What exactly are the High Holy Days?
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year. Outside of Israel*, it’s celebrated by two days of prayer and services as well as meals with sweet and circular food (like apples and honey for a sweet new year and round challah to indicate the continuing cycle of the year).
Rosh Hashanah begins a time of introspection called The Ten Days of Repentance or The Ten Days of Awe. During that time, we recite certain prayers, read specific Torah portions, focus on ourselves and our misdeeds, ask others for forgiveness, and make specific changes in our behavior and attitudes to be better people. We focus on Teshuva (Repentance), Tefilla (Prayer), and Tzedakah (Commonly translated as ‘Charity,” but “Justice” is a more accurate translation).
The Ten Days of Repentance ends on Yom Kippur—often considered the holiest day of the year. It’s a somber 25 hour fast day. We spend much of the day in services making confessions and asking for forgiveness.
*Jews in Israel and Reform Jews all around the world celebrate only one day.