First time celebrating Yom Kippur

First Time Celebrating Yom Kippur
By: Sofiya Demchuk, PGA Intern

Whenever an opportunity comes along to explore and take part in another religion’s holiday celebrations, I take it up with open arms. I am of Eastern Orthodox faith and my fiance who is Russian Jewish presented me with an opportunity to be a part of one of the holiest days for the Jewish people known as Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).

On the day before Yom Kippur, it is important to reflect upon one’s actions and ask for forgiveness from anyone that one might have wronged in the past year. Through prayer and asking for forgiveness, one hopes for a sweet and healthy new year. From the evening of October 11th to sundown on October 12th, Jewish people take part in a fasting period meanwhile praying and reminiscing on the past year.

I took part in the fast and did not consume any food or beverages other than water during that time. Even though I’m not Jewish, it was an excellent cleansing experience for my mind and soul. It reminded me that one should not become self-absorbed in his/her daily routines and should make a conscious effort to take time out of the day to reflect on the relationships that are important to him/her. The fasting was not difficult to practice because I have fasted in the past on Wednesdays and Fridays, which are known as the fasting days for Eastern Orthodox Christians. I found it greatly rewarding that I was able to reflect on my relationships with the people I am close with and ask for forgiveness from those whom I may have wronged.

No matter what religion one practices, it is important for individuals to make it a priority to do self reflections in order to achieve self growth. Once the sun went down on Wednesday, it was time to partake in a festive after-fast meal. I got a chance to spend quality time with my fiance’s extended family, who came to visit from Israel. Upon arrival, the first thing we did was wash our hands and the oldest person at the table said the fifth prayer of the night, the Neilah, which is a “locking” prayer. I was fortunate enough to enjoy delicious traditional food such as latkes, matzo ball soup, challah and apples with honey which are present at every Sabbath dinner.

It was interesting for me to compare these dinner traditions to my religious traditions because we also have apples and honey present at every “holy” dinner. Also, the Jewish dishes are fairly similar to the Ukrainian dishes that we prepare for the holidays. For example, latkes which are made with apples. We make the same type of fried pancakes only with potatoes instead of apples. It was gratifying to be able to have an interfaith experience as well incorporate it and relate it to my own traditions. I am a strong advocate for stepping out of one’s comfort zone and being open to learning what others value. Through these types of interactions one can become knowledgeable and accepting of other cultures and faiths. I look forward to future opportunities that will enable me to take a part in interfaith experiences.

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