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Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is considered the most holy day in the Jewish calendar and the conclusion of the New Years ritual. Known in English as the Day of Atonement, it is the day when traditionally the prayer gates of heaven are closed and the decision made on Rosh HaShana as to whether or not an individual has been written in the Book of Life for that coming year is sealed. The day is generally spent in solemn prayer, confession and fasting. There is a traditional 25 hour fast which begins after dinner (right before sundown) the night before Yom Kippur and ends the night of Yom Kippur. In Israel there are no television and radio broadcasts for the day. Business, shops, schools and public transportation are closed. Airports are shut down. Religious Israeli's spend the day in prayer and meditation at home or in their synagogue. Most secular Israeli's choose to fast and pass the time by watching movies or sitting in groups playing board games and counting the hours until the appointed hour at which the fast may be broken. Most who observe the fast also go to the service at the synagogue. Secular Israeli's who choose not to fast (and thus have considerably more energy than their more religious brothers) go for a quiet bike ride through the mountains or down the center lane of the highway with a close friend or two. The city's are painfully quiet. It is not forbidden to drive on Yom Kippur but it is considered extremely rude to do so with out an emergency reason (which is why it is the one safe day for bikers to utilize the normally super dangerous Israeli roadways!).

I spent Yom Kipper with friends on a Kibbutz in northern Israel. The Kibbutz was made up of half non observant who bar b qued and went swimming and half observant who spent the day either shut away in their rooms or clustered in lawn chairs in the shade talking about life, books and the food they were craving. Tradition not only inflicts fasting; tradition also prescribes feasting. The dinner before the fast is traditionally a huge feast and the fast is broken with a large feast as well.

As is typical with New Years, resolutions are made but the ones made at Yom Kippur are taken a bit more seriously, at least for the first part of the year. Just the fact that they are called "vows" and not "resolutions" begs a more serious mindset when initiating such for the year ahead. Many traditional prayers are recited. The Yom Kippur service is known to be the longest of the whole year. The day is concluded by reading the entire book of Jonah because it is a story about repentance and forgiveness. The day is closed with the reciting of the Shema and a final sounding of the shofar to signal that the gates to heaven have been closed for the coming year.

Posted by Sarah 2116 17:45

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