Jewish Holy Days

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Introduction There are a variety of holy and high days within the Jewish calendar, each of which has their own special meaning and place of origin in the history of the Jewish people. For all of these days there follows tradition, and practices associated with the observance. In this paper the author will attempt to examine and describe the high holy day of Yom Kippur, otherwise known as the Day of Atonement. Specifically the author will address the origins of this holy day, the time of year it takes place, and practices associated with it. Lastly the author will attempt to address any variations of observation that may occur in the different branches of Judaism. There are four recognised branches under Judaism, not all may celebrate or observe in the same way. The author will therefore distinguish where there is a difference if any, and note what the difference in practice is. Origins of Yom Kippur Yom Kippur is the High Holy Day also known as the Day of Atonement. It is the most important of all the High and Holy Days and is a time of year when the people seek God for reconciliation with Him as well as reconciling between themselves, although the actual reconciling between people is supposed to be done before the actual Day of Atonement as the day itself is only for reconciliation between man and God. In other words, it is a time of repentance and the seeking of forgiveness. In the Jewish tradition it is also regarded as the time when God decides the fate of each individual. It is believed that it is at this time names are written in the books by God – who will live and who will die, who will have a good or bad life for the next year. Looking to the Bible, in Leviticus 16:29-30, one sees where the scripture describes how the people were instructed to afflict their souls (literally – to make themselves miserable, or for want of a better word – to be
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