Yom Kippur 5776 – Gmar Hatima Tova!

Jews praying in the synagogue, by Maurycy Gottlieb (Wikimedia Commons)

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is upon us once again, beginning in a few hours time here in Israel, when we will be entering a 25-hour fast with day-long prayer services, composed of beautiful, spiritual and emotional prayers and songs, being held in shuls and community centers throughout the Jewish world. It is a day when we must ask forgiveness from our fellow man if we have wronged them, forgive those who have wronged us if they ask to be forgiven, and pray that Hashem will seal us in the Book of Life.

In Israel, traffic comes to a complete halt throughout the country, even in the most secular towns, and a serene and holy calmness pervades throughout the land. Even the international airport and public transport close down for the day, starting from a few hours before the fast until an hour or so after the fast ends.

You can read more about Yom Kippur at Aish.com who have a great Yom Kippur info-graphic.

Sadly the serenity and holiness of the day will be challenged davka in Jerusalem where tensions are still running high and security has been heightened:

Israeli Jews prepared Tuesday morning for the Jewish High Holy Day of Yom Kippur amid increased tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem, following days of Palestinian rioting centered on the Temple Mount and the al-Aqsa Mosque located within.

Police and the military were on high alert ahead of the 25-hour fast, during which most of the country will shut down and roads will empty.

Thousands of policemen will be spread throughout Jerusalem during the holiday to keep the peace.

The Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, another possible flashpoint, will start on Wednesday evening, just as the Jewish fast ends.

But let us not dwell too long on the depressing news. Here is something more uplifting to prepare us for the holy day. Rabbi Raymond Apple writes in his column Oz Torah about the meaning of Kol Nidre:

Nothing rivals the awe and splendour of Kol Nidrei night. Nothing rivals the Kol Nidrei melody. But nothing explains the apparent banality of the Kol Nidrei words.

The explanation needs us to acknowledge how often the prayer book appeals to God and says, “May the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable before You” (Psalm 19:15). We don’t seem to notice that the verse equates the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts, implying they are in agreement.

The reality is that there is often a gap. We mean one thing and say another; we say one thing and mean something else. Every Yom Kippur we make a private resolve,

“God, this year I’m going to tidy up my life” – but our hearts say something else, “No I’m not: I like me just as I am and I have no real intention to change anything”.

Enter Kol Nidrei:

“God, make my words match my thoughts, and if I mouth words which I don’t really mean, tell me to stop all the nonsense. Don’t look at my vows; look at my heart. Don’t hold me to empty vows; teach me not to promise things I can’t or won’t do; forgive me for the words which I am unlikely to fulfil…”

He brings us this beautiful rendering of Kol Nidre by Chazan (Cantor) Avraham Feintuch:

In the spirit of the day, I would like to ask forgiveness from anyone whom I might have offended or hurt.

To those who are fasting I wish an easy and meaningful fast.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish my family, friends and readers Gmar Hatima Tova – May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

גמר חתימה טובה

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10 Responses to Yom Kippur 5776 – Gmar Hatima Tova!

  1. ShimonZ says:

    גמר חתימה טובה
    יהי רצון שנזכה לגאולה בשנה הזאת ונשמע בשורות טובות

  2. shelley bloom says:

    Where have all the chazanim gone!!! Took me back to England and the old shul. Thanks. Gmar Chatima Tova

    • anneinpt says:

      The chazzanim have all come to Petach Tikva! You should have come to our shul. You would have heard my brother and my hubby excelling themselves. Truly an outstanding davening, emotional and uplifting. Next year in PT! 😛

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  4. Reality says:

    Gmar Tov,.We had wonderful Chazzanim,a truly emotional tefilah.My hubby was a Chazzan up north,where I heard it too was very emotional to the point that after the fast people clamoured to donate more money to the Shull!

    • anneinpt says:

      How wonderful for your husband’s shul! Pity you couldn’t be with him over the fast. Maybe next year? And maybe the congregants will clamour to give money to him ? 🙂

  5. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Just to lower the tone a tad (and please excuse me for doing so): for those who may not be Jewish and live outside Israel, but have visited and spent, possibly, a Saturday in Jerusalem, you would have to imagine Yom Kippur as Shabbat in that city on speed. Yes, if staying in a hotel, there would still be (for the non-observant or the non-Jews among you) food available, courtesy of the non-Jewish staff employed by the hotels. But that would be all.

    Whereas on a “normal” Shabbat the Israel Museum would be open: not on Yom Kippur (even the seculars stay home or go to synagogue that day). Whereas on a “normal” Shabbat, some restaurants and shops would be open, not on Yom Kippur.

    You might like to go back to my post on taking our non-Jewish friends to Israel and go to the section on our Shabbat in Jerusalem, and then remove everything we did that day as tourists…

    Compared with, say, Christmas Day in the UK, well, Xmas day would be a hive of activity in the UK…and that’s with the theatres and cinemas closed and no newspapers to read…but the tv and radio still pump out programmes, the main tv stations still have news bulletins.

    That doesn’t mean that Yom Kippur is a sad day, it isn’t . It’s solemn, which is a very different matter. Even I, very secular, go to synagogue on that day: the Kol Nidrei service (the evening at the start of the day) is a wonderful service, with beautiful tunes. And fasting for 25 hours is no hardship when one spends it in the synagogue, focussing on the service, even if one is secular and is “only” there to reinforce one’s identity with one’s fellow co-religionists.

    After all, we Jews are in this together, and occasions like this bring us together like no other.

    Chag sameach and well over the fast – even if it has gone for another year.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thanks Brian. That’s a very good description of Yom Kippur in Israel. Though “on speed” isn’t quite the description I’d use! More like Shabbat on a go-slow. 😉

      Hope it all went well for you. Next stop Sukkot!

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Thank you, Anne. Perhaps a better term would have been “like Shabbat in Jerusalem, only much more so. Or even “in spades”! Anyone who wants to go anywhere other than to their synagogue is in for a very long walk (if Jewish).

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