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Yom Kippur: Jewish Day of Redemption

Holiday. Yom Kippur, Judgement Day.

When? Ten days after Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). It starts on the 10th day of the 7th month (Tishrei) of the Jewish calendar. In 2019, Yom Kippur begins just before sunset on Tuesday, October the 8th, and ends after sunset on Wednesday, October the 9th. Yom Kippur is a fasting day that lasts for about 25 hours.

Where? Israel and Jewish communities around the world.

The meaning. Yom Kippur is the most spiritual day of the year in Judaism, it is regarded as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths.” Jews atone for their sins and ask for redemption, they spend this holiday fasting and praying God for forgiveness and a good year.

How it is celebrated. Jews believe that on Yom Kippur God seals their fate for the upcoming year. They fast, attend synagogue services and pray asking for forgiveness of the wrongdoings they had during the past year.

On Yom Kippur, there are many rules and traditions. People greet each other with the words “Tzom kal” (“Have an easy fast”) or “Gmar hatima tova” (“May you be inscribed for a good year”.) It is also acceptable to say “Shana tova” (“Happy new year”).

Not everyone must fast; Jews are not required to fast until they reach bar/bat mitzvah age (13 for boys and 12 for girls), and children under the age of 9 are not allowed to fast. Pregnant and nursing women, and people with a health risk are also exempt. The fast includes abstaining from eating and drinking if it does not pose a health risk.

Many Jews wear white clothes to services because this color symbolizes purity. They do not wear leather shoes because they signify luxury, do not use perfumes and lotions. Marital relations on Yom Kippur are also forbidden. Contact with water, such as washing face or brushing teeth, is also not allowed. In Israel, most restaurants and cafés are closed on this day.

Family traditions. Dmitri Kabakov, 34, who moved to Austria in 2016, works in Villach for Lam Research as Sr. Process Engineer, recalls: “My family has been keeping Jewish traditions even before moving to Israel from Russia. In Israel, we celebrated both religious and national holidays. Yom Kippur in Israel is an amazing and a very spiritual day. You don't have to be a Jewish or live in Israel to grasp the importance of it. For a day, from sunset to sunset, the whole country changes. Businesses are closed, most factories are stopped or run only critical operations with reduced personnel, same goes for hospitals and police. On that day, G-d approves everybody's next year. It is a day-long fast and any work is prohibited, even using electrical devices is not allowed.”

“…Yom Kippur is usually in late September - early October. It is warm and nice in Israel. Parks and streets are filled with people walking around. You won't hear any city noises, won't see any cars moving. It is very typical for children to ride bicycles on the highways and play games on the streets. It is something they can do only one day a year. On the other hand, religious people spend most of the day praying in synagogues.”

Dmitri continued: “I, personally, prefer to spend this day in a balance between walking around and praying in a synagogue. My favorite part is the conclusion of the holiday. It is very typical in Israeli synagogues, after the last service - "Kol nidrei" and after the "Shofar" (horn) blowing, to sing together "Hatikvah" - the Israeli national anthem. The energy of the moment, the words of "Hatikva" and the feeling of unity are always overwhelming. It is always very emotional to me.”

For Dmitri, Yom Kippur is the most important and significant holiday in the year. It means for him the beginning of a new year and an opportunity to reflect on everything from the past year, set goals for the next year, start from a new page. On this Yom Kippur, Dmitri will be fasting as he does every year, and, if he has an opportunity, he will spend this day with a Jewish community. “Unfortunately, there is no (or, I didn't find yet) active Jewish community in Carinthia. Therefore, it is most likely that I will be spending Yom Kippur in a different city,” Dmitri said. (March 2017)

PHOTO:

1. The Shofar symbolizes the end of fasting and end of Yom Kippur. (Source: rel-tour.blogspot.co.at)

2. Believers of the Jewish faith celebrate Yom Kippur. (Source: biblicalisraeltours.com)

3. Dmitri Kabakov spends Yom Kippur in a balance between walking around and praying.

Text: Vita Vitrenko