YOM KIPPUR HOLIDAY -- A Focus on Life and Death
Updated: Jan 9
By Jill S. Cohen, NYC family grief counselor
The holiday, Yom Kippur, which occurs this week, is considered one of the High Holy Days in the Jewish calendar. The High Holidays – Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – are also called the Days of Awe. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year; Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement.
With these holidays come so much meaning, contemplation, solemnity, and the ever-present theme of life and death. In fact, one of the most renowned and moving poems in the Jewish liturgy called the Unetanah Tokef, which is read on Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur, states,
On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed, And on Yom Kippur it is sealed. How many shall pass away and how many shall be born, Who shall live and who shall die.
Another Yom Kippur tradition in synagogues, is a special worship service, the Yizkor service, devoted to prayer and remembrance of deceased loved ones. The Yizkor services are a perfect opportunity to remember the deceased and to honor one’s own feelings of grief. It is also a time for attuning to the soul and spirit of the person who has died, and the legacy he or she has left behind. And all, within a community of caring congregants.
In considering what to share with you for this week’s blog, I came up with a few ideas. But in the end, I decided to mark the holiday by validating and normalizing the feelings experienced by those whom have lost a loved one, during Yom Kippur.
Below is a link to an article from the Times of Israel. Called, “No, I’m not OK: Wrestling with a Stranger Named Death on Yom Kippur", it is beautifully and honestly written by a young woman who was grieving during the year, about her feelings at Yom Kippur. In my opinion, this says it all.
I hope you’ll agree.
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