Week 1: Entering Elul
Back to Basics:
Whether you’ve celebrated the High Holy Days for a lifetime, or this is all new to you, this special season only comes around once a year, so we can all probably use a reminder about what we are doing on this sacred yearly journey! Watch this fun video for a quick four-minute refresher!
You are standing at the beginning of your High Holy Day journey. Join us this week in mapping out the road ahead, thinking more deeply about where this special high holy day season finds you this year, and setting a personal intention. (And join us each week with Deep Dives that will help you to build on your reflections throughout this journey!) Click to DOWNLOAD Week 1 Reading.
Week 2: What is Teshuvah? Creating a Personal Inventory
Back to Basics:
Whether you’ve celebrated the High Holy Days for a lifetime, or this is all new to you, this special season only comes around once a year, so we can all probably use a reminder about what we are doing on this sacred yearly journey!
This week, our Back to Basics is a review of a central theme of the High Holy Days: teshuvah. This Hebrew word is often translated as “repentence” and has an even deeper meaning in the English word, “return.” In our personal practice this time of year, we take inventory of where we have “missed the mark,” and how we can “return” back to our best selves. We consider how we may have wronged or “gotten it wrong” in three categories: other people, God, ourselves. Many people make a list, and embark on the hard work of making amends. Continue reading into this week’s Deep Dive, below, to create your personal inventory, and more.
Recommendation for further reading: Rosh HaShanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit, by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf. This book offers an accessible overview of the High Holy Days; and includes inspiration, practice pointers, and wisdom for a lasting teshuvah practice. You can order it on Amazon HERE; or contact Chaucher’s Books (to support our local independent bookstore).
You are standing in the second week of your High Holy Day journey. On Monday, we learned about creating “Tools for Teshuvah,” based on wisdom gleaned from the 12-step tradition. Click here to view a copy of the “Tools for Teshuvah” presentation + Week 2 Personal Inventory lesson and worksheets.
BONUS Reading and Listening!
Week 3: What is Tefillah? Reviewing Our Inventory
Back to Basics:
Before we turn to the special forms of prayer we encounter during the High Holy Days, need a quick refresher on basic Jewish Prayer? Watch this fun 3-minute video from Bim Bam!
After that, take a look at the complicated and beautiful liturgy we used for these special Days of Awe. Peek at the High Holy Day machzor (prayer book) we use at CBB, which you can access online on the CBB High Holy Day page (scroll down to “HHD Prayer Book Information” and click “open flip book”).
During Elul, it is also tradition to add Psalm 27 into our prayers. If you are so moved, read and meditate on its meanings for your life right now (or watch Jerusalem-based music group Nava Tehila sing it!) Learn more about why we read Psalm 27 during Elul in this article at myjewishlearning.com.
Want even more? Join us for a Deep Dive, below!
High Holy Day journey, week three! Explore seven perspectives on prayer, then apply what this learning to your Personal Inventory you created (and still can create!) last week… Click to DOWNLOAD Week 3 Reading.
Also… The Women of the High Holy Days!
- Do you know that our modern style of personal prayer was originated by the Prophet Hannah? We read her story every year on Rosh HaShanah, in fact, so get a head start now! Read this study guide by Monica Steiner for the original text, plus commentary ancient to modern, reflections, and questions to connect with the core concept of Jewish prayer.
- Have you HEARD? As we listen to the shofar each day leading up to the Days of Awe, explore The Power of Listening with Dr. Judy Karin, through the story of Hagar, Sarah and Abraham (also read each year in High Holy Day Services). Click to DOWNLOAD the lesson.
Week 4: What is Tzedakah?
Welcome to Week 4! In our High Holy Day Machzor (prayerbook), we read Teshuvah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah — these three things lift up our lives. In Week 2, we explored possibilities for Teshuvah, a return to our better selves. Last week, we considered Tefillah, prayer. And this week, we turn to Tzedakah, justice through charitable acts.
Back to Basics:
Watch this fun video for a two minute for a basic explanation of tzedakah. Interested in connecting these concepts more deeply to your preparation for this year’s High Holy Days? Read on into the Deep Dive, below…
Inspired to give tzedakah? Partner with CBB through a donation of any size, which helps the most vulnerable in our community during Covid-19, or choose another organization that helps people first-hand. For example, Kiva.org lets you give micro-loans, one option that ranks high on the ladder of tzedakah scale!
You’ll see that the video in Back to Basics, above, mentions a “ladder of tzedakah”, and it’s worth reading this article, to understand how Maimonides (who created this ladder concept) ranked various ways of “strengthening the hand of the poor” in our midst.
Do you give (or have you given) tzedakah? Reflect on which level(s) you engage in, and why. Is there a “higher” form of tzedakah you can consider engaging in for this week and the year ahead? … And remember, it’s not (only) how much you give, but that you give at all. The Sages say every coin adds up to make a great amount.
In addition to giving tzedakah, review your personal practice progress from Weeks 1, 2, and 3. What was your personal practice intention, how did you outline your personal inventory for teshuvah, and what notes have you made from your prayer practice? Reflect on where you started and where you are now just three weeks later. Specifically,
- what has worked? Perhaps some of your amends process felt hard or frustrating, but bore the fruit of greater self-awareness or forgiveness. What have you learned and what do you want to continue?
- what has not worked? What has been unproductive, or did you abandoned before you had a chance to see results?
Transformation is a dynamic process, so this week create an update to your practice intentions and plan for the next four weeks of this personal practice journey.
It might help to think about: What amends are left to address? (Review Week 2, if needed.) What issues with others have you either not yet broached, or have addressed with unsatisfactory results? What are your options, and how will you proceed at this point?
Circle back to the lessons from prior weeks and apply them to new developments in your journey. Join in our Interactive Zoom sessions (below). Most important: Keep going!
Week 5: Selichot – Our Deepest Intentions
Back to Basics:
Here’s another moment on the Road to the High Holy Days when some review might be in order: what is Selichot? Watch Rabbi Debi Lewis’ one-minute video, below. Then take an amazing Selichot tour of Jerusalem!
We encounter Selichot as an opportunity for going deep, finding the pieces of ourselves, our lives, and our relationships that are crying to us — to God. The pieces that need forgiveness and healing.
This week, we review the personal progress we’ve made during the last four weeks on this High Holy Day road. And we do so by fast-forwarding a bit in our imaginations to think about how we might feel in the last minutes of Yom Kippur, facing the Heavenly decree. What is our deepest brokenness, deepest need? If we faced Yom Kippur right now, what is our still-unfinished business?
And now we come back into this moment with several weeks of time still to go. (Whew! Thank goodness!) We still have time to do the work that is so hard to do in preparation for the Days of Awe. And we ask ourselves: what is our deepest intention for the next stretch of this road? Write down your thoughts and plans for the next few weeks… and continue your practice!
Week 6: Rosh HaShanah
Back to Basics:
Need a refresher? Watch Rabbi Debi Lewis’ one minute video below, “Rosh Hashanah: What is it?” We welcome Rosh HaShanah this coming Friday evening. Get your apples and honey, round challah, and join us for an unprecedented holiday online!
All services will be online this year. View our complete list of our High Holy Day online services, and view the CBB calendar to tune & kick off the season celebrating Erev Rosh HaShanah (note: this is NOT the same link for regular Friday night Shabbat services).
Ready to dive in? In the CBB Voices Blog, Susan Rakov offers a reflection on how we can physically prepare our living space to celebrate this year’s High Holy Days at home. Tailor her ideas to your own space and preferences, and join the conversation on the CBB Facebook Page to share your ideas and get more from our community!
Also, do you 10Q? If you haven’t yet, sign up for this fun and interesting time capsule project. 10Q emails you a question a day for 10 days (during the period between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur). Afterwards, you send your answers to the secure online vault. One year later, during next year’s High Holy Days, your answers are unlocked and returned to you and the process begins anew. A great way to memorialize your experience during the Days of Awe, and compare your own growth from year to year. This year’s 10Q will include special question prompts that address your experience and thoughts about the Covid-19 pandemic.
Week 7: The Days of Awe
Back to Basics:
Traditionally believed to be the last days to make one’s case to God so that we are inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year, the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are the most intense period of the High Holy Day season. Read into the Deep Dive more more!
One of the most striking differences between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur revolves around attention to detail. On Rosh HaShanah we grapple with life’s ultimate issues: Who am I? Where do I want my life to go and what is the legacy I hope to leave? Yom Kippur, on the other hand, is a day on which attention to detail reigns supreme.
Every day we are confronted with tens if not hundreds of little choices. Little, but not so little. Choices that can have either a positive or negative impact on ourselves or someone else. People, like God, have the capacity to choose. We are beings who choose. On Rosh HaShanah we confront the major issues. On Yom Kippur we dwell on the minutiae. Yom Kippur is an affirmation of the value of life, of each day and of every aspect of each day. That which we truly cherish is that which we carefully scrutinize. The more significant the whole, the more precious the details. (Shimon Apisdorf, “The Rosh HaSHanah Yom Kippur Survival Guide,” excerpts from chapter 17.)
In this week between Rosh HaShanah, review your personal practice for the last 6 weeks. How do the details and big picture connect? What has improved in your life and what remains unfinished business?
Week 8: Yom Kippur
Back to Basics:
Whether you’ve celebrated the High Holy Days for a lifetime or this is all new to you, now is a great time to review the specifics of Yom Kippur:
At the conclusion of our High Holy Day journey, we look forward into a new year. What will we do to carry our soul-work forward? Following the themes of the season, consider how you might bring teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah into the year ahead: