Jewish people across the globe celebrated holiday Yom Kippur Oct. 12-13

By Melissa A. Wabnitz

Transcript Staff Writer

There's a pretty big laundry list of don'ts in the Jewish faith tradition, but for those observing Yom Kippur, abstaining from wearing leather, fasting, and forgoing a favorite perfume or cologne isn't asking too much.

In fact, when you consider all that followers are asking of God ? complete and total forgiveness and absolution of sins committed in the past year ? forgoing sexual relations with your husband or wife for a day isn't that bad.

"What you're doing during this time is really denying the things that give you pleasure or make you pleasurable to others," said Rabbi Steve Kirschner of the Hillel Jewish Student Center in Norman. "Technically, it's a total Sabbath. You're also not even supposed to shower, but that's not always observed, as you can imagine."

Considered the holiest of Jewish holidays, Kirschner said it's not uncommon for synagogues to have record attendance.

Yom Kippur, or day of atonement, ends the 10-day period of reprieve called Rosh Hashanah in which Jews can repent for their sins before the Book of Life is sealed with one's fate.

This year's observances began nightfall Thursday, Oct. 12 to Friday, Oct. 13.

The catch is, he said, Yom Kippur isn't just about asking God to atone for acts committed large and small, it's a commandment to ask forgiveness of fellow humans too.

"It would be real easy, too easy I think if all you had to do was ask God forgiveness," he said. "In a sense, you'd never have to say I'm sorry to anybody. This is harder."

If you've wronged somebody in a business dealing, through ill speech or any other unsettled incident, "those things aren't forgiven unless you go to them and make it right," Kirschner said.

"The way I view Judaism is that it's really a religion of this world instead of a religion of the next world, which is how I view Christianity," he said. "There's a significant theological difference between Christianity and Judaism ? Christianity has Jesus."

In Christianity the belief is generally you need divine assistance, but in Judaism not only are you responsible for (atoning) but you can do it yourself, Kirschner said.

Throughout the two-day holiday, numerous prayers and sins are confessed including the Ashamnu, a short, general list of confessions and an Al Chet, or longer, more specific list.

"The hope is when you're saying all of these things, you'll see the ones that apply to you and you can do what you need to do to correct for them," Kirschner said. "People need to remember, even if it's only once a year, 10 days of the year, that they are not top dog, that their lives aren't perfect. There are still things they have done wrong to other people and this is the time of the year to remind yourselves that."

And while it may seem odd to the outsider to hear Jewish individuals in Norman reciting at the end of a prayer "Next year in Israel," Kirschner said the phrase's inclusion has a historical basis, as does the blowing of a ram's horn to signify the final closing of Heaven's gates.

Monday, Jews around the world began another holiday, Sukkot. The holiday is "tied back to the Biblical stories of when the children of Israel were living in temporary structures when they wandered the wilderness for 40 years."

Additionally, Kirschner said, "There's a specific commandment that you are to be joyful, in part you're supposed to be happy because you've just come through the 10 days of being somber, gut-wrenching spirituality, and then you can say, you did it, now you can celebrate it a little bit."

One of the structures was constructed Oct. 16 at the Hillel Jewish Student Center and will remain until sunset Oct. 24, when the holiday ends.

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