Yom Kippur . . .

It's cool  - they are CANVAS (and ugly) dress shoes.
Well. It is with great excitement (and a little pause) that I acknowledge we're nearly to the end of my little primer on the Jewish holidays/Holy Days of the year - next week's Sukkot will be THE END of my holiday firsts. I'll be exactly a year in to my conversion. I've learned so much and feel very blessed.

But let's not get misty-eyed. Instead - let's get hungry, and thirsty, and reflective, and talk YOM KIPPUR!

Here are ten things you might find interesting about Yom Kippur:

  1. The Jewish day of atonement (sins past and the ones we'll commit in the future) - Yom Kippur starts at sundown exactly seven days after Rosh Hashanah ends. Yom Kippur ends the "Days of Awe" for celebrant Jews. (Friday evening - Saturday evening, this year)
  2. Yom Kippur is believed to be the day, each year, when the Book of Life is closed. The Book of Life is (and forgive the blasphemy ahead) the equivalent to Santa's "Naught and Nice" kid lists. You want to be in the Good Book, for sure. This is done through observance and good deeds throughout the year and a good dose of atonement at the end (think of it as brushing and flossing just before going to the dentist).
  3. It is believed that Yom Kippur is the day that G-d gave Moses the second set of commandments (the delay was caused by the ire of Moses seeing worshiping to false gods and other unseemly behavior after coming off the mountain and smashing the original tablets and both Moses and G-d taking some time for everyone to think about what had happened) 40 days after the first set. 
  4. One of the sacrifices made for Yom Kippur is not to wear or carry animal hides. No leather shoes, belts, purses, wallets, bomber jackets, etc. I looked and looked for some good shoes but - ultimately decided buying shoes was not the point. I'll wear my tenny-runners tonight and tomorrow. We will also go without bathing, oils and perfumes, lotions, and sex (sorry, ladies - I just can't). Seems fair.
  5. The biggest (and still appropriate, I might point out (hey - look - the book is not yet closed) sacrifice is to go without any drink or fluid (including cough drops and hard candy (according to one shul's website)) for the entirety of the holiday. Don't worry - we're Jews. We have the greatest foods in allllll the religious/cultural cookbooks - we'll eat WELL at sundown tomorrow. 
  6. Yom Kippur services start with the Kol Nidre service including the beautiful prayer (I'm just presuming every congregation sings it this well) this evening. The Kol Nidre releases its reciters from any and all vows made in the last year. Why would we release ourselves from all promises? Simple. Humans are weak and we get ourselves in to situations we should not or that are not reflective of the way we should live. It is also believed the Kol Nidre prayer was specifically written during a time of persecution when Jews were being forced to disavow their faith and pledge themselves as Christians. The prayer allowed Jews a way back. Of course the prayer will always be a quick reference guide to anti-semites who claim a Jew's word is worth nothing because of this prayer. 
  7. The Holy Day continues ALL day tomorrow with a series of services, readings, reflections, and talks. The crude argument is that the reason for the full day of activities is to fill the void in stomachs but the far more realistic reaction is because the point of the day is to reflect and atone so - let's reflect at atone together.
  8. Interestingly enough many of the prayers and confessionals (to borrow from my Catholic youth) of the holy day do not talk about forgive me for I (singular) have sinned but, instead, forgive US for WE have sinned? Does this allow blanket forgiveness for our fellow believers? Perhaps. Does it, instead, make it less uncomfortable to acknowledge what sins in each pile of transgressions we MAY have committed ourselves? Probably. Think about seven year old kids who get caught and immediately say they were not the only ones. 
  9. The other big prayer, that typically closes Yom Kippur services, is the Ne'ilah ("locking") when we acknowledge the book and gates are closed and our chances to atone are over. I think it is the inspiration for Semisonic's "Closing Time" - but maybe that is just me (that is a joke, for the record).
  10. Leonard Cohen has some thoughts on repentance . . . that sorta' freak me out (and make me tap my toe).

May your fast be easy, your name found in the good book, and your 5774 sweet. Shalom.