10 Ways to Mark Yom Kippur

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  1. Fast—it is customary to not eat or drink (even water). If we don’t need to worry about our basic needs, then we will be more focused on the task at hand. And plus, fasting is uncomfortable just as doing the work of repentance is uncomfortable.
  2. Don’t Fast if you Can’t—If for health reasons you must eat, please do. Your health is more important than observing the Yom Kippur fast. And that’s not just me saying that, Jewish tradition teaches that.
  3. Abstain—In addition to fasting, it is also customary not to bathe for pleasure, anoint oneself, wear leather shoes or have sex. We take off the trappings of luxury and limit our bodily pleasures as we humble ourselves on this day.
  4. Wear white—We wear white, just as we cover the sanctuary in white, to symbolize the blank slate we hope to create going into the new year.
  5. Atone—This is the spiritual work of Yom Kippur. We focus on where we messed up in the past year. Really take the time to think about this.
  6. Reach Out—Judaism teaches that Yom Kippur only atones for sins that you did between you and God. In other words, only your behaviors that may not have affected another. In other words, if you have some repair work to do with a friend, neighbor, colleague, etc., you can’t just pray about it. You need to do it.
  7. Remember—On Yom Kippur we have a special service called Yizkor. It is a memorial service for those who have died, whether recently or long ago. We are mindful of our place as a link in the chain as we remember and honor those who came before. It is customary to light a yartzeit candle on Yom Kippur, even if the yartzeit of the person you are remembering is on another day.
  8. Tune Out—While all holidays last all day, Yom Kippur is one of the few times where in community we carve out space for the whole day. Yes there are services throughout the day. But there are also quiet times for you to find your own space, or come and go, or rest, or study. The TBH building will be open all day on Saturday. Use it to tune out what is going on around.
  9. Hear the shofar—Yes, we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. But we also blow the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur to signal the end of the fast. This, to me, is the “shofar of release”—it is a relief after the physical and spiritual difficulties of the day and truly announces the new year to come.
  10. Build the Sukkah—Sukkot follows just a few days after Yom Kippur. It is customary to begin building the sukkah the night when Yom Kippur ends (at least a ceremonial hammering of a nail). Thus we rush to simply celebrate after the spiritual heaviness of the High Holidays, ready to enjoy the harvest, and also not quite ready to give up all the wonderful communal time we spent together.

As Yom Kippur approaches, my wish for you is that you be sealed in the Book of Life for a year of goodness, health and peace. And may the work of teshuvah (repentance) you do over these days carry forward throughout the days and months ahead. May this be for you a season of transformation.

2 responses

  1. beanzblues

    Ken Y’Hee Ratzon! Wishing you an easy fast and a New Year of Brilliance!


  2. Rabbi360

    And to you, brother!


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