Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yom Kippur

Today is the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur ("Yom HaKippurim" in the Torah), also known as the Day of Atonement. It is the most holy day of the Jewish year, and is a day for atonement and repentance for sins. It is the climax of the Yamim Noraim ("Days of Awe"), and with Rosh Hashanah forms the Jewish High Holy Days.

Yom Kippur is considered the date on which Moses received the second set of Ten Commandments, following the completion of the second 40 days of instructions from God. At this same time, the Israelites were granted atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, hence its designation as the Day of Atonement.

This day is set aside to atone for the sins of the past year. You may recall on Rosh Hashanah, God inscribes names in the books of account when he makes his judgments. On Yom Kippur, it is the last chance to demonstrate repentance and make amends before the books are sealed. Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and God, not for sins against another person. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible. That must all be done before Yom Kippur.

No work can be performed on this day, and there are 5 other prohibitions specified in the Talmud*: Eating and drinking; Wearing leather shoes; Bathing/washing; Anointing oneself with perfumes or lotions; and Sexual relations. Abstention begins 18 minutes before sundown and ends after nightfall the next day. In Israel, by law there is no broadcast radio or television, no public transportation, and airports are closed.

A large and festive meal is eaten on the afternoon before the fast begins. Services are held before sunset on the eve of Yom Kippur and for morning and afternoon prayers the next day.
Most of the holiday is spent in the synagogue in prayer. It is customary to wear white, which symbolizes purity and the promise that our sins shall be made as white as snow .


*I wondered about the difference between the Torah and the Talmud. The Torah is the written holy scripture, and the Torah explains how to interpret and apply the scripture. See:

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