In the Jewish custom, Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown on Friday, is considered one of the holiest days of the Jewish year.
The holiday finds its roots in the Biblical book of Leviticus, which calls for setting aside a day every year dedicated to atonement and abstinence. The Jewish people use the day to fast, pray and become introspective about their lives, while wearing white to signify personal purity.
"Yom Kippur is our most sacred day on the Jewish calendar. We observe it by refraining from some of life’s pleasures in order to focus us on how we can make changes in our lives through the process of repentance - in Hebrew, called teshuvah," said Temple Beth Tikvah's Rabbi Fred Greene.
During Yom Kippur, from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night, observers abstain from several things, including the following:
- wearing perfumes
- wearing leather-soled shoes
- intimate relations
"Yom Kippur gives those who would reflect, the opportunity to repair broken relationships and strengthen the ones we have; to look at life with a clear lens and set new goals," said Temple Kehillat Chaim Rabbi Harvey Winokur.
A feast with family and friends breaks the fast on Saturday night, according to Winokur and Greene.
Before the sun goes down completely on Friday, the holiday is welcomed with the Kol Nidrei, a prayer which asks God that all vows made under duress during the year may be considered null and void. In addition to the three normal daily services, Yom Kippur also adds the memorial service of Yizkor and the priestly ritual of Avodah, before closing with the Neilah.
The subdued tone of Yom Kippur follows the more upbeat Rosh Hashanah holiday, observed days earlier.
"Yom Kippur, with its emphasis that everybody sins and no single person is perfect, is quite comforting," said Greene. "The most significant message it conveys is that change is possible – for everyone. I welcome that potential for change in me and for my congregation."
Winokur agreed and added, it "allows us to recommit to our prophetic mission of being ‘a light unto the nations.’ We are reminded of the importance of making our world a better place in which to live and our role in accomplishing that task."
Roswell's two temples - and - are both part of the Reform Jewish community, which means they still observe traditional Jewish teachings and rituals, but have a more contemporary style and treat men and women equally.
Information on these Jewish holidays was found at the My Jewish Learning website.