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

Desert Wild

Desert Wild

Shai Secunda

Zornberg’s sessions are deeply informed by traditional Jewish sources, especially the interpretations of classic rabbinic midrash and the homilies of Hasidic masters.

Workday Jews

Workday Jews

Jonathan Karp

In their respective books, Chad Alan Goldberg and Eliyahu Stern address the question of whether the Jews are the quintessentially modern people or a people who came to modernity late and with a sudden shock. They reach very different conclusions.