Yom Kippur: A Day of Atonement, Reflection, and Spiritual Cleansing
Understanding Yom Kippur
Recognized as the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is an observance that spans two days due to the lunar Jewish calendar. The days run from sunset to sunset, with this year’s Yom Kippur commencing at sunset on September 24 and wrapping up on the evening of September 25.
From Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur: The Days of Awe
This significant day concludes the “Days of Awe,” a ten-day period that commences with the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Jews worldwide use this period to ponder their actions over the past year, seeking atonement for any wrongdoings through worship and prayer. This self-reflection and request for forgiveness can occur in a synagogue or at home, aiming to begin the Jewish new year with a “clean slate.”
The Historical Roots of Yom Kippur
The origins of Yom Kippur are believed to date back to the time Moses led the ancient Israelites out of slavery. After Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, he found the Israelites worshiping a Golden Calf, a false idol. Following their atonement for this sin, God forgave them, marking the foundation for the Day of Atonement.
Observing Yom Kippur: Fasting and Abstinence
Jews traditionally fast from sunset to sunset on Yom Kippur, abstaining from food and water. More observant individuals also refrain from bathing, wearing leather shoes, using perfumes or lotions, and engaging in marital relations. This abstinence symbolizes a spiritual cleansing, demonstrating one’s commitment to true and pure repentance. However, exceptions are made for children under 13, the sick, the elderly, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Breaking the Fast: The Conclusion of Yom Kippur
At the end of Yom Kippur, it is customary to “break the fast” with a shared meal amongst families and friends. In North America, this typically includes bagels, lox, schmears, and desserts like coffee or Jewish apple cake. For those not of Jewish faith wishing to send well wishes to those observing Yom Kippur, the usual greetings are “Have an easy fast” or “Have a good fast.”
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