Translation by Yehoshua Siskin ([email protected])
Here they are:
1. *The fast of Gedaliah.* It commemorates the murder of Gedailah ben Ahikam by Yishmael ben Netanya. Gedaliah had been appointed governor over the Jews who remained in the Land of Israel after the Babylonian conquest. His murder marked the end of a settled Jewish presence in the Land of Israel after the destruction of the First Temple.
2. We are already in the fourth day of the Ten Days of Repentance. The first two days were Rosh Hashanah and the tenth day will be Yom Kippur on the 10th of Tishrei. These ten days are considered *"days of favor"* in which our hearts are open, the heavens are open, and it is easy to make positive changes in our lives.
3. The Rambam writes of these days as follows: "Even though repentance and calling out (to God) are desirable at all times, during the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, they are even more desirable and (our prayers) will be accepted immediately, as it is stated: *"Seek God when He is to be found."* (Isaiah 55:6)
4. These days are full of halachot and customs such as recitation of Selichot (prayers of repentance), blowing of the shofar, and others. And how do we greet each other during this time? Many still say "Shana tova," but now we may also add *"chatima tova" or "gmar chatima tova,"* meaning "may you have a good sealing" or "a good final sealing" (in the Book of Life). These are not just words but express faith in the possibility for rectification during these days so that we may truly be blessed with a sweet new year.
5. At this time, there are special additions to our prayers, with words inserted into them exclusively during these ten days. One of these beautiful additions is as follows: *"In the Book of Life, of blessing and of peace, of a prosperous livelihood and of favorable decrees, of salvation and of consolation, may we and the entire nation of Israel be remembered and inscribed before You for a life of goodness and peace."*