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Jewish community seeks atonement on holy day

Special to The Battalion

Published: Monday, September 24, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 00:09

At sunset Tuesday and extending through sunset Wednesday, Jewish Aggies are observing Yom Kippur, a holy day in which Jews fast and seek atonement for sins committed in the past year.

“The holiday of Yom Kippur is about asking God forgiveness for our sins of not following Jewish law or making an unethical decision,” said Cody Weaver, senior agricultural leadership education and development major and former president of the Chabad Jewish Student Group. “We fast and pray all day and are then forgiven.”

Weaver said that fasting on Yom Kippur does not atone for sins committed against another person.

“Our sins against man can only be forgiven by the people you sin against,” Weaver said.

Rabbi Peter Tarlow, executive director of Texas A&M Hillel and professor of sociology, said the holiday always occurs on the 10th day of the Jewish New Year after Rosh Hashanah and Teshuvah.

“Really you should see [Yom Kippur] as part of a series [of holidays],” Tarlow said. “The first is Rosh Hashanah, which is also the first day of the Jewish New Year. The whole concept of Rosh Hashanah is self-introspection and thinking about turning your life around.”

The period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Teshuvah, which is a Hebrew word meaning the act of self-examination, saying you’re sorry, fixing what was wrong, turning your life around, and starting again.

“Anyone you’ve had a relationship with, you have to say, ‘How have I hurt you? What have I done wrong? How can I fix it?’” Tarlow said.

This period is important in the Jewish tradition because one cannot receive forgiveness from God for an offense against his fellow human beings.

“That leads us, 10 days later, to Yom Kippur, which is the most solemn of Jewish holidays,” Tarlow said. “You’ve dealt with yourself, you’ve dealt with others, now you deal with God.”

Ashley Luciano, junior general studies major and vice president of Zeta Beta Sigma, joined a Jewish sorority despite the fact that she is not Jewish. She said she admires Judaism and participates in Jewish traditions, including Yom Kippur.

“The reason I joined Zeta Beta Sigma was because it is such a great group of girls and it really expanded my understanding of another religion,” Luciano said. “All of the practicing Zeta Beta Sigma sisters will fast and attend Chabad together.”

The Hebrew words “Yom Kippur” mean “Day of Atonement.” The fast lasts for more than 24 hours, from sunset to sunset. Similar to the Jewish Sabbath of each week, no work can be performed on the holy day.

“To me, the beauty of this Jewish high holiday is the accountability each Jew has to ask for forgiveness for their transgressions to God, but also their transgressions against man separately,” Weaver said.


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