Essentially, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and the 10 days in between have to do with Teshuvah. Teshuvah is the Hebrew word that is sometimes regarded as repentance. Repentance is a word that is closely connected to the word sin. That definition, though, is not entirely correct. Actually, Teshuvah means “return.”
Let’s say you take a trip. When you are done, you “return” home. Now think of home. After you have been gone for a while, that place you fought so hard to leave becomes that place you cannot wait to get back to. It is familiar. Comfortable.
In Judaism, G-d is not something we have pinned down. Some consider G-d an energy in the Universe. Some see G-d as the Divine Mother, or the King of the Universe or even all or none of these things on any given day. Regardless of where you are at this moment in your conception of G-d, Teshuvah is a return to the path of our soul as G-d intended, that path of goodness, the closeness to the Divine.
Once you get out of SIN mode and into RETURN mode, you can see that these two holidays have to do with returning, to getting back on the path for which we are destined. There are many ways to get off the path. Serious and not so serious. Wrongs against man. Wrongs against G-d. Wrongs against self. They are the things we do that make us feel badly about ourselves, the things that hurt others. We all make mistakes…say things we don’t mean, participate in untruths, avoid effort, don’t speak out when we should, etc.
Teshuvah is about making an inventory of those things we have done and them making them right with the people we have hurt. It is about recognizing our wrongs and making the decision to fix our wrongs and try from a fresh start. It is about STOPPING, REGRETING, FIXING, and MAKING AN ACTION PLAN so that you are in a better position to have it not happen again.
Let’s face it. Judaism is hard. You can’t just ask G-d to forgive you for screaming at your partner in life and cutting them down when you had a bad day. If you never asked forgiveness for this, you are required to make amends to the extent it is possible. It is said that you must ask at least three times if the person refuses to forgive you. After three times, you are released.
Yom Kippur is the day that G-d writes you into the book of life (or not). Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, you have ten days to make the amends you need to so that the slate is clean and you can be symbolically written into the book of life.
Look, I personally find it refreshing that every year I have the opportunity to return. That I am never given too long of an opportunity to stray from my soul’s path. Teshuvah gemurah is the complete return, where G-d has placed you in the position of where you are supposed to be so that you can continue on your path, the one intended for you, the one that your soul knows, the one your soul is comfortable with.