TEN DAYS OF PENITENCE

TEN DAYS OF PENITENCE (Heb. עֲשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה; aseret yemei teshuvah), the first ten days in the month of Tishri, i.e., from rosh ha-shanah until the day of atonement , inclusive. According to the Talmud (RH 18a; cf. Maim. Yad, Teshuvah 2:6), this is the most appropriate time for repentance. Rosh Ha-Shanah is regarded as the day of annual judgment, on which God opens the "book of life." He "seals" it, however, only on the Day of Atonement and repentance in the intermediate period is therefore held to be particularly timely for obtaining God's pardon to be inscribed in the "book of life." The concept of repentance is reflected in the following changes in the liturgy during the Ten Days of Penitence: (1) In the third benediction of the amidah , the closing formula is changed from "Holy God" to "Holy King"; in the eighth, from "the King who lovest righteousness and judgment" to "the King of judgment." (A similar change is made in the Magen Avot prayer of the Sabbath eve liturgy; Sh. Ar., OḤ 582:1–3). (2) Petitions for inscription into the "book of life" are inserted in the Amidah before the closing formulas of the first, second, and last two benedictions (Sof. 19:8). (3) The avinu malkenu prayer is recited daily, except on the Sabbath, in the morning and afternoon prayers in public worship. (4) Early at dawn (in Sephardi and Oriental communities also after midnight), special penitential prayers, Seliḥot (or Ashmorot) are recited before the Shaḥarit prayer. It is thought meritorious to fast on these days and to devote oneself in an increased measure to prayer, to study of Torah and to the performance of good deeds (Sh. Ar., OḤ 602–603). The third of Tishri is the fast of gedaliah , observed as a public fast day (see: fasting and fast days ). On the ninth of Tishri, the eve of the Day of Atonement, only a small part of the Seliḥot is recited in the morning; the greater part is included in the traditional liturgy of the evening prayer after kol nidrei . The rabbis prohibited fasting on the eve of the Day of Atonement and declared that "for those who eat and drink on the ninth of Tishri, it is reckoned to them as if they had fasted on both the ninth and the tenth of Tishri (i.e., the Day of Atonement)" (RH 9a–b). Strictly Orthodox Jews observe the ritual of kapparot on the eve of the Day of Atonement, the ceremony of absolution from vows (hattarat nedarim), and some even the custom of voluntary flagellation. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Eisenstein, Dinim, 331–2.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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