Why ten days?

The ten days are not there just in case you need more time, but so that the process of Teshuva can be assimilated into our lives.

Rabbi Moshe Kempinski ,

moshe Kempinski
moshe Kempinski
moshe Kempinski

The ten days between Rosh Hashanahand Yom Kippur are known as Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, or the Ten Days of Return or Repentance .

The availability of return is always present

“Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God,For He will abundantly pardon” ( Isaiah 55:7).

Or in the words of Yirmiyahu;“Return, O faithless sons,I will heal your faithlessness.” “Behold, we come to You; For You are the Lord our God.( Jeremiah 3:22)

Yet Hashem lets us live our lives, choose our paths and make our decisions throughout the year.

At times those choices make us feel more unworthy and less capable of making the way “back home.”

So Hashem creates a time when in the words of our sages “the gates of heaven are open, and I will listen to your prayers.”.

Yet in order to do that we first need to identify the spiritual truth of our lives revealed on Rosh Hashanah We need to focus on the simple truth that Hashem is king and Majesty of the universe.

Rosh Hashanah is unusual amongst the Jewish holidays, because it is a day that is all and only about Hashem. It isn’t about us or our misdeeds and our turning away. It is all about Avinu Malkeinu.

When we have truly assimilated that truth we are ready to embark on the path called TESHUVA.

So Hashem creates an appointed time when that process is made more available and more achievable; “Seek G-d when He may be found; call Him when He is close.”( Isaiah 55:6). This is how we enter into these Ten Days of Teshuva.

One might ask why do we need ten days. If we truly understood the message of Rosh Hashanah and truly made a decision to repent and return, perhaps that could have occurred immediately following Rosh Hashanah.

Yet the Jewish understanding is that spiritual growth and journeys don’t begin with declarations, they culminate with them.

We do not believe that declarations , or verbal acceptance of doctrines truly bring about real and lasting Teshuva. Teshuva needs to be walked out. It needs to be lived with and through.

The Ten days are not there just in case you need more time. The Ten Days are there so that the process of Teshuva can be walked through, lived with and assimilated into our lives.

If for ten days we walk an elevated walk and attempt to live a more sanctified existence, the time we spend in those decisions will help engrave our heart and give us the strength to change .We need ten days so that we can begin to believe that we can actually live out some measure of that elevated journey.

It is only after such a journey that we are truly ready to enter the Throne Room of Hashem on Yom Kippur Day.

The aspect of Avinu Shebashamayim is pushing us forward, while the aspect of Malkeinu is inviting us in.

When we say Gmar Chatima Tova, May you be inscribed in goodness, we are not only speaking of the proverbial “Book of life” in Heaven.

We are also yearning that the inscription and engraving occur in our hearts.

Gmar Chatima Tova

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.