Yom Kippur is the most solemn of Jewish holidays. It happens 10 days after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and it is a day of reflection on our sins and a day of atoning for them. It is the final day in the ten previous days building up to it. On that day Jews in general abstain from work, sex, eating, drinking and some go so far as to not bathe (my wife won’t let me do the last one). Here is a brief history of Yom Kippur from a practitioner of Judaism who is somewhat liberal.
History of Yom Kippur
Liturgically, Yom Kippur is called for in the Book of Leviticus in both the Torah and the Bible. It is described as a “Day of Atonement” to be held on the tenth day of the seventh month. Other prescriptions in that text refer to denying yourselves and offering food to the Lord. Not working on that day is a big deal as several passages refer to being “destroyed” for working.
Further traditions of Yom Kippur include casting out sins onto a goat that is released into the wilderness. The synagogue I attend does follow that tradition as it is animal cruelty. However that is where we get the modern term “scapegoat” as it refers to a Jewish tradition during Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is both a time of reflection and cleansing. In my family we have a mixture of both Jewish and Catholic traditions in our celebrations. We don’t force anyone to do anything when it comes to fasting or doing something that is prescribed by others when it comes to religious observances.
Still, for my own deeply personal reasons, I do try to adhere to some traditions of Yom Kippur. I always ask off work that day, which was hard this year since Saturday is our store’s busiest day of the week. My boss was still forgiving of me since I had made my request months in advance. The store still stands today.
The only thing I consume on Yom Kippur is water. And I do take a shower. Purifying with water is a Christian tradition that I have incorporated into my Jewish upbringing. Baptism is way of washing away your sins and gaining holy protection. However I do make it a point to drink only purified water that has had all of the stuff removed from the city water.
I try to make it to synagogue on that day even though it is a good drive to get there. If I can’t make it and my family needs me at home I will engage in prayers all day in my own way including saying them in my head or even muttering them to myself. It’s non-traditional but my interfaith family is non-traditional in and of itself.
Yom Kippur means even more to me if I get to spend it with my family in a more person setting. That way we all get more out of Yom Kippur and become closer as a family.
The History Channel website provided a reference for the traditions of Yom Kippur.