Days of Awe (Source)

One Jewish tradition that speaks to me strongly is the tradition of the “Days of Awe” just before the Jewish New Year. For one thing, it has a really cool name. Days of Awe. It kinda makes you stop.

Second, it has a lot of symbolism, but for this I need to explain a little background:
Yom Kippur is the “Day of Atonement“. Ten days before Yom Kippur is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
According to Jewish tradition, it is during the Days of Awe (The ten days between Rosh Hashanah) that God finalizes each person’s fate in the next year. He inscribes these decisions in a book on Rosh Hashanah, but they can be changed until the end of Yom Kippur, when the books are sealed.

These ten days beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur are known as the Days of Awe or Yamim Noraim. They are also known as the “Days of Repentence.”

Typically, it is a time for searching oneself, considering wrong doings of the previous year, and repentence for sins that year. The idea is that during the Days of Awe, our actions and prayers and repentence can move the hand of God and, literally, change his decree for our lives in the coming year. There are generally three things that can change God’s mind about your fate in that year: repentance, prayer, and good deeds or charity.

A greeting of “L’shanah tovah” is exchanged between members of the Jewish faith during this time, which is a shortened version of a phrase that means basically: “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”

Although Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – reconciles sins between man and God, the Talmud emphasizes that it is important during the Days of Awe to seek forgiveness and make right relationships between yourself and other people.

I think this yearly taking stock of your actions, purposefully recommiting yourself to healthy and right relationships with people and with God, and giving yourself in charity and good deeds is something all of us could learn from, Jewish or not! I’m looking forward to observing the Days of Awe myself this year.

I’m not sure where the “Awe” came from in the Days of Awe, but to me, it speaks loudly to the ability of man to change his own destiny. By action, to create a different path. By seeking, to find God in prayer. By asking, to gain repentence and healing in broken relationships.

It is worthy of awe: the idea that we can write our destiny; that we have the ability to not only reach God in prayer, but to actually move His hand; that we have the ability to heal and create. Awe inspiring indeed.


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