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Yom Kippur - Being Weighed in the Balance

This is a work in progress; one person's thoughts about one day in the Jewish calendar.

Judaism is mostly a religion of celebration. Some celebrations may be more solemn than others, but it is not a pathway of abstention and denial. Yet on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of our yearly cycle, we are commanded to fast, to afflict our bodies, to abstain from all pleasurable activities.

There is very little home celebration of Yom Kippur; it is primarily a day spent in the synagogue with your community. Interestingly, for a day characterized by fasting, home observance is centered around two meals -- the feast preceding the fast, and the break-fast meal at the end of the day.

The first service on Yom Kippur is held in the evening, after the feast-ive meal. Kol Nidre prayers ask for absolution from vows. This doesn't imply the breaking of contracts between people, but vows made to G-d.

During the day, the prayers added to the regular morning service

On Yom Kippur we read about Jonah.

The last service of the day is the Ne'ilah service. The primary image is of the gates of heaven being shut. This is our last chance to effect positive change in our lives. The service ends with a single long shofar blast.