High Holiday Companion




Notice Posted on the Door of the Kelm Talmud Torah Before the High Holidays

by Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv and Geoffrey Claussen

In the 1860s, Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv tried to found a new kind of yeshiva in which students would devote significant time to thinking about their moral lives.

Darkness and Light: Leonard Cohen and the New Cantors—A Playlist for the High Holidays

by Allan Nadler

Old World Ashkenazi cantorial art—khazones—is making a comeback, with a surprising little boost from a Leonard Cohen single (yes, that Leonard Cohen).

At the Threshold of Forgiveness: A Study of Law and Narrative in the Talmud

by Moshe Halbertal

In this season of repentance, it is not only the laws of the rabbis, but their stories as well, that teach us how—and how not—to forgive.

Is Repentance Possible?

by Abraham Socher

And should we add a confession on Yom Kippur “for the sin of opening browser windows of distraction”? On Aristotle’s akrasia and Maimonides’s teshuvah.

Upon Such Sacrifices

by Noah Millman

How Shakespeare helps us think about the akedah, and vice versa.

Temporary Measures: Sukkah City

by Shari Saiman

The reimagining of an ancient architectural ritual.

When Eve Ate the Etrog: A Passage from Tsena-Urena

by Jacob ben Isaac Ashkenazi & Morris M. Faierstein

There was once a custom for a pregnant woman to bite off the tip of the etrog at the end of Sukkot. This excerpt includes the text of a Yiddish prayer, or tkhine, that the pregnant woman is instructed to recite based on an interpretation of Genesis 3:6.

A Tale of Two Night Vigils

by Elliott Horowitz

The tradition to stay up all night studying on Shavuot is far more well known than the tradition to do so on Hoshana Rabbah. Neither would have been possible without Kabbalah and caffeine.

Black Fire on White Fire

by Adam Kirsch

The scroll, which was originally a secular technology, became closely associated with Judaism at a time when Christians were adopting the codex for their holy books.

Containing God’s Presence

by Ilana Kurshan

The Torah reading cycle provides the structure not just for the Jewish year but also for countless volumes of commentary on the biblical text.

Suggested Reading

Was Lincoln Jewish?

Was Lincoln Jewish?

Stuart Schoffman

"Father Abraham became a saint for American Jews, a martyred Moses who revered the Bible," writes Stuart Schoffman of the post-Civil War view of President Lincoln. But was he also "bone from our bone and flesh from our flesh"? Henry Vidaver thought so...

Balm in Gilead

Gita Segal Rotenberg

After reading through dozens of entries into our Reader Review Competition, we are pleased to announce that Gital Segal Rotenberg has been chosen as the winner. Her review of Dati Normali appears today. We thank all our readers who participated! 

Tragedy and Comedy in Black and White

Tragedy and Comedy in Black and White

Sarah Rindner

Lately it seems to be the season of haredim on screen. Sarah Rindner's immersion in this very particular oeuvre began with Shtisel, the 2013 runaway hit Israeli TV series, which depicts a haredi family in Jerusalem in all of its complicated, charming dysfunction.

The Home Front

The Home Front

Allan Arkush

Eating very long breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with dozens of aging members of the Greatest Generation was the best part of Arkush's teaching experience.