Jews Perform Soul-Searching and Repentance for Yom Kippur
The ‘Day of Atonement’ starts at sundown today and ends at nightfall tomorrow.
Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays, begins when the sun goes down this evening.
Translated from Hebrew as ‘day’ (Yom) and the root meaning ‘to obliterate sin’ (Kippur), it’s a time for the observant to atone and repent for sins committed against God and fellow human beings.
Jewish people traditionally celebrate the day with a 25-hour period of fasting and prayer in a synagogue. When the sun sets tomorrow night, they will break the fast with a light meal. The holiday completes the annual time known in Judaism as the High Holy Days that began last week with Rosh Hashanah – the New Year.
On Rosh Hashanah, Jews ask to be put in the ‘Book of Life’ and, according to the custom, God waits until Yom Kippur to make the request a reality.
In addition to fasting, the holiday requires not wearing leather shoes, perfume, scented lotion and refraining from marital relations.
Abstaining from eating and these other activities symbolizes a desire to return to an unspoiled state – like the Garden of Eden. That’s the theme of the day when the body is uncomfortable but can still survive.
With the soul considered the life force in a body, making it uncomfortable does the same to the spirit. Feeling the pain in both body and soul tells one how others feel when they are in pain.
Fasting is required of healthy adults over 13 years old but those who are sick are not required to go without food.
In Israel, Yom Kippur is a legal holiday where there are no radio and television broadcasts or public transportation. Airports shut down as well as businesses and stores.
When Yom Kippur ends, those who celebrated and followed the traditions can consider themselves absolved by God.