Jews Celebrate Holy Day of Yom Kippur
This week, members of the Jewish faith celebrated their holiest of holy days, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.
Yom Kippur refers to the end of the Jewish year. It’s the holiest of Jewish holy days.
This past week, the holiday began at sunset on Tuesday and continued through Wednesday evening.
I’ve always had respect for the Jewish faith, but this particular holiday is one of two primary reasons.
I’ll get to that in a minute.
But first, let me tell you about a pair of funerals.
The other reason involves the difference I experienced as a Protestant at two different funerals — one Jewish and one Catholic.
Years ago, I attended the funeral of a colleague’s relative. It was held in a small, beautiful Catholic church. Towards the end, the congregation was invited to take Communion.
As a Christian, I’ve obviously taken Communion many, many times. But at this funeral, I couldn’t. That’s because only Catholics were allowed to participate. The rest of us — even if we were actually Christians — were politely told this was exclusively for members of the Catholic church.
I found it odd since we’re supposedly on the same side. That exclusion wasn’t particularly comfortable.
On the other hand, many years ago, I attended the funeral of a commercial client. She was Jewish and as we entered the chapel where her service was being held, a man stood at the door handing out yarmulkes. They’re the little caps Jewish people wear during services.
Not being Jewish, I feared it might appear I was mocking their faith if I wore one of them. So I whispered to the man that I wasn’t Jewish. He politely smiled and said anyone is welcome to wear one to honor the family and the dear departed.
I had no problem wearing it at that point. The Jewish congregation allowed me to join their community, even in that simple act, to show unity and respect.
The faith closest to my own put up a wall and closed me out. The faith I was further from welcomed me and encouraged me to participate.
The difference between the two faiths at those funerals was quite striking.
Years later, a co-worker approached me on Yom Kippur.
I’ve told this story before, but my first personal experience with the holiday came years ago from a different co-worker.
He asked if I’d heard of Yom Kippur. I’d heard of it, but didn’t understand it well enough to pretend. So he explained that it was a day Jews reflect upon the past year and make right any wrongs they have committed.
He apologized for anything he might have said or done over the past year that offended me. He hadn’t offended me in any way. But his attempt at atonement seemed completely genuine and heartfelt.
What a wonderful effort, I thought, for someone to make. How often do most of us ever stop to look back at a year and try to make amends? How often do we even pause to consider how we might have even inadvertently caused offense?
I found the sincerity of the expression quite touching. I appreciated it.
And it made me respect the concept and the practice. And the faith.