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

Manufacturing Falsehoods

Manufacturing Falsehoods

Jeffrey Herf

An immense echo-chamber has been built, and the line is always the same: Israel is not allowed to be a country like any other.

A Golem in Argentina

A Golem in Argentina

Henry Gonshak

When an indigenous Argentine woman falls in love with a golem, her grandmother creates a love potion to win the golem’s (perhaps non-existent?) heart. What could possibly go wrong?

In Memory of Judah Maccabee

In Memory of Judah Maccabee

Allan Arkush

That Judah, the great victor of the Hanukkah story, ultimately died fighting the Seleucids is something that surprisingly few Jews know. And were the Maccabees actually underdogs?