A Closer Look
Rosie Rosenbaum is a Commercial Litigation Partner in the Chicago Office
Yom Kippur, also known as Day of Atonement, is considered the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. It follows ten days after Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and, traditionally, that ten day period culminating in Yom Kippur is viewed as an opportunity to focus on repentance and to mend one's ways. The holiday is often commemorated with giving donations to charities, and asking others for forgiveness. Yom Kippur begins at sundown and ends at sundown the next day; in 2014, this holiday began on Friday evening, October 3rd, and ended at sundown on Saturday evening, October 4th. Jewish people traditionally observe this day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, with many spending much of the day in synagogue services. During the Jewish high holidays, the shofar sounds(a trumpet-like blast emitted by blowing a ram's horn) during synagogue services; in traditional symbolism, those who hear the shofar are being summoned to heed the call of the past, present and future in order to reach a deeper level of consciousness and self-awareness and make a new beginning in their own lives.
Also in October 2014 is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Sukkot is both a biblical holiday and agricultural festival (it is sometimes referred to as the "Feast of the Booths" or "Feast of the Tabernacles"). The holiday lasts seven days in Israel and eight days elsewhere; in 2014, this holiday began on October 8th. A sukkah is a walled structure with a roof covered with organic plant material such as palm leaves. It is intended as a reminiscence of the type of temporary dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt and, later, as the temporary shelters used during autumn festivals celebrating the year's bountiful harvest. Eating meals inside the sukkah is a common practice throughout the holiday among the very observant. Among the ritual symbols associated with this holiday are the lulav (palm branch fronds, set in a holder with myrtle leaf branches) and the etrog (a lemon-like citron fruit).
Jewish high holiday services sometimes are lengthy, and a tale is told of a congregation's rabbi noticing that one of the children in his congregation is staring up at a large plaque hanging in the synagogue's foyer. The plague covered with names, and small American flags were mounted on either side of it. Observing the child has been staring at the plaque for some time, the rabbi walked up, stood beside the boy, and said quietly, "Good morning, Adam." "Good morning," replies Adam, "Rabbi, what is this?" "Well, it's a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service." Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque. Little Adam's voice was barely audible when he asked: "The Rosh Hashanah or the Yom Kippur service?"
If it is true that, "The unexamined life is not worth living," (thanks, Socrates!) then -- whether high holiday services go by quickly or slowly -- the celebration cycle serves as an annual opportunity to consciously "take stock" of one's personal trajectory in life. Happy 5775*, and l'shanah tovah (for a good year)!
* according to the Jewish calendar