Yom Kippur: Reflection, Repentance Begin at Sundown

In a time of global tumult, Jews worldwide mark the holiest day of the Hebrew calendar.

In the Torah, the Book of Leviticus commands that the 10th day of the 7th month called Tishrei be set aside as the "Sabbath of Sabbaths," a day of fasting and reflection for the atonement of sins.

Jews here and around the world will observe this ancient tradition beginning Tuesday with the arrival of Yom Kippur, the "Day of Atonement," the most solemn occasion of the Hebrew calendar.

Before sunset, the day is marked by acts of charity and pleas for forgiveness. Two special meals also precede a 25-hour fast; synagogue attendance typically surges for the solemn rituals, where hours are spent in reflection and special prayers. Work on this day is forbidden.

The day's ultimate purpose is to seek redemption in the eyes of G-d.

Rabbi Jonathan Hecht, spritual leader of Temple Chaverim in Plainview says Judaism clearly recognizes that "no one is perfect."

"In the Bible, all our heroes are imperfect characters who are striving for perfection," Rabbi Hecht said. "They make mistakes, and so do we. G-d doesn't expect perfection, G-d expects us to strive with all our might for perfection."

The looming threat of terrorism has caused Nassau County and federal authorities to increase patrols around synagogues during the High Holy Days. Many synagogues are requiring photo identification for admission and have quietly increased their own security efforts, experts said.

Yom Kippur completes the annual period known as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora'im ("Days of Awe") which began with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Many area synagogues conduct open services on Wednesday; see our events calendar for some of these. 

Jewish teachings hold that G-d inscribes a person's fate for the coming year into the "Book of Life" on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. Between the two High Holy Days, Jews attempt to amend their behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done to G-d and their fellow man, Jewish scholars say.

"And G-d gives us Yom Kippur as a gift to imperfect people so that we can acknowledge our mistakes, reorient our lives, and return to the path of goodness," Rabbi Hecht said.

Like most districts on Long Island, Farmingdale schools are closed on Wednesday.

Editor's Note: The spelling of "G-d" is intentional in this story in respect of a Jewish tradition. See the link for details.


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