|Repentance in Judaism Teshuva
Repentance, atonement and
higher ascent in Judaism
|In the Hebrew Bible
|In the Jewish calendar
|In contemporary Judaism
In Judaism, the Ten Days of Repentance (עֲשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה, ʿǍseret yəmēy təšūvā) are the first ten days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, beginning with the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah and ending with the conclusion of Yom Kippur. These days usually fall in September and/or early October.
Due to the proximity to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, in this period Jews focus on repenting for their sins and seeking out closeness with God.
The term "Ten Days of Repentance" appears in such early sources as the Jerusalem Talmud, the Pesikta Rabbati, and the writings of the Geonim, and has been the predominant title since the period of the Rishonim. The Babylonian Talmud uses a different expression - "the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom HaKippurim" - while among Geonim we also find "the ten days from the beginning of Tishrei to Yom HaKippurim," "the first ten days of the month of Tishrei," and "(the time) between Rosh HaShanah and Yom HaKippurim."
See also: Repentance in Judaism
During this time it is considered appropriate for Jews to practice repentance (Hebrew: teshuvah, literally: "returning"), meaning examining one's ways, engaging in repentance and improving one's ways in anticipation of Yom Kippur. This repentance may be expressed as early morning penitentiary prayers (known as selichot), giving of charity, acts of kindness, self-reflection, or extra zehirut (spiritual vigilance).
The period is described as a special one in the Talmud:
Maimonides provides a fuller description:
According to Nahmanides, "on Rosh Hashana He [God] sits on the throne as a true judge, and afterwards in the Ten Days of Repentance He pardons the crime of His servants".
The first two days of the Ten Days of Repentance are Rosh Hashanah.
The third day is Fast of Gedalia (except when Rosh Hashanah occurs on Thursday and Friday, in which case the Fast of Gedalia is postponed until Sunday).
Of the seven days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, one is always Shabbat. This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shuvah ("Sabbath [of] Return"), based on the Haftarah read after the weekly Torah portion, which starts with the word "Shuva" literally meaning "Return!", thus playing into the theme of the Ten Days. Alternatively it is known as Shabbat Teshuvah, due to the same theme.
The tenth and last day is Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur together constitute the High Holy Days.
The Unetanneh Tokef prayer, recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, declares that "Repentance, Prayer and Charity remove the evil decree." In many editions of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur machzor (holiday prayer book), these words are crowned in smaller type with the words [respectively] fast, voice, money to suggest that repentance includes fasting, prayer recited in a loud voice, and donations to charity. As fasting cannot be done on Rosh Hashanah, and money cannot be handled on either of the holidays, these practices are often performed during the Ten Days of Repentance, between the holidays.
A number of changes are made to the daily prayers in this period (besides the additional changes made on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur):
There is an old custom to fast all weekdays of the Ten Days of Repentance (except for the eve of Yom Kippur when fasting is forbidden) and there were those who had the custom to fast during the day on Rosh Hashanah. Nevertheless, the common custom today is to fast only on Fast of Gedalia (from dawn to dusk) and for the full day of Yom Kippur.
During these days some are stricter and eat only baked goods produced with a Jew involved in the baking process (a practice known as Pat Yisrael), even though during the year they eat any baked goods made from kosher ingredients (known as pat paltar). If while traveling it is not possible to obtain Pat Yisrael, then being stricter is not a requirement.
There are conflicting customs whether weddings should be held during the weekdays of the Ten Days: some Orthodox Jews avoid holding weddings during this more serious period, while other Orthodox Jews as well as non-Orthodox Jews may do so.
Some Jews and communities perform the Kapparot custom, typically on the day before Yom Kippur.