By Ashley “Deviate” Garrett, Contributing Writer
It’s Tuesday, Sept. 22, and my office closed at noon. Sunset marked the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement for the Jewish people. During the high holiday, Jews fast for 25 hours from food and water (as well as other activities) in order to pray and focus on repentance. This specific holiday is unique because both religious and secular Jews gather together on this holy day to celebrate the atonement of personal and national sins. Yom Kippur in Israel is particularly fascinating because everything virtually shuts down. Families and friends attend synagogue services and read from the Torah.
This year, I made a personal decision to observe Yom Kippur. Although I am not Jewish, I chose to celebrate the holiest day of the Jewish year because I have become more in touch with the Jewish roots of my faith. As a Christian, I support the nation of Israel and the Jewish people because we have a biblical mandate to support Israel. Not only that, but Jesus, my Lord and Savior, was an observant Jew. I have completed many fasts from food in order to focus on prayer but never a complete fast (never without water). I was actually very excited to be fasting with millions of others.
In Boston, the sun set at 6:42 p.m.. At sunset, I used anointing oil and began to pray for the forgiveness of my sins in addition to praying for the well-being of myself, family and friends. I also made a conscious effort to refrain from Facebook during the duration of the fast.
Many Jews read the Book of Jonah during the afternoon service of Yom Kippur, so I too decided to read the entire book during my fast. According to Chabad, the Book of Jonah is read for two main purposes:
- The story of Jonah teaches us how no one is beyond the reach of G-d’s hand. Just as Jonah’s endeavor to escape G-d’s providence was unsuccessful, we, too, are incapable of eluding divine justice for transgressions we may have committed.
- On a more uplifting note: G-d spared the people of Nineveh, although He had already decreed that they would be destroyed because of their evil ways. The event teaches us that no matter our past behavior, G-d’s benevolence and mercy awaits us if we only repent full-heartedly (Rabbi Posner, 1).
As a Christian observing this holy holiday, I thought it was only relevant to also include a book in the New Testament in my reading. I chose to read the Book of John. I chose John because being one of the four gospels, this book focuses on the work Jesus performed while He was on earth.
John 1:14 states, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory of as the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, BibleGateway) It is interesting to read from both the Old and New Testaments. Jews read the Torah because that is the written law from God given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Christians also read the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, Christians are grafted into God’s covenant with Israel. In John, it is seen that the Word (the law) was made into flesh (Jesus). John describes Jesus’ work on earth. He came not to abolish the law, but fulfill it.
I would say that my first Yom Kippur was a successful one. I was able to join millions of others in refraining from daily distractions and focus on forgiveness and repentance. I love Yom Kippur because I believe it is an important reminder for us not only to forgive but also to ask for forgiveness of one another.
Before Yom Kippur begins, the individuals celebrating the holiday will ask for the forgiveness of others. The asking of forgiveness is an important lesson from people of all denominations and cultures. The observance of Yom Kippur is not limited to Jews and Christians. Many believers of other faiths join in the worldwide Day of Atonement.
I would encourage others to join in the celebration next year. Even if you choose not to fast from food and water for 25 hours, perhaps you can set aside a special day of the year to simply ask for the forgiveness of those in which you have done wrong and in essence, creating your own version of a Day of Atonement.
EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: All personal statements, beliefs, and opinions in this article are subject to the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jade Times and/or Delta Phi Lambda.
- BibleGateway, New International Version.
- Rabbi Menachem Posner. “Why do we read the Book of Jonah on Yom Kippur?” Chabad.org.
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