High Holidays

Posted on September 14, 2022

The High Holidays are fast approaching; By the mere “title” we use in reference to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we already set the appropriate mood for these supremely important days in the Jewish calendar. Why ”High”? Not in contrast to “low”, as there are no “low” holidays! Rather, they are the peak- the spiritual summit of the Jewish holidays throughout the year. No other holidays call for such intense immersion in self-reflection, resolve to do better and to be better in the upcoming year.

It would also be most appropriate if instead of “Holidays”, we refer to them as “Holy Days”; A minor shift in spelling, but quite major in content, thus capturing not only the celebration of a new year but also the solemn observance of the essence of these spiritual summits.


In Hebrew the term “High Holidays” is not in use at all. Instead, Israelis’ reference to these holidays is “Ha Chageem”- “The Holidays”, assigning them superior status and reflecting their profound importance. Additionally, a common expression in Hebrew was coined, “After The Holidays”- “Acharei Ha Chageem”. By that, Israelis refer to the period after Tishrei (the first month on the Jewish calendar), when work and school return to their orderly routine.


Sometimes this expression is used literally, and sometimes figuratively as in putting off tasks until “after the holidays” (for an indefinite time). Often it is used in a hopeful and positive way in anticipation of a new beginning, as in Naomi Shemer’s song, “After The Holidays Everything will be Renewed” and Ehud Manor’s song, “After The Holidays We’ll Pull Out the Weeds and We’ll Plant Flowers in the Garden…After the Holidays We’ll Correct the Wrong Doings and We’ll Start From “Bereishit (From the Beginning)”. 


Whether you say “High Holidays” or “Ha Chageem”, the message is clear. It is undoubtedly the time to elevate our spirit and our resolutions to the highest, purest, possible level.

Wishing everyone a successful ascent during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and throughout the whole upcoming year!

Shana Tova!

~Yaeli Shmilovich