Yom Kippur is the peak of Judaism’s High Holy Days, a 10-day period that begins the Jewish new year.
Allegorically, God opens the book of life at the beginning of the season, on Rosh Hashanah, and reviews the type of lives people led in the previous year. After 10 days, on Yom Kippur, God closes the book once more.
The season is a period of reflection for Jews, in which they meditate on their lives in the past year and make amends with those they have offended in matters from family issues to business conflicts.
“You cannot get right with God if you are not right with your fellow man,” said Marc Perler, who helped lead Yom Kippur services at the temple.
He said it was not uncommon for people to remain in the temple all day, praying and taking their spiritual stock.
Fasting is also a common practice on Yom Kippur, meant to symbolize a person’s deprivation from their indulgences.
“We become very focused and intent on becoming part of God,” Perler said, “We ask him to make us aware of our failings, remind us who we are and where we came from.”
The Jewish tradition is steeped in culture. Those who have gone through Mitzpah, a Jewish rite of passage, may don a talis, a traditional robe with 613 fringes, representing the 613 laws of Moses. A horn – the shofar – is sounded at the beginning and end of Yom Kippur.
Laypeople read from the Torah, a hand-penned scroll containing the Hebrew Scripture. They recite ancient prayers, like the Kol Nidrei and the Shamah, setting aside outside commitments in favor of God’s law.
“People forget that Jesus was a Jew and lived a Jewish life and tradition,” Perler said.
Though the Jews are commonly known as God’s chosen people, Perler said Jews were obligated to a certain kind of life rather than chosen.
“We are the light unto the world,” he said. “We must lead by example.”