Photo: Tom Abbott
Oct 3, 2014 (San Diego) The Jewish Day of the Atonement for year 5775 starts at sundown. This is the holiest day of the year for Jews, and this year it also falls on the Shabbat, that be the seventh day of the week.
The day starts with a family dinner, and then at Temple with the service beginning with Kol Nidre, for a fasting that lasts anywhere from 24 to 27 hours. This year it will be a longer fast since it includes the Saturday service. No food or water is consumed. The idea is not just to purify the body, but also not to have any earthly distractions in a day where one asks the Lord to inscribe one in the book of life.
There are exceptions; pregnant women, or those who are lactating, and those who should not fast for health reasons are not supposed to fast. 13-year-old boys who have done their bar mitzvah, or 12-year-old girls are supposed to fast.
At the end of the fast, it is broken with sweet treats, honey cake, candy, or other sweet goods. Ashkenazi Jews tend to break it as well with a cup of dark tea. Then people sit down for a second festive meal, with sweet goods as well as the same round Challah Bread that was eaten for both Rosh ha Shanna and the beginning of the fast.
It is a day of self-reflection and prayer, as well as asking for forgiveness for any harm, intended or unintended to other people. The usual wish is for people to have a good year and to be included in the book of life.