Preparing for the High Holy Days

By Cantor David Mintz

The very beginning of Mishnah Rosh Hashanah tells us that this is a holiday that actually has four names: Rosh Hashanah (Head of the Year), Yom Teruah (Day of Sounding [the shofar]), Yom HaDin (Day of Judgment) and Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance). While each of these names carries profound meaning and leads us toward a deeper understanding of these holy days, I often find myself particularly drawn toward the notion of Rosh Hashanah as the day of remembrance.

According to our tradition, the name Yom Hazikaron invokes our plea to God, to remember us for good and inscribe us in the book of life. Yet at the same time, so much of our experience surrounding the Yamim Noraim is shaped by memory itself. We are struck by memories of our actions from the year past, memories of Rosh Hashanah meals with family and friends, and memories that the various melodies of the High Holy Days might evoke. Our memory shapes our experience of these holy days just as those experiences shape and reshape memory itself.

Between today, the beginning of the month of Elul, and Yom Kippur, you will be receiving daily kavannot in your inbox from various members of the BJ community. They have written about some of the ways that they experience the Yamim Noraim: how they spiritually prepare for and connect to the High Holy Days, and how they carry the memories of these moments in their hearts, minds, and souls. We hope that these kavannot inspire your own reflections over the course of these several weeks, as we turn together toward the Yamim Noraim.


About Cantor David Mintz

David Mintz is Director of BJ’s Center for Prayer and Spirituality. He lives on the Upper West Side with his wife, Deborah (a member of BJ’s Prayer Team and a rabbinical student at JTS), and their son, Nadav.