Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thoughts on Yom Kippur

- by Stacey Prince

I am a sporadic Jew. Well, that's not entirely true--I am Jewish all the time, it is a constant in my identity, culture, and sense of myself. But my observance is quite sporadic. I dip into synagogue from time to time, generally for Shabbat services and the High Holidays, as well as family events like weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs. I have not joined a congregation here in Seattle, but instead enjoy visiting different congregations--this one for its very modern interpretation of Judaism, that one for its music-filled "Rock Shabbat," and another one for its more traditional service.

On Friday night I went with my partner and some close friends to Kol Nidre, the beautiful and somber service that opens up the 24 hour observance of Yom Kippur. Known in English as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is a time to make amends and ask for forgiveness from those you have wronged in the past year, as well as to forgive yourself for transgressions and shortcomings. From sundown to sundown many Jews spend the day fasting and in prayer, offering much time to contemplate one's life and ask the hard questions.

This year, in addition to reviewing my relationships and behavior in the past year, I found myself thinking a lot about the strong connections between Judaism and social justice. A strong tradition in Judaism is tikkun olam, or healing the world. For many Jews, this sense of social responsibility--not just for one's family and community, but for society at large--translates into community service, social activism, and generous giving of one's time and resources. When I think about where my commitment to social justice comes from, this tradition of tikkun olam is at its source.

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