Yom Kippur—A Good Way to Get a Fresh Start

The holiest day in Judaism offers everyone guidance for seeking forgiveness.

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Posted in , Oct 7, 2019

Learning about Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the holiest day in Judaism. Having grown up in the Christian faith, I have never known much about it beyond the notion that it’s a day dedicated to fasting, atonement and repentance.

This year it falls on October 8 and like all Jewish holidays its commemoration begins at sundown the evening before. That’s a Tuesday night, the evening my wife, Carol, and I have a class at church.

I had volunteered to lead prayers for the class and I wondered, was there something from the Yom Kippur services I could use? After noodling around on the internet, I felt completely at sea and did something more useful: I called a rabbi.

Lauren is a mom with four children and a rabbi trained in the Reformed Jewish tradition. I told her I was looking for a prayer from Yom Kippur to use with a group from church. Did she have any suggestions?

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We ended up having a great conversation about the traditions of Yom Kippur, how it falls ten days after the beginning of the Jewish new year, how it is about seeking forgiveness from God for our sins.

“One of the important aspects of Yom Kippur is that you are expected not only to ask God for forgiveness,” she said, “but to reach out to the person or people you have offended. To ask for their forgiveness. You have to do that at least three times.”

That reminded me of when Jesus said that if you were offering some gift at the altar and then remembered that your brother had something against you, you needed to go and be reconciled with your brother first.

“Exactly,” she said. Not for nothing was Jesus called Rabbi.

Together we found a passage from the Talmud that I could read with my friends at church on Yom Kippur. She also recommended a passage from the book of Isaiah, chapter 58. I thanked her profusely and turned to my Bible.

Isn’t this the fast I choose: releasing wicked restrains, untying the ropes of a yoke, setting free the mistreated, and breaking every yoke?

Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into your house, covering the naked when you see them, and not hiding from your own family?

Then your light will break out like the dawn, and you will be healed quickly. Your own righteousness will walk before you, and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.

A day of fasting and atonement, a day to seek God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of those we’ve wronged. A good way to start the new year. 

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