Following Rosh Hashanah and ending the period of repentance
and atonement is Yom Kippur.
assume that you have read the introduction to this section and have
followed up in books or on-line learning about Yom Kippur, its
history, traditions, customs, themes, etc. You should then be
familiar with the traditional services – Kol Nidrei, Ma’ariv,
Shahrit, Musaf, Minhah, Neilah.
believe that this is the time for each of us to reflect on our
personal lives, the community around us and the situation in the
Middle East as we decide how to observe Yom
past few years we have developed our own service and celebrated
along with another couple at a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. The core of the service is Yom
Kippur prayers and writings, many of which are reprinted below. We
found them to be relevant to the issues facing us as unaffiliated
members of the Jewish community committed to Judaism. Because of the
escalation of the conflict in Israel/Palestine, we also added
current articles which allowed us to carry on a discussion about the
themes of the holiday as they related to this situation.
you are certainly welcome to use this material, we encourage you to
explore any other resources that address the themes of repentance
and atonement and would be pleased to help you create a meaningful
have we learned about Yom Kippur?
“And it shall be a statute for ever unto you: In the seventh
month (Tishri), on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict
your souls, and shall do no manner of work ... For on this day shall
atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall
you be clean before the Lord ... to make atonement for the children
of Israel because of all their sins once in the year.” Leviticus XVI,
Kippur we are encouraged to atone for our sins. The Haftarah read on Yom Kippur is called
Acharey Mos and includes the following from Ezekiel XXII,
“O city that sheddest blood
in the midst of thee, that thy time may come and that makest idols
unto thyself to defile thee. …therefore have I made thee a reproach
unto the nations, and a mocking to all the countries. Those that are near and
those that are far from thee, shall mock thee, thou defiled of name
and full of tumult. Behold the princes of Israel, every one
according to his might, have been in thee to shed blood. In thee have they made light of
father and mother; in the midst of thee have they dealt by
oppression with the stranger; in thee have they wronged the
fatherless and the widow.
Thou hast despised My holy things and hast profaned My
sabbaths…. In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast
taken interest and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy
neighbors by oppression, and hast forgotten Me, saith the Lord
God. Behold, therefore,
I have smitten My hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made
and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee. And I will scatter thee
among the nations, and disperse thee through the countries; and I
will consume thy filthiness out of three. And thou shalt be profaned
in thyself in the sight of the nations and thou shalt know that I am
likely to happen if we don’t repent? This prayer is K’riat Sh’ma and is read
after the V’ohavtah:
“If you will earnestly heed
the commandments I give you this day, to love the Lord your God and
to serve him with all your heart and all your soul, then I will
favor your land with rain at the proper searson – rain in autumn and
rain in spring – and you will have an ample harvest of grain and
wine and oil. I will
assure abundance in the fields for your cattle. You will eat to
contentment. Take care
lest you be tempted to forsake God and turn to false gods in
worship. For then the
wrath of the Lord will be directed against you. He will close the heavens
and hold back the rain: the earth will not yield its produce. You will soon disappear from
the good land which the Lord gives you.
will happen if we do repent?
traditional Jewish places of worship on Yom Kippur, the Book of
Jonah is read. The story is about the people of Nineveh. God
judged them to be wicked and asked Jonah to go there and tell them
to preach the path of goodness. Jonah was unwilling and only
changed his mind when he found himself in the belly of a whale. He then went to Nineveh and in
response to his words, the residents repented and God not only did
not lay waste to the city but forgave them.
we fast? In another
Haftarah read on Yom Kippur we find the words of ISAIAH
“Why, when we fasted, did you not see? When we starved our
bodies, did you pay no heed?” Because on your fast day you see to
your business and oppress your workers. Because you fast in strife
and contention, and you strike with a wicked fist! Your fasting
today is not such as to make your voice heard on high. Is such the
fast I desire, a day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing
the head like a bullrush and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you
call that a fast, a day when the Lord is favorable? No, this is My
chosen fast: to loosen all the bonds that bind men unfairly, to let
the oppressed go free, to break every yoke. Share your bread with the
hungry, take the homeless into your home. Clothe the naked when you
see him, do not turn away from people in need. Then cleansing light
shall break forth like the dawn, and your wounds shall soon be
healed. Your triumph shall go before you and the Lord’s glory shall
be your rearguard. They
you shall call and the Lord will answer: you shall cry out and he
will say ‘Here I am’
“If you remove from your midst the yoke of oppression, the
finder of scorn and the tongue of malice, if you put yourself out
for the hungry and relieve the wretched, then shall your light shine
in the darkness and your gloom shall be as noonday. And the Lord will guide you
continually. He will refresh you in dry places, renewing your
strength. And you shall
be like a watered garden, like a never-failing spring. And you shall rebuild
ancient ruins, restoring old foundations. You shall be known as the
rebuilders of broken wells, the restorer of dwellings
Strassfeld comments on this portion, in Jewish Holidays, p. 119, as
“Personal change is to lead us to work for social justice in
the world, not to an ascetic withdrawal from the impurities of the
world. Projects in support of tzedakah and social justice should be
given extra attention at this time of year.”
advantage of participating in an observance with others is that not
only the individual but the entire group atones for the wrongs it
has committed during the previous year and, hopefully, will consider
making positive changes in the way it operates.
the Viddui, or confessional, is a good example of this. (Note that the individual
reciting the prayer says “we” to make it clear that each of us is
responsible for not only our own acts but also for those of the
entire Jewish community.)
“We abuse, we betray, we are cruel.
destroy, we embitter, we falsify.
gossip, we hate, we insult.
jeer, we kill, we lie.
mock, we neglect, we oppress.
pervert, we quarrel, we rebel.
steal, we transgress, we are unkind.,
are violent, we are wicked, we are xenophobic.
yield to evil, we are zealots for bad causes.”
have ignored your commandments and statutes, and it has not profited
us. You are just, we have stumbled,. You have acted faithfully, we
have been unrighteous.
We have sinned, we have transgressed. Therefore we have not been
saved. Endow us with
the will to forsake evil; save us soon. Thus Your prophet Isaiah
declared: “Let the wicked forsake his path and the unrighteous man
his plottings. Let him
return to the Lord who will show him compassion. Let him return to
our God who will surely forgive him.”
Our God and God of our fathers and mothers, forgive and
pardon our sins on this Yom Kippur.”
something we found in a Yom Kippur prayer book.
PRAYER FOR OUR COUNTRY
Our God and God of our fathers: We ask Your blessing for our
country, for its government, for its leader and advisors, and for
all who exercise just and rightful authority. Teach them insights of Your
Torah, that they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that
peace and security, happiness and prosperity, justice and freedom
may forever abide in our midst.
Creator of all flesh, bless all the inhabitants of our
country with your spirit.
Then citizens of all races and creeds will forge a common
bond in true brotherhood, to banish all hatred and bigotry, and to
safeguard the ideals and free institutions which are our country’s
pride and glory.
May this land under Your Providence be an influence for good
throughout the world, uniting all men in peace and freedom, and
helping them to fulfill the vision of Your prophet: “Nation shall
not life up sword against nation, neither shall men learn war any
more.” And let us say: Amen”
another Yom Kippur prayer with which one might want to end the
PRAYER FOR PEACE
May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease
When a great peace will embrace the whole world
Then nation will not threaten nation,
And mankind will not again know war.
For all who live on earth shall realize
have not come into being to hate or destroy
have come into being
praise to labor and to love
Compassionate God, bless the leaders of all
With the power of compassion
Fulfill the promise conveyed in Scripture
will bring peace to the land
And you shall lie down and no one shall terrify
will rid the land of vicious beasts
And it shall not be ravaged by war
Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream
Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the
And let us say: Amen
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