Skip to main content

High Holidays 2023/5784 (Hebrew calendar year)

Whether you grew up dunking apples in honey each year or this is the first time you’ve Googled “Simchat Torah,” the High Holidays are a season with all kinds of opportunities for reflection, connection, and gathering. Fun fact: they’re also the most widely-observed Jewish holidays on the calendar. And if you’re looking for ways to celebrate, HMI has got you covered!

Start by exploring this handy Path Through the High Holidays to get the 101 overview on each of the holidays – including Elul, Rosh Hashanah, The Ten Days of Returning, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah!

Looking for more? Read on to get the download on each holiday, along with different ways to mark them.

Celebrate with Your Cohort
HMI wants to help you celebrate the High Holidays. And we want to help you relive some of the magic of your trip with an HMI Conversation. We’ve put together a special Alumni Micro Grant to make it easy – apply to receive $10 per person for a holiday gathering with your HMI friends when you use our High Holiday HMI Conversation Guide. Our staff are available to support you as you plan, and this grant is eligible for any holiday gathering throughout the entire High Holiday season.
Apply for your Alumni Micro Grant

*Note – this Alumni Micro Grant and the per person funding are only available to Honeymoon Israel alumni.

Learn More about the Holidays
There’s always more than one way to “do Judaism.” While these holidays might be some of the most widely observed, there are both traditional AND creative ways to honor the season. Let’s dig in!

Read on to find something that helps you bring the holidays into your home and into your soul. Celebrating with kids? Our friends at PJ Library have lots of great family-friendly resources for the High Holidays. We’ve included more of our favorites below, along with other resources to help you make this year’s High Holidays relatable and enjoyable for you and yours.


What’s Elul? Elul is the name of the Hebrew month before the High Holidays begin. It’s considered a time of introspection and preparation for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). You wouldn’t run a marathon without training beforehand, and Elul is a recognition that starting anew and making teshuvah (returning to yourself) can be hard work – so the Hebrew calendar gives us a whole month to prepare for it.
When’s Elul this year? Friday, August 18 – Tuesday, September 19
How can we celebrate? Traditionally, those in the Jewish community prepare for the High Holidays through prayer, study, and acts of charity. Others may choose to journal, meditate, or take quiet walks in nature. Whatever you decide to do, it’s really about creating time and space for some self-reflection.
Looking for something new to try this Elul? Grab a copy of This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared, a book by Rabbi Alan Lew that provides a roadmap to the High Holidays. Then gather your HMI crew to discuss!
Word to Know: TeshuvahTeshuvah is a Hebrew word that means “repentance” or “return.” The act of teshuvah is sometimes hard to translate, but it’s essentially about acknowledging where we have gotten off track, and then recalibrating and returning – to ourselves and to what matters most to us. Teshuvah can be done at any time, but is a central theme during the High Holiday season.

Rosh Hashanah

What’s Rosh Hashanah? Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year, basically a birthday party for the world! Rosh Hashanah is a time of communal celebration and renewal, as well as personal introspection and reflection.
When’s Rosh Hashanah this year? Sundown on Friday, September 15 – sundown on Sunday, September 17
How can we celebrate? Many people attend synagogue services, recite special prayers, and take part in annual rituals. And then who doesn’t love a New Year’s celebration? After all that reflection, many will gather to share festive meals with family and friends.

One of the most unique rituals of Rosh Hashanah is to hear the sounding of the shofar (a ram’s horn), which serves as a centuries old alarm clock, giving us a wake-up call for this holy season. It acts as a reminder not to walk through life half-asleep and to take a good look at our lives in this moment. It’s also customary to eat apples dipped in honey to signify the hope for a sweet new year, as well as round challah, which represents the cyclical nature of the year and the continuous cycle of life.
Looking for more meaning this Rosh Hashanah? Find more guidance here.

Kids love baking round challah – check out this great recipe from PJ Library!

Word to Know: Shofar – A shofar is a ram’s horn and is used throughout the High Holiday season. The shofar sounds in a series of patterns that hold symbolic and spiritual significance. It serves as a call to awaken, reflect, repent, and seek forgiveness.

Ten Days of Returning

What are the Ten Days of Returning? The period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called “The Days of Returning.” We spend time getting our spiritual acts together by setting intentions and repairing relationships with ourselves and with those around us. This is the chance to set a new path and think about living life in a new way.
How can we celebrate? This period is considered a crucial and spiritually significant time where we can engage in self-examination, ask for forgiveness, and make amends for any hurt we may have caused during the past year.

Looking for more guidance? Check out 10Q’s quick and easy guided reflection.

Need something kid-friendly? We love PJ Library’s Family Conversations guide.

Ritual to Know: TashlichTashlich translates to “casting off,” reflecting the central action of this ancient Jewish ritual. If we can’t apologize to someone we’ve hurt, or we’ve done something to hurt ourselves, tashlich offers a physical ritual to help cast off that spiritual baggage. During tashlich, we go near a body of flowing water with a piece of bread or a biodegradable item, reflect on past mistakes, and express remorse. Then we ceremoniously cast the bread or symbolic item into the water, allowing it to be carried away. Tashlich can be performed by an ocean, river, stream, or even your bathtub!

Tashlich Resource 2023 by Honeymoon Israel

Yom Kippur

What’s Yom Kippur? Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is considered the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar. Like a retreat for the soul, Yom Kippur is a day of focused attention on everything we’ve been reflecting on the last 10 days. Traditionally, it’s also a day of fasting, repentance, and prayer.

When’s Yom Kippur this year? Sundown on Sunday, September 24 – sundown on Monday, September 25

How can we celebrate? Yom Kippur often includes a 25-hour fast, which means abstaining from food and drink. The fast is an attempt to redirect focus from our physical needs and instead to concentrate on the spiritual aspects of the day. The holiday ends with a special “break-fast” meal with friends and family.

We recognize that fasting isn’t for everyone. Want an alternative? Check out our self-guided tashlich ritual.

One of the stories read on Yom Kippur is Jonah. Teach kids about forgiveness this year by reading the Story of Jonah with PJ Library.

Phrase to Know: The Book of Life – One term you might hear during the holidays is the idea of the Book of Life. It’s the concept that God has a book with the names of those who will thrive in the next year, and that we can alter our fate based on actions of repentance and good deeds during the Ten Days of Returning. The book is then “sealed” on Yom Kippur. It’s common to hear someone offer you the greeting, “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”


What’s Sukkot? Sukkot is a festival that celebrates the autumn bounty and is known as “the festival of joy.” Sounds pretty fun, right? During the holiday, we put up a temporary structure called a sukkah (sukkot is the plural of sukkah) to represent the temporary dwelling used by the Israelites when they wandered in the desert for 40 years after their exodus from Egypt.

When’s Sukkot this year? Sundown on Friday, September 29 – sundown on Friday, October 6

How can we celebrate? Sukkot is traditionally celebrated at home by building a sukkah, a temporary outdoor structure with three walls and a roof that allows us to see the stars – basically an awesome fort we get to build in our backyards! Then, we decorate the sukkah with fruits, vegetables, and other ornaments to celebrate the fall harvest. People spend as much time as possible in their sukkah, enjoying meals and even sleeping in them – Sukkot camp-out, anyone? The custom of inviting ushpizin (guests) into your sukkah emphasizes the importance of hospitality. A perfect opportunity to reconnect with your HMI friends and invite them to gather under the stars with you.

Looking for a simple Sukkot strategy? Check out our complete Sukkot guide that includes easy sukkah building ideas (even if you live in an apartment!) and an etrog cocktail recipe.

Words to Know: Etrog and Lulav – An etrog is a yellow citrus fruit that resembles a large lemon. The etrog is gathered along with the lulav and waved during Sukkot as an expression of the harvest and its blessings. A lulav is a bundle of branches consisting of a palm, myrtle, and willow branches. They are bound together as the lulav and, along with the etrog, make up the Four Species of the harvest season.

Sukkot Resource 2023 by Honeymoon Israel

Simchat Torah

What’s Simchat Torah? Know that feeling of satisfaction when you finally finish the last page of a book? That’s what the holiday of Simchat Torah is all about! It literally means “Rejoicing of the Torah” and celebrates the completion and then immediate beginning of the annual cycle of Torah readings. Each year, the Torah is read in its totality, in a never-ending cycle which ends and begins on Simchat Torah.

When’s Simchat Torah this year? Sundown on Saturday, October 7 – sundown on Sunday, October 8

How can we celebrate? Simchat Torah is a really happy holiday with lots of singing, eating, and dancing! If you listen to the final reading in a synagogue, you’ll see the rabbi (or whoever is reading the Torah) wind the whole scroll back to the other side to start again at the beginning. The Torah is then paraded around the synagogue, and everyone joins in to celebrate.

Want to try something new this year? Check out a local synagogue for their Simchat Torah service. It’s a joyful service, and particularly fun for young kids. Or host a dance party with your HMI cohort and put together a special playlist!

Word to Know: Torah – The Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It is the core text of Jewish tradition and is full of famous stories like creation, and the exodus from Egypt. It’s also full of laws, morals, and ethical teachings. These stories guide Jewish tradition and are a repository of Jewish memory.