ELLSWORTH — Sundown on Friday marks the start of the Yom Kippur. Spent in prayer at the synagogue and fasting, Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement,” is the holiest day in the Jewish year.
This year, observance of the Day of Atonement will end at sundown on Saturday, Sept. 30.
Rosh Hashanah, the two days that mark the start of the Jewish New Year, began last week at sundown on Wednesday, Sept. 20, and ended at sundown last Friday. The holiday marks the start of the year 5778 in the Hebrew calendar.
Rosh Hashanah, which means literally “head of the year,” is the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe.) It is followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur.
Jews believe that Rosh Hashanah is the day of judgment, when God opens the Book of Life and records who will live and who will die, and who will have a good life or a bad life, during the coming year. In the interval between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the day when that determination is sealed, Jews have the opportunity, through prayer, genuine repentance and acts of charity seek to be forgiven their sins during the preceding year, to alter God’s judgment and ensure a another year of a good life.
On Yom Kippur, only sins against God may be forgiven. Under Jewish law, forgiveness for a wrong against another person can only result from reconciliation with that individual.
Both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days of intense prayer when a special liturgy is followed in the synagogue and portions of the holy Torah are read. At various moments during the liturgy a ram’s horn, or shofar, is blown. Blowing the shofar serves as a call to repentance on Rosh Hashanah and a reminder that when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as proof of his faith, God provided a ram to take Isaac’s place.