Dear B’nai Shalom Families, Members, and Friends:
As you will be reading this, we will be on the cusp of the beginning of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. And of course, with Tishrei, we will be experiencing the month on the Hebrew calendar with the most holidays, festivals, and special days on which to celebrate.
As you know, the first two days of Tishrei are Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the new year, together with all of its excitement, anticipation, awe-inspiring synagogue participation, and the dramatic sounding of the Shofar. Rosh Hashanah, as the first days of the month as well as the first days of the new year, is the gateway to the rest of the holiday-filled month, creating the sense, atmosphere, and flavor of a month that is meant to be a prominent, celebrated time of the year for Jews everywhere.
The eight days that link Rosh Hashanah to the next holiday, Yom Kippur, when we INCLUDE Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in that numerical count, are called the “Aseret Y’may Teshuva,” the Ten Days of Penitence, of doing Teshuva, of repenting. Special prayers are added to these days and a special focus on our improvement in our deportment are the order of the day.
The Aseret Y’may Teshuva lead us to Yom Kippur, the Tenth Day of Tishrei, the only fast day clearly commanded to us directly from Hashem in His Torah. Yom Kippur is only one of two fast days (the other being Tisha B’av, the ninth day of Av, taking place in the summer) which is a twenty-five hour fast. On this day, we spend most of our waking hours in the synagogue, fully involving ourselves with the prescribed lengthy and detailed prayers and liturgy for the day.
Yom Kippur is called by the Torah: “Shabbat Shabbaton,” the Sabbath of Sabbaths, and as such, in addition to fasting, the many varied restrictions that apply to us on Shabbat ALSO apply to us throughout the twenty-five hours of Yom Kippur.
Only five days after Yom Kippur, on the fifteenth day of Tishrei, we begin the seven day holiday of Sukkot, the holiday in which we move our daily activities and celebrations from INSIDE our home to the Sukkot we build OUTSIDE our homes. We also mark the holiday by shaking the Lulav and the Etrog each day (except on Shabbat), representing the “four species” we are commanded to take on this holiday: the palm branch, the citron, the willow branches, and the myrtle branches.
The day AFTER the last day of Sukkot is designated as its own holiday (although often, and erroneously thought of as an EIGHTH day of Sukkot) known as Shemini Atzeret. This is a “farewell day” on which we celebrate, anticipating the return to more routine days following a full month of celebration and festival observances.
For those of us living outside of Eretz Yisrael, we have one more day of celebration as the day AFTER Shemini Atzeret is designated as its own holiday, known as Simchat Torah. (In Israel, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated as one unified holiday, after the last day of Sukkot). On this holiday, we celebrate the conclusion of the Torah reading cycle, finishing up the rotation with the reading of the final parsha: “V’zot Habracha,” and beginning once again with the FIRST parsha: “Bereisheet.”
When we add up all the holidays found in Tishrei, the two days of Rosh Hashana, the one day of Yom Kippur, the seven days of Sukkot, and the two festival days AFTER Sukkot, we find that twelve out of the thirty days in Tishrei are part of one holiday or another.
When we recognize that there is a fast day on the third of Tishrei, “Tzom Gedalyah,” the Fast of Gedalyah, AND if we were to add in the four shabbatot (the four Sabbaths) found in Tishrei, we would actually come to a final sum number of 17 special days found in Tishrei, out of a total of thirty days.
No wonder then, that Tishrei is recognized as the month on the Hebrew calendar with the most holidays, festivals, and special days on which to celebrate.
May the new year come to everyone with much blessing, happiness, peace, and good health at the top of the list for all.
L’shana Tova Tikatevu V’teichateimu, (May you be written and inscribed for a good year),
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin