Yamim Noraim, or the Days of Repentance are the days between Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). It is traditionally a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent and seek reconciliation before the Almighty, as well as from those whom you have sinned against in the last year. The Talmud suggests that Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and G-d; to atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible.
In keeping with the famous erev Yom Kippur synagogue service called Kol Nidrei ("all the vows"), the Days of Repentance (or more commonly known as the Days of Awe) is a time of taking inventory of all vows and promises we have made, and to seek forgiveness for any that have been broken or dishonored, either purposely or accidentally.
Three central themes are emphasized during this important time:
Teshuvah, returning, is the first step in this introspective process. Returning to our LORD, humbling ourselves before Him and asking for Him to reveal to us that which needs to be corrected or changed. Also, returning to situations and relationships that have been hurtful and unresolved in order to correct, forgive and reconcile (if possible) is good and right in the eyes of our LORD.
Tefilah means prayer. Now is the time to recommit to regular, humble and faithful prayer to our LORD, coming before Him in the name of our Savior, Yeshua HaMashiach. Unceasing prayer on behalf of family and friends, for guidance, wisdom, provision and protection, is a mark of a believing and faithful follower of the Holy One. Let us all commit anew to daily prayer and relationship with our G-d.
Tzedakah is good deeds - the mitzvot. Reaching out to those around us, seeking to help those in need and building up and befriending those who cross our path is the natural outpouring of the compassion given to us by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). Let us be liberal in giving this compassion and love to others, as it is certainly in His will for us to do so.
Yom Kippur is also a time to remember those who have gone before us, those that have left a believing legacy for us to emulate. We remember the faithful prayers and keeping of our mothers and the protection and teaching of our fathers. We remember our grandparents with love and our heritage with honor. We honor them all with our words and deeds, as we honor our LORD by teaching our children and our children's children, by example, how to humbly follow the Master in His work and by giving His love to others without measure.
On a personal note, this Yom Kippur is a bittersweet one. It was one year ago that I was absent from Kol Nidrei service due to personal and relational pain, and I well remember the Shabbat that followed. It was a dark time for me and those closest to me, and it is difficult to relive, if only in memory. I am flooded with the reality of vows I made for which I am no longer able to keep. Well, keep as I first intended, that is. Even though all did not turn out well, let it be known that I will continue to pray, defend and care about those whom I vowed support to the best of my ability and until my last breath, G-d willing. I am here and I will continue to be here, as long as the LORD affords me life - here to pray and seek unity and reconciliation with those that He has placed upon my heart. I thank Him for that compassion, and am humbled beyond words that He would bestow that compassion upon me as a gift. It is not something I take for granted, to be sure.
Teshuvah. Tefilah. Tzedekah.
The LORD is calling us to repentance, to prayer and to service.
Let us be faithful to answer the call.