A quick look at this week's Torah portion
Rosh Hashana Day 1:
G‑d remembers Sarah, and gives her and Abraham a son, who is named Isaac (Yitzchak), meaning “will laugh”; Abraham is then one hundred years old, and Sarah ninety. Isaac is circumcised at the age of eight days.
Hagar and Ishmael are banished from Abraham’s home and wander in the desert; G‑d hears the cry of the dying lad, and saves his life by showing his mother a well. The Philistine king Abimelech makes a treaty with Abraham at Be’er Sheba.
Rosh Hashana Day 2:
G‑d commands Abraham to sacrifice his son on Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. Isaac is bound and placed on the altar, and Abraham raises the knife to slaughter his son. A voice from heaven calls to stop him, saying that it was a test; a ram, caught in the undergrowth by its horns, is offered in Isaac’s place.
A special feature of the Yom Kippur service was the casting of lots over two he-goats — equal in age, size and appearance — to determine which shall be offered to G‑d in the Holy Temple, and which shall be dispatched to carry off the sins of Israel to the wilderness.
The climax of the service was when the Kohen Gadol entered the innermost chamber in the Temple, the "Holy of Holies." Wearing special garments of pure white linen, the Kohen Gadol would enter the sacred place with a pan of burning coals in his right hand, and a ladle containing an exact handful of ketoret in his left. Inside the Holy of Holies, he would place the ketoret over the coals, wait for the room to fill with its aromatic smoke, and hastily retreat from the holy place.
"This shall be an everlasting statute for you," the Torah reading concludes. "...For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d... once a year."
During the afternoon Minchah service, we read chapter 18 of Leviticus, which details the prohibitions against incest and other deviant sexual behaviors. The Torah reading is followed by a haftorah (reading from the Prophets) which tells the story of Jonah — the prophet who was sent to prophesy the destruction of the sinful city of Ninveh, ran away from G‑d, was swallowed by a fish, and learned the power of prayer and repentance to evoke G‑d's mercy and annul the harshest decrees.