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Yom Kippur Begins Sundown Friday

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Sunset Friday evening (Oct. 3) is at 6:31 p.m., which also marks the beginning of Yom Kippur – the Jewish Day of Atonement. WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody spoke with Rabbi Joel Fleekop of Pensacola’s Temple Beth-El -- Florida’s oldest Jewish congregation that was established in 1876.

Yom Kippur is the most solemn day on the Jewish calendar, its significance originating from Leviticus 16:30 – “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before God.” Fleekop says that includes both sins against God and against Man.

“Jewish tradition teaches that we must do what we call ‘chuva’ which means ‘turning,’” said Fleekop. “It’s a multi-step process of identifying our mistakes, asking for forgiveness if it’s somebody that we have wronged, and then most importantly, resolving not to repeat that mistake in the year to come.”

During the 24 hours of Yom Kippur – sundown Friday until sundown Saturday – this year in synch with the normal Jewish Sabbath -- the focus turns to self-discipline and introspection through fasting and living simply.

“The other customs include special Scriptural readings from the Torah – the five Books of Moses – and from the other parts of the Hebrew Bible,” Fleekop said. “There are special prayers that are offered, that ask God to both judge us fairly and forgive us for our past mistakes.”

Yom Kippur services open with the Kol Nidrei, or “All Vows.” The name refers to both the opening prayer and the service. The prayer can be performed either by musical instrument or by voice.

Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year observed last week – and Yom Kippur are part of the ten day period in Judaism known as the “High Holy Days”.  Fleekop says the two holidays are considered to be connected.

“The week between the two holidays is a busy time,” said Fleekop. “Not necessarily of worship, but taking the time to reflect on the year past. The holidays are in many ways connected, perhaps the way you think of the week leading up to Easter is all connected to Easter.”

The closing service at sundown Saturday features the cries of “Hear O Israel – God is one,” and then song and dance followed by a single blast of the shofar – Ram’s Horn -- and the proclamation “Next year in Jerusalem.” Afterward, Rabbi Joel Fleekop says, it’s time to break the fast.

“Normally we have a ‘challah,’ a special braided bread on our Sabbath, and on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we use a rounded challah that represents the fullness of the year,” said Fleekop. “We also dip apples in honey for a sweet and happy New Year.”

And the after-fast meal and related festivities make the evening after Yom Kippur a “Yom Tov” – or festival – in its own right. 

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.