This ten-day period of time is often referred to as the High Holy Days. It is the first ten days of the month of Tishri. It begins on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (Tishri 1) and continues for ten consecutive days, ending with the breaking of the fast at the conclusion of Yom Kippur (Tishri 10). Other names for this holiday include, the 10 Days of Penitence and the 10 Days of Repentance. In Hebrew, it is referred to as Yomin Noroim and/or Nora'im Yamim.
This is more of a man made name for a period of time than a Biblical holiday. There was scripture reference to periods of ten days for testing like in Daniel 1:14, but this is not necessarily in reference to these ten days in-between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
These ten days are set aside each year so that a person can examine his own heart. It is considered a time of deep reflection on one's own personal spiritual walk with God. We are to search our ways and try to find ways to improve and be better people. We pray that God will show us where He wants us to change and to help us be more obedient to His word. There is a sense of an opportunity for a new beginning that day one brings with Rosh Hashanah and a different awareness of an eternal ending that day ten brings with Yom Kippur.
The first day of the 10 Days of Awe is Rosh Hashanah. This is considered both a judgment day and the beginning of a new year. On this day, God is said to write many people in the Book of Life. These are considered to be righteous people who are sincere in their faith and try to be obedient to God's word.
Then there are others who won't be written in the Book of Life. These people are considered bad people, the ones who intentionally sin the same sins over and over while looking forward to the opportunity to repeat them, even though they know their behavior is contrary to what God's word says. They are unwilling to even try to embrace God's word and have made their own free will choice to be like this.
The rest of the people fall somewhere in between these two groups. These are the people who are, in theory, to use the ten days to benefit them the most. The idea is that God has not yet decided to write or not write them in this Book of life. Since their status is still undetermined, they receive additional time to plead their case with prayer, repentance, and charity. During these ten days, everyone has a chance to either be thankful that God has forgiven them, concerned because they are unsure, or be reminded of the theological idea behind hell. This is where we ultimately end up if we are not written in the Book of Life.
At the end of the ten day period, God decides who will be written where, and the Book of Life is sealed for another year. In other words, on Rosh Hashanah we are written in the Book, on The Day of Atonement we are sealed, and the book is sealed for another year.
There may be a custom from the Babylonian Ge'onim involving the reading of the first verse of Torah on the afternoon of Yom Kippur. It comes from the following legend.
Throughout the Ten Days of Repentance, Satan has been accusing Israel, arguing "Behold, the Torah which you have bestowed upon Israel- they have already finished with it!"
Now, when the Holy One hears them beginning again from Genesis, he immediately rebukes Satan saying, "Look how, as soon as they complete it, they immediately start over again, so great is their love for my Torah!"
This time of ten days is meant for total self introspection concerning our relationship with God. This was reconfirmed by Rabbi Yochanan in the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 16b).
During the ten days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur, weddings are rare.
There has been Rabbinical support for these ten days to provide an opportunity to repent and influence God's view towards us. Consider this ancient passage.
“The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: Remake yourselves by repentance during the ten days between New Year's Day and the Day of Atonement, and on the Day of Atonement I will hold you guiltless, regarding you as a newly made creature” (Pesikta Rabbati 40:5).
The Sabbath that falls during the ten days is known as "shabbat shuvah, the sabbath of repentance." Extra effort is often made to observe the sabbath at this time.(1)
Some would consider this holiday to be the ten days of return instead of repentance. This would imply that our soul's are Godly and we are returning them closer to their pure original state.(2)
For the believer in Jesus, we can be thankful that we are assured to be written in the Book of Life. It is still an excellent opportunity to examine where we are on our spiritual walk with God. These ten days of Awe can be seen as our lifetime.
With faith in Christ, we have a new beginning. (2 Corinthians 5:17) This can resemble Rosh HaShana which is a new spiritual year. This time is the first of the ten days.
The Days of Awe in between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur for believers resemble our lifetime. Now that we are new creations in Christ we should constantly be checking to make sure we are in touch with the Holy Spirit and doing God's will. For the believer, it is not so much a period of ten days but a lifetime that we are called for this self introspection.
The last day of the 10 Days of Awe is Yom Kippur. For the believer, this can represent our physical death. We can be thankful that we have Jesus as our High Priest to represent us, thereby being assured of being written in the Book of Life.
From new life (Rosh Hashanah) to death (Yom Kippur), Jesus fulfills this holiday daily in our lives if we allow Him. He does this by sending the Holy Spirit for us to use, to know the will of God. The Holy Spirit's conviction is available now every day of the year. The idea of examining our spiritual growth shouldn't be limited to a certain time of the year. When is the last time, as a Christian, you took the time to deeply examine your spiritual walk? Is there anything more important than your relationship with God?
There is reference to the Book of Life in the Book of Revelation. It is confirmed in the New Testament that there is such a book, and it is used at judgment time.
Revelation 20: 12, 15 12:
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.
15: If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 13:8 tells us that this book now belongs to the lamb (Messiah), which makes perfect sense as all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18)
Talk about ways that you could improve your spiritual walk by using common areas of agreement like obeying the ten commandments. This may include an opportunity to explain Jesus view on living by the spirit of the law instead of the letter of the law. It could also be a good time to discuss how you know that you are written in the Book of Life.
For a list of future holidays dates check the Master Calendar Table.
It is a good practice to use these Ten Days Of Awe to focus on your spiritual walk and improvements we may be able to make in our lives. It is a better practice to do it more often. Why not try to set aside a few minutes each day for a period of self examination:
1). The Fall Feasts of Israel by Mitch and Zhava Galser.
2). Your Tishrei Guide 5766 from Lubavitch Chabad of Peoria.