Question: Which is the most important day of this year's High Holiday Season?

Answer: October 20

Before you run to choose in which of the 86 Jewish calendars you have received from various worthy charities you want to look this day up, relax — I'll tell you which holiday falls on this day. None. This year, October 20th is the day after Simchat Torah (the last — and most joyous — holiday of this packed, 23-day flood of special days). It is also the most important day of this year.

Picture the launch of a space vehicle being sent to explore some distant reach of the universe on a journey never before attempted. The countdown is over, a button is pressed, and — hopefully — away it goes, to where silicon has never gone before. Countless thousands of top-quality man-hours have been invested in this project by people who are, indeed, rocket scientists. Yet, if when the button is pressed, the rocket explodes or otherwise malfunctions, all that genius is for naught. The button does not require an engineer to press it — it is such a simple task even a politician can do it. Yet, that very pressing of the button is the purpose of all those expert hours. If that single event does not occur as it should, then something has gone very wrong in all those preparations, and the mission is a failure.

Spiritually speaking, during the Tishrei festivals we are in the position of the "rocket scientist"; a savant of Jewish life. We focus on our soul-life more than any other time of year. We find ourselves praying more intensely and more often. We are more careful in the way we treat others and more generous in our charitable donations. The Shofar inspires us, Yom Kippur uplifts us, and we find meaningful joy in our families and communities on Sukkot. We are on a high level and doing great things.

However, the day after the holidays are over, we go back to our ordinary workaday world. When we get up that morning, is the spirit of closeness to G‑d we experienced during the High Holidays in our prayers? Do we rise to a high standard of integrity, a standard easily imagined in the synagogue but challenged by the prevailing norms as we get back to our careers? When we leave the "laboratory" of the Holy Days, do our resolutions work on the "launch pad" — in the real world where our commitments are challenged at every turn?

If we did our equations properly in this laboratory, they will work in the real world. But if we do not live our workaday lives differently, then all the drama of the holidays is impressive, but they miss their entire goal: that we lead our everyday lives as a journey to G‑dliness and integrity that takes us this year to places we have never been before.

In the Haftarah (reading from the Prophets) for the morning of Yom Kippur the Prophet Isaiah challenges us to do precisely this — that we "launch" our holy days into the real world:

Is such the fast that I have chosen? The day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to G‑d?

Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the fetters of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?

Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When you see the naked, that you cover him, and that thou hide not yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth as the morning, and your healing shall spring forth speedily; and your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of G‑d shall be your rearward.

Then your shall call, and G‑d will answer; you shall cry, and He will say: 'Here I am.' If you take away from your midst the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking wickedness.

And if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall your light rise in darkness, and your gloom be as the noon-day;

And G‑d will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and make strong your bones; and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. (Isaiah 58:5-11)