Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"G'mar Chatima Tova"

read the bottom to see what my title means
My non-Jewish friends always ask me many questions concerning Judaism. Wednesday night begins the holiday of Yom Kippur. I thought that some blog readers may have questions so have posted this from the website Hillel, the foundation for Jewish campus life.

Yom Kippur is a holiday that raises many questions. Numerous rituals, prayers, and themes are unique to this holiest day of the Jewish year. This fact sheet will provide an introduction to the practices of Yom Kippur. (don't forget that these are the facts. People observe to different levels.)

Yom Kippur is one of the most widely observed holidays on the Jewish calendar.
Yom Kippur marks the highest synagogue attendance rate of any other day in the year.

To afflict ourselves for our sins, the Talmud requires that we practice "self denial." Thus, we abstain from eating, drinking, bathing, sexual relations, using bath oils and lotions, etc., and wearing leather shoes.

It is traditional to wear white on Yom Kippur as a sign of purity.

Yom Kippur, the 10th of Tishrei, is the day that Moses came down from Sinai with the second set of the tablets of the Ten Commandments, to replace the original set that he broke upon witnessing the children of Israel worshipping the Golden Calf.

On Yom Kippur, it's traditional not to wear gold or other jewelry so as not to remind God of the sin of the Golden Calf.

Yom Kippur is the only day where a tallit, the four cornered prayer shawl with fringes that symbolize the 613 commandments, is worn in the evening.

Kol Nidrei (meaning "our vows"), the service on the eve of Yom Kippur, is a communal supplication asking God to view all vows made under duress as null and void.

In Biblical and Rabbinic times, Temple rituals and sacrifices were the focus of the holiday. Among the highlights of the day was the scapegoat ceremony during which lots would be placed on two goats. One goat would be offered as a sacrifice in the Temple, in the Holy of Holies; and the second would be thrown into the wilderness. Once the Temples were destroyed, prayer and return, i.e. repentance, are the focus while the Temple ritual is recounted as part of the Yom Kippur liturgy.

Today, in addition to the traditional three prayer services (morning, afternoon, and evening), Yom Kippur includes a special Musaf (additional) service, Yizkor (memorial service), the Avodah service (a symbolic reenactment of the ancient priestly ritual for Yom Kippur), Viddui (the communal confession of sin), and Neiliah (the concluding service).

During the afternoon service, we read the story of Jonah and the whale.

During the Viddui, the communal confession of sin, it is customary to beat one's chest.

The Neiliah service marks the end of Yom Kippur and concludes with the blowing of the shofar, a sign of redemption.

It is said, "On Rosh Hashana, it is written. On Yom Kippur, it is sealed." Thus, the traditional Yom Kippur salutation is "G'mar Tov" (finish well) or "G'mar Chatima Tova" (may you be sealed in the book of life).


Gina said...

That was fascinating. Thank you

Love and hugs Gina xxx

Suzan said...

Thank you for educating an Episcopalian with only a very small knowledge of Jewish holidays and holiday practices.

Best to you and yours,

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is a great post. Great education.

The Calico Quilter said...

Thank you for the information. How I could reach my mid-fifties and know so little about Judaism is embarassing. How nice to have bloggy friends to share their knowledge. Best wishes.

The Calico Cat said...

Being pregnant, I only made it through Kol Nidre - & I left that service early... I was hard not to fast, but at 32 weeks, the baby is better insode than outside still & fast could have started contractions...


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