Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, which falls on October 8th of this year, is the holiest day of the Jewish year.  It is considered to be the day on which we are closest to G-d and to the quintessence of our own souls. Yom Kippur is also commonly known as the Day of Atonement. It is a day where we turn to our friends and family and apologize for our wrongdoings, making an effort to start anew. 

For nearly 26 hours, from several minutes before sunset on the 9th day of Tishrei to just after nightfall on the 10th of Tishrei, we abstain from food and drink, we do not wash or anoint our bodies, we do not wear leather footwear and we abstain from marital relations. It is a solemn and serious day that just so happens to be one of only a few holidays that even most secular Jews choose to observe due to its seriousness.

Before Yom Kippur begins, a traditional Jewish person will perform an atonement service and also request and receive honey cake in prayerful hope for a sweet and abundant new year. A large meal will be eaten in preparation of the coming fast. 
Additionally, people will cleanse themselves since the next day, we are to refrain from cleaning ourselves. Extra charity should be given. Also, a memorial candle should be lit in memory of those who are no longer with us on this holy day. Lastly, observant Jews will attend services on the first evening of Yom Kippur, called Kol Nidrei services.

The next day, we wake up for a day full of prayer. Though Orthodox Jews usually have a much fuller day of prayer than reform Jews like me, the notion is still the same. We head back to synagogue in the company of our fellow congregants in order to repent, request forgiveness for our sins and pray that the verdict which is sealed for the coming year is one full of life, health and happiness.

Following the end of services, the mood turns into a joyous one, full of song and dance. A single blast of the shofar blows throughout the synagogue, ushering the somber holiday to a close. People turn to one another with hugs and kisses. 

The evening ends with a sunset "break-the-fast" meal during which we engorge ourselves after a lengthy fast. 

Back in Israel, the holiday of Yom Kippur ends with the streets being filled with neighbors and friends who extend their arms and hearts to one another with greetings, hugs and well wishes. Only in a place like Israel, where towns and cities are filled with Jewish people, will you find such an outdoor scene in the city streets. Although I am not able to be in Israel during Yom Kippur this year, I know very well how such a holiday would look, as I have seen and experienced an abundance of such moments throughout my almost-one-year there thus far. 


Soon enough, I will be back in Israel to celebrate the rest of the Jewish holiday season. I would like to wish everyone out there both an easy fast and a fruitful and productive new year.

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