Tishrei is the first month of the Jewish year, which follows a lunar cycle. This month follows the last month, Elul, during which a special psalm is read twice daily and the shofar is blown daily to remind Jews to reflect on their behavior during the past year and to ask people for their forgiveness in preparation for the period of repentance that begins on the first day of Tishrei. The first two holidays are collectively known as the High Holy Days, and the first ten days of Tishrei are known as The Days of Awe or Ten Days of Repentance.
Rosh Hashanah — The Jewish New Year — The Jewish New Year begins with Rosh Hashanah, which falls on the first day of Tishrei in the Jewish calendar. It begins a ten day period of repentance and prayer which ends on Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah marks the anniversary of the birthday of the world. It is the day people are judged for their actions during the past year.
Check out the Rosh Hashanah Activity Book from One Happy Camper. You may also enjoy two music videos about the holiday: Dip Your Apple by Fountainheads and Book of Good Life by Maccabeats. Two other videos that deal with the message of the holiday are Pause Before You Post and I Forgive You.
Yom Kippur — The Day of Atonement — Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is spent in prayer, meditation, and fasting in order to start the new year with a clear conscience. A central concept for the ten days culminating in Yom Kippur is T’shuvah, an active process of returning to the ways of God.
Click here to see a video of Barbra Streisand singing the prayer, Avinu Malkeinu.
Sukkot — The Feast of Tabernacles — Sukkot recalls the journey of the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land when they lived in a temporary booth called a Sukkah. The harvest season is symbolized by the lulav (palm branch), etrog (citron), the myrtle, and willow, which are used together during the synagogue service.
Adults, teens and older children will enjoy an animated music video about Sukkot and the Book of Ecclesiastes. For young children, Sesame Street/Shalom Sesame videos are always entertaining and educational.
Shemini Atzeret — 8th Day of Assembly — This holiday occurs on the eighth day of Sukkot and is considered a holiday in itself. It is a solemn day with special prayers for rain (geshem). This is the beginning of the season which determines the fertility of land in the year to come.
Simchat Torah — Rejoicing in the Torah — Simchat Torah is the second day of Shemini Atzeret and emphasizes the continuity of Jewish learning. Throughout the year, passages of the Torah are read aloud in the synagogue. On Simchat Torah, the reading is completed (with the last two chapters of Deuteronomy), then immediately begun again (with Genesis). This symbolizes the fact that study of the Torah has no beginning and no end. Children join adults in a series of seven processions (Hakafot) around the synagogue.
In Israel, Simhat Torah is celebrated the same day as Shemini Atzeret. However, once the holiday is over, Israelis take to the streets to continue the celebration.