Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is a long day.
Like, really, really long.
Services start at 10am and they end around 6pm (this is for our shul (synagogue), many others will have different schedules), with small breaks in between. Those who are able should also fast from sundown the night before until the fast is “broken” after Havdalah (the service that ends “holy time” celebrated at the end of Shabbat and holidays) at the “end” of Yom Kippur. This means that a person is sitting through hours of services while thirsty and hungry. (Full disclosure: I was unable to fast this year because my blood sugar is very wonky right now, and I’ve had far too many issues/episodes lately. So, I ate lightly and small to regulate my blood sugar.)
Yom Kippur is also beautiful. It is edifying to come together as a community, pray with other Jews the same prayers being said throughout the Jewish world. The sanctuary is packed to the gills, familiar and new faces both plentiful. We start at the beginning of the Machzor (our prayer book used for High Holy Days) and at the end of the day, we will have reached the end, some 600+ pages later.
My favorite part of the services is the communal confession of sins. And it’s not just a simple confession.
We Jews can be rather dramatic when we want to be, and this particular part of our service brings that drama to the forefront because, with the naming of each sin, we tap/thump/pound (depending on how hard we do it) our heart with our right fist to acknowledge that we, too, have committed these sins. Cantor chants the word or phrase in Hebrew and then we respond the same while we deliver a thump to the heart. This occurs three times throughout the day of Yom Kippur.
Here is the particular prayer in the Machzor:
At the end of services, there is both a feeling of accomplishment and relief. For one, we made it through! Two, oh my gosh it was so beautiful! Three, I’m hungry!
I always have a sense of sadness when the High Holy Days come to an end. It’s the most reflective and, to me, beautiful time in the Jewish life cycle. My love for these holidays has only grown with each passing year, but I’m using the sadness I feel at their ending to recommit myself to prayer, study, and service. As I write this blog entry, I’m standing in our temple’s Judaica (Jewish items related to our life and rituals) shop, where I volunteer every month. Here our community can come to purchase Judaica to use in their homes. There isn’t a huge Jewish community here in Western Washington, so this shop is a blessing. Sundays are a busy day here at shul, with Hebrew school for the kids, adult education classes, and many different committee meetings. I love being here on Sunday – it’s so full of life!
Here are some shots of our beautiful, well-stocked shop.