Making Atonement During Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur Letterpress

Yom Kappur is considered a day of atonement.

The Jewish community celebrates the New Year in the fall. They call the holiday Rosh Hashanah. It begins a period of 10 days known as the High Holy Days and commences with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is probably the most sacred holiday to the Jews. Even secular Jews attend synagogue. It might be the only day some Jews go to temple, much like Christians attending church service on Easter or Christmas Eve. You may not be Jewish, or even believe that there is a supreme being; however, you can learn from this holiday and approach the upcoming traditional holiday season with a clean slate.

Traditions of Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the day when Jews make apologies to God for their sins. In order to approach God, it’s traditional to fast and pray for 24 hours. In addition to fasting, Jews do not have marital relations, do not wear leather shoes, do not wash and do not bathe during Yom Kippur. Orthodox Jews may immerse in a mikveh before Yom Kippur as a symbol of purity. Many Jews will wear white, as another way of presenting themselves as pure.

Prayers of repentance are said during services at the synagogue. Public and private atonement is made before God, depending on the desire of the individual. The process of asking for forgiveness is called Teshuva. It involves:

  • Regret of having committed the sin
  • A resolve not to commit the sin in the future
  • Confession before God

Also, Jews will give charity to those less fortunate on Yom Kippur. This year, Yom Kippur falls on October 12, but it actually begins at sunset on the day before and ends at nightfall on the actual day. Following Yom Kippur, families might have a feast in celebration of completing the fast.

What We Can Learn

In 1982, the band Chicago came out with a song, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.” The song might be referencing two lovers who had a disagreement, but most of us, if we were really honest, don’t like to admit when we’re wrong or we’ve done something to injure another person’s feelings. Maybe you don’t believe in God, but it’s probable that you may have hurt someone in the past. We all make mistakes and say things that we probably should have thought about before opening our mouth or typing them at the keyboard. Learning how the Jews apologize to God, we can actually learn how to apologize to others.

Have you ever said to someone, “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry if I hurt you”? Take a second to look at those phrases. Although it may seem like a case of semantics, you might make them feel as if you’re dismissing their feelings when you say those words. Are you sorry for your actions or for how they reacted to your mistake?

A better way to apologize is to say, “I’m sorry I did . . . I cannot excuse my behavior, and I won’t let it happen again. Please forgive me.” There may be extenuating circumstances. Maybe the other person made you mad, but you cannot control anyone’s behavior but your own. Think about your own attitude when you say you’re sorry. And remember that all you can do is make the apology. The other person does not have to accept your apology. It could happen that day, but it might not happen for years. Don’t make the situation worse by forcing someone to forgive you.

Christmas and the New Year are coming up. Think about making amends with family members or neighbors this year to have a clean conscious. Fix those relationships that are broken and truly celebrate the good will of the upcoming season.

Understanding the Importance of Lent
Understanding Lent

Understanding Lent

The Islamic faith has a month of fasting known as Ramadan. Jews fast during Yom Kippur, a time of atonement. Many Christians fast during the Lenten Season. If you’re unfamiliar with Lent, take a moment to learn more about this time to understand your friends who are partaking. Even if you don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you can respect those who do.

What Is Lent?

The 40 days before Easter are considered a time of preparation of Christ’s resurrection and known as Lent. The dates are calculated a little differently, but it’s about six weeks prior to Easter. Some traditions call for 40 fasting days, choosing not to count Sundays as a day of fast. Many believers pray more during this time, which culminates in the Holy Week activities. In ancient times, Lenten fasting traditions could be severe. Many people who observed Lent during medieval times gave up all animal products or only ate fish.
Today, those who observe Lent often give up a vice, like watching television, to allow them to spend more time in prayer and study. Many people add a spiritual discipline during Lent. Some people still fast, giving up meat on Friday and Saturday during Lent. Lent is often considered a time of sparsity, in which people may eat enough to sustain strength but not to conquer hunger. It is a time of grief for the Church. Some rites omit the word “alleluia” from their liturgy during the season, because it is associated with joy.

Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday

The day before Lent begins is known as Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. You’ve probably heard of some of the carnival celebrations on the day. No matter what it’s called, this Tuesday is seen as one last opportunity to go overboard with food and drink before Lent begins.

The day after Shrove Tuesday is known as Ash Wednesday. Believers have ash placed on their forehead, either in the form of a cross or by sprinkling the ashes over the head. During Biblical times, ashes signified grief and sorrow for sins. The ashes do not have to be worn all day, but some people do wear them as a sign of religious freedom.

Holy Week

Those who celebrate the resurrection of Christ consider the Passiontide one of the most important times in the Christian church. The fifth Sunday of Lent begins this season. The next Sunday is Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week. Palm Sunday is when Jesus is said to triumphantly enter Jerusalem. The following Wednesday is often called Spy Wednesday, and it is the day when Judas Iscariot decided to betray Jesus. The next day is Maundy Thursday, the night of the Last Supper of Christ and the disciples.

On Good Friday, Christ’s crucifixion and burial are remembered. It is a statutory federal holiday in Canada, but in Quebec, employers can choose to give their staff either Friday or Easter Monday off. In the United States, it is no longer honored at the federal level, but some states do consider it a holiday. In some countries, certain activities such as dancing are considered profane on Good Friday, because the day is holy.

Respect the Tradition

If a co-worker mentions that he or she is fasting for Lent and can’t go to lunch, respect the decision. You may ask if he or she could go somewhere else to get fish or a vegetarian entrée, but don’t push. If you don’t celebrate Easter yourself, consider Good Friday a bonus day to spend time with your family. For some, it is a day of great religious significance, and they want the time to honor it.