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Rabbi's Week In Review - 9/13/2021

09/13/2021 11:47:50 PM


By popular demand, I am relating some of the rituals surrounding Yom Kippur. There are some unique pieces to this Sabbath of Sabbaths, the most important day on the Jewish calendar. The many rituals are not all observed by all Jews. This is a list of traditional observances for Yom Kippur. So, in no particular order:

• This is one of two major fasts during the year. (A major fast is over 24 hours — from the beginning of Yom Kippur, at sundown the night before, until just after sundown on Yom Kippur day.) Included in the prohibitions are prohibitions against wearing leather, a symbol of comfort, and fully bathing or showering or anything beyond ritual washing. Sexual relations are also prohibited. As we prepare for fasting, we have a special pre-fast meal before coming to the synagogue. It is recommended to eat moderately, rather than eating a lot, as it makes for an easier fast.

• It is customary to wear white as a sign of ritual purity. You will see me in a kittel, a plain white robe without pockets. Its purpose, in addition to being a sign of purity, is to signify that on Yom Kippur we are all equal before G-d.

• We hold Yizkor, a Memorial service, on Yom Kippur, and light yahrzeit candles to remember loved ones who have died.

• While there are certainly prayers that are specific to Yom Kippur, there are also additional services for Yom Kippur. Our Machzor, prayer book, for Yom Kippur includes a version of the Avodah service, the service of the Kohen Gadol, High Priest. We also add a Neilah service, a concluding service, which is one last chance to confess our sins before G-d, and ask for G-d’s compassion and mercy as we are  judged for the year to come.

• Finally, there is Kapparot, a strange ritual for individual atonement. It involves taking a live chicken and swinging it over your head three times. The hoped-for impact of atoning this way for our sins is much like the scapegoat ceremony described in the Torah. We should live a long life after this, unlike the poor bird, which will be heading off to the Shochet, or kosher butcher, and donated for use by the poor for their pre-fast dinner. People have substituted fish or, better still, money to perform the ritual and then donated it for use by the poor.

Whatever rituals resonate for you, may you be inscribed for a good year in the Book of Life, and may your year be one of sweetness and goodness.

Tue, May 24 2022 23 Iyyar 5782