FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17: The Jewish High Holy Days come to a close tonight with Yom Kippur, the most sacred day each year when millions of Jews observe a 25-hour fast. (Judaism 101 has details.)
According to Jewish tradition, God is deciding each person’s fate for the coming year on Rosh Hashannah and people have 10 days to repent, request forgiveness from others and make confessions. (Visit Chabad.org for facts, stories and much more.)
Ten days later—on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement—each person’s fate is sealed. Yom Kippur also is an occasion of remembering and honoring ancient traditions. As Jews attend services today, for example, the rituals involve specific historic instructions on how to observe Yom Kippur without a Temple. (Get an outline of Yom Kippur services from Wikipedia.)
An indication of the depth of Yom Kippur’s spiritual appeal is that, in Israel, even 1 in 4 Israelis who describe themselves as “secular” still fast on this occasion and many attend services as well. The Jerusalem Post recently reported on Israeli observance of Yom Kippur and other Jewish holidays.
Dump the Digital and Atone for Those Texts
Since Yom Kippur is designated as a day of repentance, purification and simplicity, a national advertising campaign created by two New York-based executives is making rounds this year and encouraging Jews to leave their cell phones at home on Yom Kippur. To “Go OffLining!” The Seattle Times reported on the campaign, in a story that includes this: “The ads, published online, in magazines and on posters around New York City, feature photos of celebrities such as Tiger Woods and Lindsay Lohan with messages like: ‘You don’t have to be Jewish to atone for your texts on Yom Kippur.’”
Yom Kippur Greetings
A frequently asked question among non-Jews is: How do I greet my Jewish relative, friend or neighbor as Yom Kippur approaches? It seems odd to say “Happy Yom Kippur!” While this is an occasion of deep reflection and renewal—and there is a joy in passing through Yom Kippur, a “Happy” greeting seems to miss the mark.
In Jewish communities, you’ll hear greetings including “G’mar Tov,” which roughly means, “Finish well.” Or, a longer phrase is traditional and popular, “G’mar Chatimah Tova,” which roughly means “May you be sealed in the Book of Life for good.”
For non-Jews, speaking English, many phrases are appropriate that express best wishes for this final great occasion in the new Jewish year. Consider: “Have a blessed Yom Kippur!” Or prehaps: “Peace and hope on Yom Kippur!”