This Sunday, Sept. 16 at sundown marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, also known in Hebrew as Yamin Noraim or “Days of Awe.”
This is a time when Jews look forward to a new year (the Hebrew calendar’s year begins on the first and second days of the month of Tishri, occurring in either September or October on the Julian calendar). It is also a time of reflection about one’s sins or in more modern terms, how to improve one’s life.
This period includes the holidays Rosh Hashanah (literally “head of the year”) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) within a ten-day period also known as the Ten Days of Repentance.
During the month leading up to the High Holy Days, observant Jews recite prayers during a time of introspection and repentance called Selichot. On Erev Rosh Hashanah (the evening before the first day of Rosh Hashanah) and on the two days of the holiday, Jews attend lengthy synagogue services which include the blowing of the ram’s horn or shofar. There are also day-long services on Yom Kippur, when Jews fast for 24 hours in repentance.
A ceremony performed by many synagogues is Tashlich, the casting off of sins into a body of water. This ritual is performed by several local synagogues at Santa Monica beach. The “sins” are represented symbolically with bread crumbs that the rabbi hands to participants who then fling them into the ocean, often attracting hordes of seagulls.