As well as intentioned as you might be, the last thing you should do next week is wish a Jewish person a Happy Yom Kippur, say members of Victoria’s Jewish community.
Instead, suggests the Kolot Mayim Reform Temple, “Gemar Chatima Tova” — have an easy fast — would be more appropriate for the solemn holiday, which is focused on repenting of sins and seeking forgiveness for wrongs committed.
Fasting is an integral part of what is considered the holiest day of the year by Judaism’s Orthodox, Conservative and Reform branches. The 25-hour observance begins Tuesday after sundown.
“Yom Kippur is considered the Sabbath of Sabbaths,” said Rabbi Leigh Lerner. The solemn holiday ends the Jewish calendar’s “10 days of repentance” that begin with Rosh Hashanah.
Lerner, rabbi emeritus of Montreal’s Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, has close ties to Victoria’s Jewish community, and has a sister-in-law who lives here. He will lead the High Holidays at the Kolot Mayim Reform Temple.
“In a way, it’s a celebration, but of human free will. It is reflective, in the sense that we look back on the year, and what have we done with that free will,” Lerner said.
“Chances are we’ve done something we regret, or we need to forgive someone who has dong things to us.”
Lerner, who has been lauded for his promotion of LBGT rights, the creation of African-American and Jewish dialogue, and his work to combat human trafficking, puts it another way: “Those promises you make to God, like ‘By, George! I’m going to stop smoking this year,’ are between you and God. But when it’s between you and other people, you have to make it right with them.”
The day of atonement is “as much to tell people to get with the program,” he said, adding God will forgive a sin only once you “make it right” with the person you’ve wronged.
Many Jewish people who refrain from observing other customs tend to go to synagogue and fast on Yom Kippur, when businesses operated by devout Jews are closed since work is forbidden.
Saanich’s Leah Kinarthy, who will take time off work, said Yom Kippur is a time for contemplation.
“The idea is to focus on how to be a better person,” she said.
It begins with one’s own self and family, and extends to the larger community, she said. This can mean rectifying something that happened and saying you are sorry.
The time set aside to reflect “has a particular significance this year,” given the turmoil around the globe, she said.
— With a file from Carla Wilson
Victoria’s Jewish Community
• Kolot Mayim Reform Temple
3636 Shelbourne St.
• The Chabad Centre for Jewish Life and Learning
2955 Glasgow St.
• Congregation Emanu-El
1461 Blanshard St.
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