Monday, September 24, 2012


Moses (Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments)
Returns to find the People Worshipping the Golden Calf
Hello My Friend and Welcome.

Ten days ago we put up a post about the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah. Now, ten days later, we are back to visit Highest Holyday of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement begins at sundown Spetember, 24th.

Yom Kippur commemorates the day when God forgave the Jewish people in the desert for the sin of the Golden Calf. Forty days after hearing God say at Mount Sinai: “You shall not have the gods of others in My presence; you shall not make for yourself a graven image,” the Jews committed the cardinal sin of idolatry. Moses spent nearly three months on top of the mountain pleading with God on their behalf, and on the tenth of Tishri it was finally granted. For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before God.” (Leviticus 16:30)

That date has been kept sacred ever after and became known as the Day of Atonement. While this is the most solemn day of the year, underlying it is a joyful confidence that God will forgive the people’s sins. From several minutes before sunset on Tishri 9 until after nightfall on Tishri 10 the people afflict their souls by abstaining from food and drink, they do not wash or anoint their bodies, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from spousal intimacy. Instead of focusing on the physical, Jews spend much of the day in the synagogue, engaged in repentance and prayer.
The Yom Kippur Service in a Modern Synagogue
On the day prior to Yom Kippur, the people eat and drink in abundance. Two festive meals are eaten, one early in the day, and one just prior to the onset of Yom Kippur fast. Another special observance of the day includes requesting and receiving honey cake. This is done to acknowledge that all we have comes from God. It also gives testimony to the prayerful hope that the following year be a sweet one. Jews also ask forgiveness from anyone they may have wronged during the past year, make extra charitable donations, and ceremonially bless their children. Before sunset, women and girls light holiday candles, and everyone makes their way to the synagogue for the Kol Nidrei services.

There are five prayer services held in the course of Yom Kippur: Maariv, with its solemn Kol Nidrei service, on the eve of Yom Kippur; Shacharit, the morning prayer, Musaf, which includes a detailed account of the Yom Kippur Temple service, Minchah, which includes the reading of the Book of Jonah. They say the Al Chet confession of sins eight times in the course of Yom Kippur, and recite Psalms every available moment. This is in compliance to the command, “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)

Most of the holiday is spent in the synagogue, in prayer. In Orthodox synagogues, services begin early in the morning (8 or 9 AM) and continue until about 3 PM. People then usually go home for an afternoon nap and return around 5 or 6 PM for the afternoon and evening services, which continue until nightfall. It is customary to wear white on Yom Kippur, which symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that our sins shall be made as white as snow (Is. 1:18). Some people wear a kittel, the white robe in which the dead are buried.

There are many additions to the regular liturgy. Perhaps the most important addition is the confession of the sins of the community, which is inserted into the Shemoneh Esrei (Amidah) prayer. It is important to note that all sins are confessed in the plural (we have done this, we have done that), emphasizing communal responsibility for transgressions.
Many in Israel go to the Wailing Wall, The Remaining
Western Wall of the Jerusalem Temple, to Pray During Yom Kippur
There are two basic parts of this confession. The Ashamnu contains a shorter, more general list (we have been treasonable, we have been aggressive, we have been slanderous...), the the Al Cheit is a longer and more specific list (for the sin we sinned before you forcibly or willingly, and for the sin we sinned before you by acting callously...) Frequent petitions for forgiveness are interspersed in these prayers. There's also a general confession reminiscent of the Catholic prayer, “…forgive our sins of omission and commission.” The Jewish form is, “Forgive us the breach of positive commands and negative commands, whether or not they involve an act, whether or not they are known to us.”

It is interesting to note that these confessions do not specifically address the kinds of ritual sins that some people might imagine. For instance, there is no “for the sin we have sinned before you by eating pork, and for the sin we have sinned against you by driving on Shabbat,”…though these are obviously included in the general confession. The vast majority of the sins enumerated involve mistreatment of other people, most of them by speech (offensive speech, scoffing, slander, tale-bearing, and swearing falsely, to name a few). These all come into the category of sin known as lashon ha-ra (the evil tongue), which is considered a very serious sin in Judaism.

The concluding service of Yom Kippur, known as Ne'ilah, is unique to the day. It usually runs about an hour. The ark, or cabinet where the scrolls of the Torah are kept, is left open throughout this service. Thus everyone is required to stand throughout the readings, unless physically unable to. There is a tone of desperation in the prayers of this service. The service is sometimes referred to as the closing of the gates. That is, it's the last chance to get in a good word before the holiday ends. The service ends with a very long blast of the Shofar, the tekiah gedolah

The weeks following Rosh HaShanah are a time of feasts and festivals. The next comes just five days after Yom Kippur…the feast of Sukkoth, literally the feast of booths. One of three so-called pilgrim feasts during which the people left their homes and journeyed to Jerusalem, it was also called the Feast of Tabernacles or the Festival of Ingathering. Jesus, being an observant Jew, traveled to Jerusalem each year to observe this feast. One such instance is noted in John’s Gospel. “After this Jesus went about in Galilee; he would not go about in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews' feast of Tabernacles was at hand...” (John 7:1-2) “About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.” (John 7:7:14)

Until NEXT TIME, we wish you Peace and Blessings.

1 comment:

Gale said...

Had to share this because thought it might make you four year old son is sitting on my lap while I surf, and likes to point out what he sees. I click over to this post and when he sees the picture of Mosus he says "Darth Vader." LOL.