High Holy Days



Commonly translated as repentance but derived from the Hebrew verb “lashuv,” which means “to turn”, teshuva is perhaps the most important of many themes that dominate the High Holy Days (“Yamim Nora’im” or “Days of Awe”). Turning into the self is a critical first step in this annual heshbon hanefesh (accounting of the soul) but we also turn outward to evaluate and realign our role as stewards of the world. Through prayer, study, self-scrutiny, and repairing our relationships with each other, we seek to inspire a rebirth within ourselves and a recommitment to the sacred path that will ensure a better future for our people and for the world.

Elul Preparations

The spiritual work of the High Holy Days begins in the month of Elul. The shofar blast at the end morning minyan and a daily email blast with Elul Reflections shake us out of our complacency and call us to reflect on our behavior over the past year.

Rosh Hashanah

During Rosh Hashanah, a two-day festival that celebrates the birth of the world, we reflect on God’s call to just and righteous behavior and acknowledge that our response to that call will determine our individual and collective fate for the year to come.

Tashlikh by the River

During the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, BJ members gather in Riverside Park for tashlikh, a spiritual practice in which we symbolically let go of the harmful behaviors that have impeded our growth over the past year by casting pieces of bread, representing those behaviors, into the Hudson River.

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) begins at sundown on the 10th of Tishrei. Before evening services, families gather for a se’udah mafseket, a final meal, before the 25 hour fast to come. By refraining from eating and drinking, wearing leather shoes, washing or anointing one’s body and physical intimacy we fulfill the biblical commandment to “afflict one’s soul” so that we may focus solely on the intense spiritual work. Many choose to wear white clothing, an external symbol of our internal desire to purify our souls. As we embrace with joy and celebration at the prospect of a New Year in Yerusalyim shel matah (on earth) and a Yerushalim shel malah (a heavenly, spiritual Jerusalem), we emerge from the High Holy Days uplifted and inspired, emboldened with new spiritual fervor, daring to dream again for redemption for ourselves, for our people and for the world.

The Words and Music of the BJ Service

Words. Mahzor Lev Shalem, the special prayer book we use for the High Holy Days, is both uplifting and challenging. It’s soaring language, commentary and transliteration make it possible for everyone to fully participate in our services.

Music. The traditional and powerful melodies of BJ’s renowned music of the High Holy Days open our hearts to the possibility that prayer, acts of charity, and repentance can transform us and inspire us.

Sermons The Rabbis’ collaborate on essential themes for the holidays, and each deliver their own unique and inspiring Divrei Torah over the course of the hagim.  All of the Divrei Torah are available online here.

What’s different. A service in memory of the victims of the Holocaust which features BJ member’s personal stories takes the place of the Eleh Ezkerah (“These I Recall”) traditional martyrology service on the afternoon of Yom Kippur. Ne’ilah service concludes with a Procession of the Children carrying candles to the bimah where they join with the community in Havdalah and a final blast of the Shofar.

High Holy Days 5778

Hilkhot Teshuvah: Pathways Towards Transformation

Saturdays, August 18, August 25, September 1, September 8 | Following Kiddush | BJ Chapel
Is transformation really possible? Can human beings truly change? Join Rabbi Shuli Passow and Cantor Dave Mintz for an exploration of Hilkhot Teshuvah, Maimonides’ guide for engaging in the process of teshuvah and transforming our lives. We’ll study the texts, discuss how they relate to our lives, and consider how they can help us return home to the best versions of ourselves. Meeting after Shabbat morning kiddush throughout the month of Elul, this series will offer a powerful framework as we prepare for the Yamim Nora’im. Join for just one session or the entire series. No registration necessary.

Sounds and Silence: Mindfully Hearing the Shofar

Tuesday, August 28 | 7:00PM | BJ Chapel
The sounding of the shofar during Elul and the Yamim Nora’im is deeply soul-stirring, as it awakens primitive sensations and emotions. How can we prepare to listen with intention and be aware of the messages that resonate within us? Led by Jonathan Silver, one of our Baalei Tekiya, this session will include mindfulness meditation and the sounding of the shofar to help our preparation for the Yamim Nora’im. No registration required, all are welcome.

Hatanu Lefanekha: Tuning Our Souls for Teshuvah

Mondays, August 29, September 5, and September 12 | 6:30PM | BJ Chapel
For the past thousand years, Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews have gathered for the forty days from the beginning of the month of Elul, through Rosh Hashanah, and up to Yom Kippur, rising at dawn to sing Selihot prayers and to prepare the soul for repentance and renewal. Led by Rabbi Roly Matalon and Music Director Dan Nadel, this three-part poetical and musical experience will engage us in that spiritual journey and get us ready for the upcoming sublime days of soul-searching and prayer of the Yamim Nora’im. The series is free of charge and open to all.

Community Break Fast

Wednesday, September 19 | Following Ne’ilah Services | Frankel Hall
Join us at a delicious Community Break Fast, generously sponsored by Helena Diamant Glass in cherished memory of her beloved parents, Regina Landwirth Diamant and Karl Diamant.


  • BJ Members: Free
  • Non-Members: $10

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