Every year about this time, people of the Jewish faith take inventory of their lives.
The time of introspection occurs between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year begins at sunset Sunday. Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement will be observed at sundown Sept. 25.
(Photo for the Mirror by Jason Sipes) During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, scriptures are read from the Torah that address the High Holidays. Looking at the Torah scroll are (from left) Adam Port, 11, Sam Bilofsky, Mandy Sky and Casey Rispoli, all age 12.
"It's a special time of year," said Adele Giller of Hollidaysburg. "It's a reminder of everything the Jewish faith stands for and that's to make the world a better place."
"The start of the holiday is a joyful time with apples and honey and the telling of Bible stories," she said.
The apples and honey signify hopes of a sweet year.
Yom Kippur is a day of fasting. The holidays and the days between them are known as the Days of Awe.
"During that time, we try to mend anything that we have done wrong. We apologize to people, ask God for forgiveness, and after a day of fasting, we are ready to start a fresh life," Giller said.
Rabbi Josh Wohl of Agudath Achim Synagogue said Yom Kippur unites Jews around the world as they say the same Hebrew prayers during the service whether they are in Africa, Asia, Europe or the Americas.
"We have three or four hours of prayer on Yom Kippur and almost all the prayers are in Hebrew," he said.
Scripture is also read during the High Holidays.
"We read from the Torah,"?he said. "Genesis 21 and 22 is read on Rosh Hashanah."
Chapter 21 tells the story of the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, and Chapter 22 tells the story of the binding of Isaac and how he was almost sacrificed.
"We blow the shofar to remember the faith that Abraham had and to ask God to save us as well," Wohl said. "We ask God to save us for our own sake and if not, then to remember the covenant he had with Abraham."
The shofar also is sounded on Rosh Hashanah as a call to wake up, Wohl said.
It begins a time of introspection and reflection concerning the past year. The practice is known by the Hebrew word Teshuvah and means "to return," he said.
"We go on different paths, sometimes the wrong path which is a nice way of saying, 'we sin,'" he said. "We see how far we have gotten from our true potential and turn back to God."
"God will forgive you for your sins, but if you have offended another person, you have to actually ask [that person for forgiveness]. Only then will God grant you forgiveness," Wohl said.
He said Leviticus 16 tells about Yom Kippur where atonement is made once a year.
The High Holidays are also a time to help others.
Wohl referred to Isaiah 58:6-7 that talks about a fast being one that addresses the needs of others. He said the congregation is collecting nonperishable food for Sister Paula DelGrosso's work at the St. Vincent DePaul Food for Families program.
"It's very important to reach out to the wider community," Wohl said. "Acts of kindness are a big part of our faith."
For Ron Adelman of Altoona, the High Holidays are the most important days of the year.
"They set the tone for how I am to conduct myself as a Jew and as a human being," he said.
He said he sets the bar high and strives for excellence even though it is not always achieveable.
Adelman said in addition to a time of reflection, the High Holidays are a time to remember loved ones who have died.
A special ceremony known as Yizkor is part of the Yom Kippur observance.
"It's a serious time and a happy time," said David Binus of Altoona.
In addition to thinking about the people you have lost, it is a time to be thankful for friends and family and to get together with them, he said.
Another one of the meaningful aspects of the day is a tradition at Agudath Achim known as The Forum, where several members of the congregation share what Judaism means to them.
"It's one of the highlights of the day," said Barbara Hollander of Altoona.
She said it provides a perspective into others' lives, and noted that Forum organizer Phyllis Port, who asks different congregants to speak, is savvy in whom she selects.
Hollander spoke at a forum shortly after her father passed away. She said other congregants have shared experiences as newlyweds, visits to Israel or what it was like to be a camper where all the other children shared their faith.
She said The Forum allows people to learn about what is going on in someone's inner most being.
"We have relationships with people every day, but we don't know what goes on in their lives," Hollander said. "You think you know somebody, but you truly don't. Everybody has a story."