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Rosh Hashana

The Aqedah of Yishaq Abinu is a very important theme on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. G-d said to Abraham Abinu that the Shofar (ram’s horn) should be blown on Rosh Hashanah. Through this, whenever His people would sin, the Shofar would remind him of the Aqedah and He would forgive them.

Abraham Abinu asked G-d what a “Shofar” was and on this it is written “…And Abraham lifted his eyes and behold a ram was caught in the thicket by his horns.”

The Shofar is first blown on the first morning of Rosh Hashanah (unless it falls on Shabbath) and is preceded by the blessing of Sheheheyanu. There are some interesting differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardi practice in the sound, content and blowing of the Shofar. On the second day Sheheheyanu is not recited. by Sepharadim who, in general, follow the teachings of Maran in the Shulhan ‘Arukh. Ashkenazim, who generally go according to the Rama, recite the blessing on both days.

Some sit for the recitation of the blessings of the Shofar, while others stand. The custom at Midrash BEN ISH HAI is for the congregation to sit during the blessings. The congregation sits during the blowings prior to the ‘Amidah.

Sepharadim blow during both the silent ‘Amidah and the repetition and blow a total of one hundred and one calls (101 is the Gematria for Mikhael, Israel’s guardian angel). The last one being a Teru’ah Gedolah after ‘Aleinu Leshabbeyah. Ashkenazim blow only one hundred calls and the last one is a Teqi’ah Gedolah instead. In some Hassidic communities, the custom is to blow two hundred.

Women are, in theory, exempt from hearing the Shofar. However, most women nowadays are considered to have made a vow to hear it and, as such, if they are unable to hear it on Rosh Hashanah they must make an annulment of that vow prior to the onset of the holy day.

Rosh Hashanah is one of the holiest days in the year and a day of judgment for all mankind. In preparation, on the morning of ‘Ereb Rosh Hashanah, one should cut ones hair (specifically before midday, as according to the Qabbalah hair should not be cut in the afternoon). Both men and women go to the Miqweh, (ritual-bath) and some fast. Hattarath Nedareem (the annulment of vows) is made.

Click Here for more of the Laws and Customs of Rosh Hashanah.

Yom Kippur

The ‘Aqedah of Yishaq Abinu took place on the tenth of Tashri at Minha time – which is Minha time of Yom Kippur, as is written: “And the tenth day of this seventh month shall be a holy convocation to you and you shall afflict your souls – no manner of work shall you do.” (Numbers 29,7).

For this reason, it is of great importance to read the portion of the ”Aqedah at the commencement of the Minha prayer on the day of Yom Kippur. In Imrei Sasson it is written that whoever reads the ”Aqedah with great intent, to serve his Creator as did Yishaq Abinu, will have all his sins forgiven.

During the last hours of the night, the day before Yom Kippur, Kapparoth – a formula of atonement – is made using chickens or money.

On ‘Ereb Yom Kippur we prepare ourselves for the awe-filled day ahead of us. The following are some of the preparations:

- If possible, we should eat twice the amount of food we normally would on one day
- It is good to eat fish in the morning
- Both men and women go to the Miqweh
- Hattarath Nedarim is made
- Forgiveness is asked of one’s parents, teachers, spouse and acquaintances.

On Yom Kippur, eating and drinking, bathing, anointing, wearing (leather) shoes and marital relations are prohibited.

The wearing of white clothes is again prescribed for Yom Kippur and Sepharadim should make every effort to adhere to this. We are filled with faith and confidence that, through His abundant mercy, our repentance will be accepted and we will come out of this day clean and pure like angels. Many Ashkenazim have the Minhagh of wearing a white shroud (as a reminder of the day of death) over their regular clothes. Sepharadim do not have this custom.

Click Here for more of the Laws and Customs of Yom Kippur.

(Taken from the writings of Hakham Ya'aqob Menashe.)