Presidential Message | Jewish High Holy Days

September 18, 2020
A Message from the President

Presidential Message | Jewish High Holy Days

[September 18, 2020]

Dear RVU Family,

As part of our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at RVU, we are seeking to increase our understanding of other cultures and religions by providing information regarding their major holidays. By learning about perspectives different from our own, we can strive to increase understanding, reduce prejudices and biases, and further open our hearts and minds to cultures different from our own.

The first of our series is the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur written by Brian Schwartz, PhD, our Director of Library Services. We hope you will take the time to read this message and if interested, learn more by reviewing the information contained in the links provided.

We look forward to sharing information with our community regarding other holidays in the months to come and working together toward greater acceptance and understanding for all. 

Rosh Hashannah

By Brian Schwartz, PhD

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and marks the starting over of the lunar calendar. It is the first of the two High Holy Days, the other being Yom Kippur, which is celebrated ten days later. This ten-day period is the time for Jews all over the world to atone for the sins committed over the course of the past year.                                                    

The High Holy Day period is about apologizing, but also about accepting apologies – it is about seeking forgiveness, but also granting it to other people and to yourself. It is a time of kindness and acceptance, of letting yourself and other people off the hook for the mistakes people invariably make, as long as there is integrity in the atonement and a sincere desire to do and to be better in the coming year. In addition to atoning for sins committed against other people and against one’s self, it is also a time to actively seek atonement for sins committed against God.

It is a deeply reflective holiday season designed to provide time and space to look within yourself and conceive of the person you will strive to be in the next year; one who sins less against other people, to be sure. But just as importantly, someone who commits fewer sins against themselves.

But it is not just a time for personal atonement and reflection. It is also the season in which people atone communally for sins that are institutionalized, systemic, and societal; an attempt to think about ways to help the world heal, to overcome problems and sins of society as a citizen of the world.

It is a time of repentance and renewal, of seeking and granting forgiveness, and of dreaming and conceiving of the kind of world you want to live in. While this holiday season seems to be about looking at the past year and apologizing, that is just a part of it. The real work of the High Holy Days is not to look backward, but forward; being aspirational, not just retrospective. The past year is a framework and context for the plans made for the coming year, for realizing what was good and bad in the past year and figuring out a way to be a better person and help make the world a better place.

If you’d like more information on the Jewish High Holy Days, please visit the below webpages:



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