Sunday, October 01, 2006

Yom Kippur - The Sabbath of Sabbaths

"...In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and you shall not do any work ... For on that day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the LORD." -Leviticus 16:29-30

Yom Kippur: Sunset October 1, 2006 - Nightfall October 2, 2006

There's evil in the world. Many of us have been decrying the sins and misdeeds of leaders, politicians, terrorists and even clergy around the globe.

But what about our own sins? If we can't control outside forces of evil, we can at least address and atone for the sins we have committed against our fellow human beings. Set an example for our children. And maybe, in some small way, show the world's children a path away from evil.

For Jews, tonight begins that process on the holiest of holy days, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The Sabbath of Sabbaths -- 25 hours of thought, reflection and prayer. Culminating in a renewed determination to be a better Jew. And a better person.

Yom Kippur isn't just about religious sins. In fact it's more about moral laws which apply to everyone.

The day before Yom Kippur is reserved for asking forgiveness for broken promises between people. Only we--not God--can forgive those sins for each other. Yom Kippur is the day to ask forgiveness for promises broken to God.

Yom Kippur begins with Kol Nidre, a prayer asking God to release us from unfulfilled vows. Kol Nidre literally means "all of my vows" and refers to the promises we haven't or won't be able to keep despite our best efforts.

Before Kol Nidre, Jews follow the custom of promising these mitzvahs (blessings):

To love your neighbor as yourself.

The mitzvah of individual and communal confession.

The mitzvah of self-denial--fasting, abstaining from sex, refraining from washing, not wearing leather--from sundown to sundown ... one entire Jewish day.

Let one mitzvah lead to another.

Let the coming year bring joy and peace to ourselves, our families, and to Israel.
Amen to that one especially.

During Yom Kippur services in Synagogues around the world, congregations repeat the Confessional, a list of sins committed by the average person: lying, poor judgment, cheating or hurting a loved one, exploiting others, stubbornness, cruelty ... it's a long list. And after we seek corporal forgiveness from those we've hurt, we ask God for spiritual forgiveness.

But there's also a more global atonement -- and commitment. Because community and unity are such an important part of Jewish life.

The Confessional is recited as "we", showing one of the basic concepts of Judaism: we are all responsible for all the sins of our society, either by what we do or by passively accepting conditions that lead to crime and lawlessness and violence.

If only international government and religious leaders believed--and acted upon--that responsibility.

Jewish tradition says that from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur our names are written down by God in one of several books and our fate for the coming year is sealed. All of us hope our names are written in the Book of Life.

Here is the blessing we wish for each other. And I wish for you: Gamar Chatimah Tovah: "May you be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year."


Read how Yom Kippur was begun by Moses after receiving the second tablets of the Ten Commandments. See that it belongs to all of us: Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement

More about the background, customs, prayers and rituals of Yom Kippur:
Judaism 101: Yom Kippur

High Holy Days on the Net - The Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur -



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