You are racing to catch the last flight out to an urgent destination; you manage to board just as they close the gate. Ne’ilah—the service at the close of Yom KippurThe holiest day of the Jewish year and the culmination of a season of self-reflection. Jews fast, abstain from other worldly pleasures, and gather in prayers that last throughout the day. Following Ne'ilah, the final prayers, during which Jews envision the Gates of Repentance closing, the shofar is sounded in one long blast to conclude the holy day. It is customary to begin building one's sukkah as soon as the day ends.—can feel like that. Your High Holidays can also run by in a mad dash. At the last moments of Yom Kippur, as you stand before the opened ark, you may feel as if the gates of prayer will shut before you’ve expressed your deepest prayers. However, you can choose to approach the gates of prayer in a new way. It requires getting your prayers for the new year ready and deciding how you’ll affirm your prayers with your life.
Hear our voice
May I praise those with whom I live or work for the blessing of who they are and what they do.
May I thank them for the specific ways they’ve enriched and guided me.
May I ask them for precisely what I need now and in the years to come.
May we forgive each other, initiating conversations that clear the air.
May I put the prayers of my heart into action each day.
Beginning on Rosh HashanahThe Jewish New Year, also considered the Day of Judgment. The period of the High Holidays is a time of introspection and atonement. The holiday is celebrated with the sounding of the shofar, lengthy prayers in synagogue, the eating of apples and honey, and round challah for a sweet and whole year. Tashlikh, casting bread on the water to symbolize the washing away of sins, also takes place on Rosh Hashana. and continuing each day before Yom Kippur, devote the time you need to discovering your own prayers. Let these four traditional kinds of prayer inspire you:
HallelLit. “Praise” The Hallel prayers are additional prayers taken from Psalms 113-118 and are traditionally recited on the Jewish holidays of Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, Rosh Chodesh, and Hanukah./Praise: What wonders and miracles, both large and small, cause you to give praise this year?
Hoda’ot/Thanks: What opportunities, relationships, gifts, ideas, even setbacks, make you thankful this year?
Bakashot/Requests: What do you need real help in this year? Love, health, energy, stability, change, finding meaning?
S’lichot/Forgiveness: What are you willing to pardon others for this year? What promises can you offer and make good on?
Practice your prayers, reviewing the ways you can affirm them with your life. If you wish, put your prayers and your commitments in writing to affirm them and bring them to synagogue during the High Holidays. Now, when you hear the final bast of the shofarA ram's horn that is blown on the High Holidays to "wake us up" and call Jews to repentance. It is also said that its blast will herald the coming of the messiah., you’ll be ready for a new year.
(Whenever you have taken the time to prepare your prayers)
Barukh atah Adonai shomei’a t’filah.
Blessed is the One who hears our prayers.
Rabbi Eleazar said: Always prepare your prayer,rehearsing it, practicing it with your life. Then say it. Rabbi AbbaFather said: Rabbi Eleazar’s teaching is especially applicable to the prayers we say on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
(Adaped from the Babylonian TalmudThe rabbinic compendium of lore and legend composed between 200 and 500 CE. Study of the Talmud is the focus of rabbinic scholarship. The Talmud has two versions, the main Babylonian version (Bavli) and the smaller Jerusalem version (Yerushalmi). It is written in Rabbinic Hebrew and Aramaic.: Rosh Hashanah 35a)
What does it mean to live out your prayers with your life?
If your prayers are full of praise for the sun, moon, and stars, you would pay attention to the nighttime sky. You’d work to preserve the atmosphere, you’d study astronomy, celebrate the New Moon, and wear sunscreen.
If you are thankful for health, you would do your part to preserve or improve it. You would exercise, eat right, seek caregivers with the greatest wisdom. You would celebrate all the parts of your body that work well each day.
If your request is for peace, you would do your part to establish it in all the worlds you inhabit.
If your prayer is for forgiveness, you would resolve the lawn mower incident with your neighbor, you’d write a letter and forgive your senators for what they didn’t do in the past year, and you would tell them what they must do now.
Reprinted with permission from The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices: Clal’s Guide to Everyday & Holiday Rituals & Blessings, edited by Rabbi Irwin Kula and Vanessa L. Ochs, Ph.D., Jewish Lights, 2001.