Yom Kippur is a very special day in the Jewish religion. It is necessary to note that this traditional Jewish festival is 8 days after Rosh Hashanah and is called the Day of Atonement. I got a chance to attend this event in a Jewish synagogue two weeks ago. This essay seeks to describe the Yom Kippur event and its significance for the Jews.
Yom Kippur Event
I attended a Yom Kippur event in a synagogue. During the event, there was a 24 hour fast and a long devotional service. According to the Jewish traditions, this service was to correct our wrongful actions against God and fellow men. In this case, we realized that the solemnity of the event surpassed all other events and traditional religious activities in the Jewish religion. It was interesting to note that the country came into a halt for nearly 25 hours. During this time, there are no television programs, public transport or radio broadcasts. During this event, we abstained from eating, sleeping, wearing leather shoes, washing, bathing, anointing ourselves with lotions, perfumes, and marital relationships. These activities were in accordance to the biblical account of the Jewish traditions. On the eve of Yom Kippur, we all gathered together at the Synagogue. The Ark was opened, and two Torah scrolls taken from it by two people (Grumet, 2010). The people led by the leaders started to chant in Hebrew, and the leader repeated three times a statement that the people’s sins were forgiven. After the prayers and chanting, there was repentance and confessions.
In the synagogue, I noticed that Yom Kippur is a special Jewish tradition that is observed by the Jews six days in a year. Jews observe fasting traditions by abstaining completely from food and liquids. In the Judaism traditions, fasting is not permitted during the Shabbat. The most important fasting day in the Jewish year is the Yom Kippur which is considered as the holy day. Fasting on this day clearly shows that the individual has completely complied with and participated in a full religious service. The major fasts in Judaism are the Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av. These fasts are observed for two days while minor fasts are observed for a day. I attended this fast after participating in a Jewish religious service. This is part of the Jewish religion. This fasting event required us to wear white clothes to symbolize purity and cleanliness. It took place in the synagogue. During this event, we learnt that Jews fast in order to achieve atonement of sins as specified in the divine service. This does not mean that fasting is the primary way of achieving or obtaining atonement from their sins. It is one of the ways to achieve and obtain atonement for their sins because it helps to precipitate contrition (William, 2003). The Jews believe that hardships and calamities according to the Hebrew Bible are circumstances which may occur as a result of wrongdoing. The other purpose of fasting according to the Jews beliefs and traditions is commemorating mourning. This helps the Jews to show appreciation for the temple which was destroyed. It is quoted in the Bible that people should be glad and exult in Jerusalem. Those people who love Jerusalem should rejoice all the celebrations (Isaiah 66: 10, Hebrews Bible). This means that the mourning indicates the happiness over the return of the loss. The other reason why the Jews fast is in order to commemorate gratitude. The Jews abstain from food and drink to focus on spiritual aspects. This dedication shows God gratitude for providing salvation. It also shows their dependence on God.
I also learnt that Jewish fasting traditions also include Ashkenazic which allows a bride and groom to fast during the wedding period or on the wedding day. Apart from official fasting days, the Jews have other communal and personal fasts. These fasts help them to seek repentance and forgiveness during impending calamities or face of a tragedy. The Jews believe that fasting is a way of offsetting an impending tragedy from a bad dream. Fast can also be declared in drought periods in order to pray for rain and fertility from the ground. At the temple, I learnt that fasting is a practice or an act that entails abstaining from food and drinks for a particular time. It is very important part of the Jewish religion. The fasts are observed due to local customs and personal beliefs. The customs and beliefs include these actions on particular days of the months. This is because fasting is a way of expressing deep sorrow or pain, a way of atoning for many different misdeeds, an attempt to stir spiritual feelings, a way to appeal to their moral sense and a way of bringing different parties or quarreling parties together.
According to the Jewish beliefs, fasting prevents sins, promotes humility and chastity and, thus, is a shield to protect the Jews against themselves. Jews believe that during the fasting period they also abstain from lustful thoughts, indecent speech, falsehood and many other evils. This simply means that the fasting helps to control many different impulses and thus develop decent and good behavior. They also believe that they must never fall short of performing any duty or tending to their commitments, therefore, they strive to attain and apply virtuous characteristics. During the fasting days and ceremonies, the Jews exercise patience, control their anger, show mercy to other people, generosity and compassion. In this way, they uphold good characters and moral habits (Bernard, 1995). According to the Jewish beliefs and traditions, fasting inculcates many different emotions such as solidarity and fraternity. The Jews believe that these feelings allow them to experience and feel what their homeless brothers all over the world are experiencing and feeling. This tradition and belief teach the Jews self-control and patience.
At the synagogue, we learnt that fasting is characterized by abiding to prescribe rules in order to reach a transcendent state. These rules may include abstaining from food, drinks or sexual activity. Our experience in the synagogue was interesting because we were able to express our political and social views. On the other hand, we were not asked to make up for the missed fast days according to some Jewish group members during the event. This is because it was a day when all the Jews seek forgiveness, forgive and pause to reflect on their physical self and their spiritual self. Yom Kippur is observed by secular Jews in order to atone for their sins against fellow men and the God. According to the book of Leviticus, the day for the atonement of sin will be on the 10th day of the 7th month (Leviticus 16:29).
The Yom Kippur is rooted and described in the Babylonian Talmud. From my experience at the synagogue, I learnt that this event represents an obligation for the Jews seeking to fulfill the atonement of sins. This event echoes the account of Moses and sacrificial worship restoration. Yom Kippur is the only fast that is allowed and ordained in the Jews Torah. It is one of the most commonly observed fasts in the Jewish religion. The fasting period, according to the Jews, is a period in which they return to God. It is also a period when people make peace with fellow men.