Shouldn’t we call it the TEN DAYS OF TURNING?
It is true that we generally refer to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as the HIGH HOLY DAYS or, the HIGH HOLIDAYS. These terms are not wrong - but I think we might want to utilize a lesser known (but still important) term to more accurately illuminate this specific period of time - ASSERET YAMEI TESHUVAH - the TEN DAYS OF TURNING.
Arguably, The essence of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Is found in the core idea of teshuvah, which is incorrectly translated as “repentance.” Since teshuvah comes from the Hebrew verb meaning to turn or to change, I think this is a more accurate translation than repentance.
Here is the problem with repentance. In its essence repentance is really a Christian concept - this doesn’t make it bad or wrong but it is not really a Jewish concept. At times in Christian tradition repentance was built on the idea that we are born inherently bad and only by repenting can we be saved/purified/made good. Often it is taught that a belief in Jesus Christ is required to help us repent. In Judaism, we are born inherently good, and while we have the capacity to do evil, our free will can help us to choose to do good.
I believe the term teshuva is not only a more accurate translation but helps to understand what it is we are commanded to do during this ten day period. This is our time to turn away from the past and especially our mistakes of the past. This is our time to turn so that we can affirm what is good and right in our life. At the core of teshuva is the idea that we can turn and we can become better people. It will not be easy but it is doable. My wish for you is for a year of turning and changing so that you can affirm your essential goodness as a human being and as a Jew.
Rabbi Jim Simon