PENITENTIAL DAYS, or TEN DAYS OF REPENTANCE ("'Aseret Yeme Teshubah"):
The first ten days of Tishri, beginning with the Day of Memorial (New-Year) and ending with the Day of Atonement. According to the Mishnah (R. H. i. 2) the 1st of Tishri is the great yearly day of judgment, on which all creatures pass before God's throne, as sheep pass for examination before the shepherd; but as the tenth of the same month is the day on which forgiveness is sought, the opinion naturally grew up that the judgment on the first day was not final, but that prayer and works of repentance from the first to the tenth day might avert an unfavorable decision. Hence the Talmud in various passages recognizes the Ten Days of Repentance.
The 3d of Tishri (or if this be on the Sabbath, the 4th) is observed as the Fast of Gedaliah; and the 9th is a day of good cheer. On the intermediate days abstention from food and drink, to a greater or lesser degree, is deemed meritorious; but the time is not one for sadness or mourning. Hence a wedding within the Ten Days, though not usual, is not forbidden.Liturgical Changes.
In the liturgy certain changes and additions occur on these days:
- (1) The Talmud (Ber. 12b) mentions that on these days the close of the third benediction in the "'Amidah" reads "the Holy King" instead of "the Holy God"; and that on work-days the close of the eighth benediction reads "the King of Judgment" (lit. "the King, the Judgment") instead of "King loving righteousness and judgment." While there is a dissentient opinion, to the effect that the ordinary forms are sufficient on the Ten Days of Repentance, the later Halakah has made these changes obligatory to the extent of bidding a man in reciting the prayer to recommence when he has forgotten to make them (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 582).
- (2) The treatise Soferim, dating from the seventh or eighth century, mentions (xix. 8) some insertions which were made in the first and second benedictions and in the last two, and which are now found in all prayer-books; in the first (after "for the sake of His Name in love"): "Remember us for life, King who delighteth in life; and inscribe us in the book of life, for Thy sake, living God"; in the second (after "maketh salvation to grow"): "Who is like Thee, merciful Father, remembering His creatures in mercy for life"; in the last but one, near the end: "And inscribe for life all the sons of Thy covenant"; in the last benediction immediately before the close: "May we be remembered and inscribed before Thee in the book of life, of blessing, of peace, and of good sustenance." In the last service of Atonement Day "seal" is used in the place of "inscribe" throughout. In the German ritual, at the close of the last benediction, the words "who blesseth his people Israel with peace" are shortened into "the Maker of Peace."
The author of Soferim, mindful of the Talmudic saying that "a man should not ask for his needs in the first three or in the last three benedictions," remarks that these customary insertions can hardly be justified even on New-Year's Day or on the Day of Atonement. Maimonides includes them in his "Order of Prayer." Abudarham, in a book of later date, while giving these requests, nevertheless protests against their use. Joseph Caro in his code (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 112) meets the difficulty by adding to the Talmudic rule the significant words, "but he may pray for the needs of the community"; and in section 582 he treats these requests as parts of the service for the Ten Days. The French and the German Jews have never had any scruples on this score; witness their admission of many ponderous piyyuṭim into the first, second, and third benedictions in the reader's repetition of the "'Amidah."
- (3) The invocations beginning "Abinu Malkenu" (Our Father, our King) are read in the morning and afternoon services of the Ten Days, except on the Sabbath, Friday afternoons, and the 9th of Tishri, the eve of Atonement, which is a sort of semiholy day, and on which the penitential psalm with all its incidents is also omitted (see Abinu Malkenu).
- (4) In the early morning of work-days, before the regular morning service, Seliḥot are read in a form or order very much like that observed on the night of Atonement Day. The poetical pieces, at least in the German ritual, differ for each of the days, those for the 9th of Tishri being the fewest and shortest. Separate prayer-books containing these seliḥot along with those for certain days preceding New-Year and for the morning, the additional, and the afternoon services of the Day of Atonement are published, and are indispensable to those attending the early morning services.