Monday, October 2, 2006

The Day of Atonement--Yom Kippur

From St. Louis Today:

No one knows whether it happens with a satisfying "thump," but at sunset Monday, God will close the Book of Life, according to Jewish tradition, and the fate of every Jew will be sealed for another year.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and most solemn day in the Jewish calendar, begins at sunset Sunday and ends at sunset Monday. It is a day dedicated to repentance and forgiveness, the end of the 10-day high holiday season that began with Rosh Hashanah, the festive Jewish New Year. Over those 10 days, Jews worldwide, including the 6,000 in the St. Louis area, seek forgiveness from those they've wronged over the last year, and forgive those who ask it of them.

But Yom Kippur is different. It is the day that Jews will also ask forgiveness for sins they've committed against God. Just before sunset Sunday, Jews will gather for the Kol Nidre prayer, a chant that releases the individual from promises made to God that won't be fulfilled.

The following 25 hours are spent in an intense individual examination of one's life - as it relates to other people, to God, to the Jewish faith and to the prospect of life's finality.

"All our lives we deny we're going to die, but on Yom Kippur we're forced to realize that we're not going to get out of this life alive," said Rabbi Mark L. Shook of Congregation Temple Israel in Creve Coeur. "Yom Kippur makes us think hard about the significance of our lives. What will be different about the world because we've entered and left it?"