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Yom Kippur: When a Nation Repents

September 15, 2021

by: Ilse Strauss

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Commemorating Yom Kippur at the Western Wall in Jerusalem (illustrative)

Wednesday, 15 September 2021 | Today is no ordinary day in Israel. The hubbub on city streets as a country goes about its morning routine is somehow more subdued. The nation prepares for the Sabbath of Sabbaths…

Offices and schools will send staff and pupils home early today. Shops, markets and restaurants will shut their doors at around noonday. Buses and trains will carry their last passengers to their destination long before dusk. Traffic will die down to a trickle and then disappear altogether from the usually congested highways and streets. Radio and television stations will wish their listeners and viewers an “easy fast” before shutting down for the next 25 hours.

Then, right before the sun sets, a holy hush will fall over the Land of Promise, as sundown ushers in Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)—the holiest day of the year for the people of Israel.

The Jewish nation is not the only ones who view Yom Kippur as sacred. Leviticus 23:26–27 tells us that this biblical festival is also holy to God. “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls…’”

Today, thousands of years after God gave Moses these instructions, the people of Israel are once again preparing for God’s appointed time per His directives: by afflicting their souls. This entails abstaining from all fleshy pleasures, including food or drink, and fasting and praying for a 25-hour period.

The purpose of Yom Kippur is explained in Leviticus 23:28: “… for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.” 

In biblical times, this was the only day per year on which the high priest was to enter the Holy of Holies to call upon the name of God, offering a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins on behalf of the people of Israel. Yom Kippur is thus a special day of repentance.

Today is no different. Yom Kippur is a day of self-assessment and repentance of the sins of the past year. Synagogues throughout Israel are usually filled to capacity, and snatches of prayers can be heard drifting through the quiet streets all day.

Throughout the ages, Yom Kippur has acted as a unifying and regenerating factor for the Jewish people. Regardless of physical location, conviction or belief, the Day of Atonement stirs a spark in the heart of many a Jew.

The same holds true today. Despite the severity of the fast—with complete abstinence from any food or liquids for more than 24 hours—many Israelis choose to observe Yom Kippur. 

While Yom Kippur is observed with the awe and reverence due a day so sacred to both the God and the people Israel, there is also an element of joyous expectation that comes with this feast. In fact, some in Israel refer to it as the happiest day of the year. The reason is simple: in Jewish thought, when Yom Kippur is finishedthe people stand before the Almighty atoned for, cleansed and forgiven.

A holy hush descends over the nation as the people of Israel prepare to afflict their souls. Bridges for Peace joins our hearts with the Jewish people as a nation repents.

Please note that our offices will be closed tomorrow. We will, however, resume normal operations, including news, on Friday, 17 September 2019.

Posted on September 15, 2021

Source: (Bridges for Peace, September 15, 2021)

Photo Credit: איתי טיומקין/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

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