Yom Kippur..The Holiest Day
Yom Kippur arrives in Israel at the setting of the sun on the 10th of Tishrei on the Hebrew Calendar. This is the Holiest day of the year for all Jews world-wide. More Jews attend Synagogue on this day, than any other. It is the last day of the 10 Days of Awe. This has been ten days of prayer and teshuvah or repentance and returning. What began on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Teruah as it is called in Torah, is coming to a climax in prayer, fasting, and afflicting oneself before the God of Abraham.
In Israel, where the church and state are not separate, no cars can be driven. No one eats out. Rather this is a time where Jews meet in the streets and walk together in fellowship with their neighbor. It is a time to seek forgiveness and ask forgiveness from others. It is a time to walk together in a rich harmony. For the religious Jew, this is a day of fasting. It is a day to afflict your soul. It is a day of sack cloth and ashes for the soul. For all Jews, throughout the world, this is the day where they can start over.
This grave time started 10 days ago on Yom Teruah, when Jews the world over gathered at the river. It was here that pieces of bread were cast into the water, symbolic of casting away of your sins. In Israel this is taken very seriously. You will see small groups of believers gathered around every body of water. These 10 days are of extreme importance world-wide, but especially in Israel.
The Synagogues are full on this day, as Jews come to recite the Vidui, a public confession of sin. During this time the religious Jew is in extensive prayer, fasting of food and drink, and fasting from all sexual intimacy. During this day nothing that comes from an animal is worn. This could include leather shoes or a wool skirt. In addition to the four prayers said in the Synagogues for all feasts, there is a fifth prayer said on this Feast Day. It is the Kol Nidre. This is a legal document and binding on all Jews. It is a very emotional prayer. It is highly emotionally charged, especially in Israel. At the close of Yom Kippur is the blowing of the shofar. This officially marks the end of the fast and the breaking of the fast is done in community. This is a mega celebration in the land, as well as all over the Jewish world.
So in this land of extreme observance, where do the non-observant fit in? What do they do on this day? The secular Jews of Israel have their own special observances on Yom Kippur. This is a day to have a family feast or to meet over food with other secular Jews. It is a day to visit and take walks. It is also a day when the non-observant ride bicycles. The streets of every city and town are filled with bicycles on this day. All over the country, the roads are filled with bicycles! It is a day of celebration! It is a day for families! It is a day of feasting! Yom Kippur is for everyone.
For the observant Jew, it is also a day of celebration! This is the day that the sin of idolatry is remembered. The day that the Hebrews made a golden calf to worship. It is a time to remember that God forgave them of this grave sin. For this, it is a joyous occasion.
At the close of Yom Kippur, Jews everywhere consider it a day of new beginnings. A day to start over. This is seen especially in Israel, where this attitude takes to the streets in celebration. They have afflicted their souls, now it is time to receive forgiveness and start a New Year. The shofar has been blown and Yom Kippur has ended. And there are gatherings all over the land to break the fast. Celebrations are everywhere! It is a time of joy! A time to sing and make melody in your heart ! There is dancing and music all over the Land. This is a day to start over…..to begin all things new!