separation) ceremony is held after nightfall of Saturday to end the Sabbath. Blessings of the wine, smelling of fragrant spices, lighting a havdalah candle and the blessing of the havdalah are held during the ceremony which is held either in the synagogue or at every home.


            The Passover is observed by the Jews in remembrance of their deliverance from the hands of the Angels sent by God to kill all the first born males in the land of Egypt. Those who have marked their doorposts with the blood of the lamb were spared from the Tenth Plague. It begins on the 15th of the month of Nisan and ends on the 22nd.

            Work is prohibited on the first two and the last two days of the Passover. A minor fasting is done by all the firstborn a day before the beginning of the Passover (Fast of the Firstborn). During the days of the Passover, all leaven (chametz) is completely removed from all the houses as a symbol of removing the pride and arrogance in their souls.  Leaven includes anything made from wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt. For the Ashkenazic Orthodox Jews, leaven includes rice, corn, peanuts and beans. No leaven is eaten during the Passover; instead the Matzah or Matzo, which is leavened bread, is eaten. All chametz found in the house during the formal inspection is being burned.

The Jews share a ritual meal called the Seder during the first and second nights of the Passover. Seder, which is a Hebrew word for “order” consists of the rituals of hand washing, recited benedictions and explanations. The matzah, bitter herbs, crushed fruits and the four cups of wine are symbolic foods included in the meal. Before the meal, the youngest of the family is assigned to as the traditional four questions, the answers of which are recited by the rest of the family members. The answers are read from the book of the Hagaddah, a book that tells the story of the Exodus solely for the purpose of the Passover.


            Yom Kippur is the most solemn and the most important of the Jewish holidays. It is celebrated on the 10th day of Tishri in accordance with the Laws of Moses in Leviticus 23. It is day of intensive reflection, repentance and fasting, worship and self-denial. The Bible refers to it as the Shabbat Shabbaton or the “Sabbath of Sabbaths” where there is strict compliance to the no work rule. Jews completely abstain from food, drinks (including water) and sex. Orthodox Jews do not wear leather shoes, do wash, no deodorant, lotions and perfumes.

            A prayer in beautiful melody called Kol Nidre is being recited in the eve of Yom Kippur. It is during this time that the Jews consider the best time to ask God for forgiveness only for sins committed against God. Sins committed against other persons are forgiven by the offended ones. The Jews maintain that Yom Kippur only atones when one asks for forgiveness from his neighbor.

            Much time of the Yom Kippur is consumed in the synagogues. Special services are held day and evening where Orthodox Jews wear white, symbolizing the forgiveness of their sins and the purity in the eyes of God. Kittel (white robe used to bury the dead) are also worn by other Jews during the Yom Kippur. The confession of sins by the community is done during the Amida blessing to symbolize the Jews responsibility to each other relative to their sins.  It is concluded the by a service called Neilah, where the ark of the covenant remains open for about an hour and the Jews are asked to stand for the whole service. “Yom Kippur is concluded at nightfall with one last long blast on the shofar.” (Judaism 101)


            Days of Awe occurs in autumn devoted by the Jews for repentance, atonement of sin and introspection. It is observed 10 days from the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah to the end of the Yom Kippur. It is in these days that the Jews believe that God decides on the fate of each person for the next year. Jews greet one another with “L’ shanah tovah” (for a good year) before and during the Days of Awe. Work is generally permitted during these days except during the Sabbath that falls between the Rosh Hashanah and the Yom Kippur.

            One should have noticed that the High Holy Days celebrated by the Jews are all relative to their celebration of their being the chosen people of God.  They all somehow commemorate how the Lord has guided them, provided for them and had blessed them all throughout their history. The said celebrations are important in the sense that it shows how they highly regard the presence of the Lord in their midst. Although there have been slight changes in the modern way of celebrating them, the essence of the Holy Days have been carefully passed from generation to generation.


Falcon, Ted and David Blatner (2001). “Judaism for Dummies”.pp. 207-222

Rich, Tracey. “Judaism 101: Shabbat”. Retrieved on April 12, 2007 from http://www.religionfacts.com/judaism/holidays/shabbat.htm

Telushkin, Joseph (2001). “Jewish Literacy.” pp. 626-629

“Pesach: Passover” Retrieved on April 12, 2007 from http://www.religionfacts.com/judaism/holidays/pesach.htm

The Holy Bible (1987). King James Version.

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