Thursday, July 26, 2007

Yom Kippur Traditions, Values and Customs

Age group: 10 - 18
Time: 8.5 hours
Program 1:The Book of the Prophet Jonah - or, What Is Good and What Is Bad?Program 2:The Prayers of the Day of Atonement--Yom Kippur. Past and Present. Program 3:The Five Prohibitions. Why Jews Fast on Yom Kippur. Customs and Traditions.The program is intended to help the participants understand that in daily life each person must be able to distinguish good from bad, good deeds from evil deeds.The Book of the Prophet Jonah helps us understand that someone who breaks the Laws of the Most High cannot escape punishment anywhere. At the same time, self-analysis and repentance lead a person to correction and to amendment of life. In working on the project, we drew on the large body of rabbinical literature and the recommendations of contemporary educational centers on teaching methods, as well as the present-day philosophical concepts of Judaism.
1. To create for the participants a special spiritual atmosphere involving a summing up of the past year, self-analysis, correction of mistakes, and hope for the future.2. To explain to the participants that the first ten days of the year (Tishri 1-10) are known as the Yamim Noraim--the Days of Awe. The tenth of these days is the most crucial day of the Jewish year--Yom Kippur, or the Day of Judgment. According to Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur, as defined by the Torah, now is also a day of repentance and voluntary asceticism, a day for “humility of spirit.”3. To offer the participants an opportunity to analyze the past year--behavior, opinions, principles of conduct, and social relationships. To show the need to change ourselves for the better through self-improvement, good deeds, and good studies.4. To show that the capability for self-analysis determines a person’s potential for self-improvement and correction.
1. The Book of the Prophet Jonah - or, What Is Good and What Is Bad?
DescriptionThe program is intended to help the participants understand that in daily life each person must be able to distinguish good from bad, good deeds from evil deeds. The Book of the Prophet Jonah helps us understand that someone who breaks the Laws of the Most High cannot escape punishment anywhere. At the same time, self-analysis and repentance lead a person to correction and to amendment of life. The program is part of a project for preparing young people for Yom Kippur. According to Jewish tradition, the Book of Jonah has a historical connection with the holiday of Yom Kippur and is a part of the liturgy for this day. The Book of Jonah is read during Mincha, the afternoon prayer. The program reveals the concept of Teshuva - repentance, directed at the future. In Hebrew, teshuvah means returning, turning around; it is one of the fundamental concepts of Judaism. Our sages have devoted many eulogies to Teshuvah. “The principle of Teshuva is…. for a person to return to himself, to the root of his soul. And then he will immediately return to the Most High. This is true both for an individual and for a nation as a whole, for all of mankind and for the perfection of all existence, for its ways become distorted when it forgets itself.” (Rav Kook, The Lights of Penitence, Chapter 16) Rav Kook (1865-1935) was one of the greatest experts on the Torah, a philosopher, and the chief rabbi of Israel from 1921 to 1935. ObjectivesThe participants should:
acquire skill in working with the text of the historical source - the Book of the Prophet Jonah (analysis, formulation of questions),
think out an answer to the question of how good deeds and thoughts are different from bad ones,
make an effort to analyze their own opinions and actions,
consider ways of correction and self-improvement for each participant.

Conducting the program Activity 1:The program begins with an introductory conversation about Good and Evil. At this time, establish good contact with the participants by discussing the two following questions: :
Question 1 - How do we know whether we are behaving well or badly?
Possible versions of answers: parents, coordinators say that we mustn’t cheat, act up, hurt anyone’s feelings; there are laws in society; and so forth.
Question 2 - But how do people know in general what is good and what is not?
Discussion … Then the leader sums up the result of the conversation: The Most High gave us the Torah, in which it is written how we must live, how we must behave in various situations in life, and which actions are impermissible. We try to follow the commandments of the Torah, but sometimes we make mistakes. Often, insignificant offenses lead to serious ones. Mistakes can be corrected if we think about our conduct in time, but often there is not enough time. And now the Jewish New Year is coming: the month of Tishri is approaching. We all expect that the New Year will bring us only good things. However, we know that good things have to be deserved. That is when we come to a stop in the race of life and start to recall how we have been living, what we have been doing: a time for self-analysis, for introspection, is beginning. Activity 2: Next, to develop skills of self-analysis we recommend that you do the following exercise. Proceed as follows:
Each participant receives two cards.
The participant writes down, anonymously and only if he/she wishes, on one card an example, drawn from his/her own life, of a good action (visited a sick friend), and on the other card, an example of a bad action (deceived a teacher).
When everyone has finished writing, all the cards are collected in a previously prepared box.
The participants seat themselves around the coordinator and take turns drawing cards with examples of good and bad actions and reading them aloud. The group analyzes the examples.
When the analysis has been completed, the coordinator asks once again, On what basis do we classify some actions as good and others as bad? Next there follows a talk by the leader about the Laws of the Torah. In concluding the discussion, the leader points out that we all have an opportunity to correct or improve our lives. But how? In what way?
Activity 3: Next the leader talks about the Prophet Jonah and his prophecy. We recommend preparing posters ahead of time, illustrating the basic concepts of the Book of Jonah: the sea, the city of Nineveh, the bush, the fish, the ship, Jonah. The leader reads or retells the Book of the Prophet Jonah:
Jonah was a prophet during the reign of King Jeroboam II (789-748 BCE). The Most High ordered Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and warn the city’s inhabitants that, if they did not mend their ways, they all would be destroyed on account of their debauchery. This was a difficult mission: first, Jonah feared that he would die at the hands of the city’s inhabitants; second, he did not want to save the city and its inhabitants, who were enemies of Israel. Jonah boards a ship headed for Tarshish (presumably, for the coast of Spain), hoping that the mission given him will be forgotten. A storm arises at sea, and everyone on board starts to pray; only Jonah sleeps soundly below. A sailor, finding Jonah, wakes him and says, “Pray to your G-d, that we perish not!” But Jonah knew that his prayer would not help, because he had not carried out the instructions of the Most High. “Cast me into the sea, this great tempest is upon you for my sake,” he said. But the people on the ship did not want Jonah to die, and they continued to pray. The storm became more and more terrifying… Then the people began calling out to God: “O G-d, we beseech You, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood, for You, G-d, have done as it pleased You.” And they cast him into the sea, and the storm ceased its raging at once. As soon as Jonah was in the water, a great fish immediately swam up to him and swallowed him. Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. And Jonah prayed to the Lord G-d. G-d commanded the fish to release Jonah. The fish vomited Jonah out, and he found himself on dry land. And again the Lord said to Jonah: “Go to the city of Nineveh.” This time Jonah obeyed. When he reached Nineveh, he began to proclaim the message that G-d had bidden him: “Forty days from now, your city will perish on account of your sins.” The inhabitants heard this and started to pray, stopped breaking the law, and renounced evil and violence. They repented, fasted, and prayed. God took pity on them, he saw that they had changed. He did no evil to them. He did not start to destroy the city of Nineveh. But Jonah was exceedingly vexed and said to G-d: “Therefore I fled from You, for I knew that You are a gracious G-d and merciful, and you will not start to destroy the city.” “Are you really so greatly vexed because of this?” G-d asked. “Yes. It is better for me to die,” Jonah said. He went out of the city, sat on a hill, and waited to see what would become of him. And G-d made a bush grow up, and its branches shaded Jonah from the sun. Jonah was glad that there was a shade over his head. But the next day G-d caused a worm to destroy the bush, and the bush withered. Jonah saw what happened to the bush, and once again he started to ask that he might die. Then G-d said: “You are concerned about the bush, which you did not grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. How is it that you are unwilling for me to take pity on Nineveh, a city in which more than 120,000 persons live?” Note: This is a brief paraphrase of the Book of Jonah, but if there is an opportunity, it is better to read the text of the book aloud. The Book of the Prophet Jonah, which is part of the Tanach, became a distinctive appeal to all people, a command to struggle against faults and to be true to their human destiny. The book is filled with hope for the possibility of every person’s reform. Follow-up:After telling about the Book of Jonah, we suggest that you discuss a few questions with the audience to clarify the causes and consequences of repentance, and also to reinforce the participants’ skill in analyzing the historical source. Sample questions:
What are the causes of Jonah’s repentance, or of that of the inhabitants of Nineveh?
What are the ways of repentance in the Book of Jonah? (prayer, fasting, etc.)
What are the consequences of repentance? (the saving of Jonah, the calming of the storm, the saving of the city and its inhabitants)
It is a good idea to give examples of repentance from everyday life (they need not be based on personal experience).
Activity 4 - Final part of the lesson:The leader sums everything up: Our life consists of a multitude of daily deeds and actions. It is essential to think about them and to be able to analyze them; to be able to correct and improve our lives. The eve of Yom Kippur is a time for awe, repentance, and forgiveness.
Repentance – Teshuva - is one of the foundations of Judaism.
Tishri is the month of repentance. The basic elements of Teshuvah are as follows:
repenting the sin that has been committed
asking for forgiveness (asking the Most High, asking a person)
renouncing evil and pledging not to return to it.
Jewish sages say that the way to Teshuvah is always open. A person who has done Teshuvah is as if created anew. It is considered a great sin to remind someone who has done Teshuvah about his/her past.
The Prophets, Jerusalem 1978
Wouk, Herman: This Is My G-d. The Jewish Way of Life. 1993, Jerusalem, Shamir
Ki Tov, Eliyahu: Kniga nashego naslediya [The Book of Our Heritage], 1991, Jerusalem, Avida
Number of participants: No more than 20 persons Age: 10-18 years of age Lesson length: Three hours Required materials: Blank cards, felt-tip pens, cardboard box, copies of the Book of Jonah, cards with the basic components of the concept of Teshuvah, posters with illustrations for the Book of Jonah.
2. Prayers for Atonement: The Past and the Present
Description Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—has two religious aspects.
The first aspect is kaparah, forgiveness of one who has sinned: “For on this day shall atonement be made for you.” (Torah, Vayikra 16:30). This meaning is reflected in the prayer read by the High Priest in the Holy Temple: “Grant us atonement.”
The second aspect of Yom Kippur is tohorah, purification. As it was said:“For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you… from all your sins before the Lord” (Torah, Vayikra 16:30). The idea of purification is also reflected in the Yom Kippur prayer in the Temple. The High Priest addressed those assembled, saying: “Before G-d you will be cleansed.” These two themes are stated repeatedly in all the prayers uttered on Yom Kippur: “Forgive us…sprinkle upon us the waters of purification.”
The day of Yom Kippur is so different from all other days that in the Talmud it is commonly referred to as “that day,” that is, “Yom.” Prayer is an obligatory part of the Day of Atonement. The service on Yom Kippur includes five main prayers:
evening prayer
morning prayer
afternoon prayer
musaf, that is, the additional prayer, which is read right after morning prayer
neilah, “the locking of the gates of heavenly mercy,” also an additional prayer, read following the afternoon prayer before the conclusion of Yom Kippur.
The program presented here will make it possible to gain an even better understanding of Judaism’s traditional approach to prayer and to examine the key concepts found in the Yom Kippur prayers: kaparah (forgiveness) and tohorah (purification). Objectives
To explore the role of prayer in Judaism, using the example of the Yom Kippur prayers. This class is part of a project devoted to the historical and philosophical significance of Yom Kippur. The program participants should:
study the traditional prayers of the Day of Atonement
suggest ways to perform teshuvah (repentance) in today’s world
Conducting the ProgramActivity 1: We begin the program with an exercise that we call “Associations.” The leader suggests that each program participant write down four words that have to do with the topic “Yom Kippur.” For example: holiday, fast, rabbi, prayers, cantor, synagogue, Kol Nidrei, shofar, forgiveness. The participants read their “Associations” aloud. Then the leader draws general conclusions from the responses, offers additional words and concepts, and gives the necessary explanations. Thus begins familiarization with the section on “Prayer in Judaism.” Activity 2: The program participants break down into groups of three or four. Each group is supplied with the necessary work materials (for example, a felt-tipped pen and sheets of paper in two colors, such as white and yellow). Each group is given an assignment: on the sheets of one color, to write down four reasons why people pray, and on the sheets of the other color, to write down four reasons why people do not pray. Five to seven minutes are sufficient for completing this assignment. Then each group reads aloud and substantiates the reasoning behind the four things that cause people to pray. The responses may differ, including the following, for example: a) People pray because:
they believe in the existence of the Most High
they are continuing the tradition of their parents
it is the tradition of the Jewish people
they have experienced a tragedy
they are convinced that prayers have helped them
they are thankful to G-d
they feel fear, etc.
Then the participants discuss the groups’ arguments. The leader finishes the discussion, draws general conclusions from it, and singles out the main reasons why people pray. b) People do not pray because:
they lack a family tradition
they do not believe in the existence of the Most High
they have no time for prayer
they lack a religious environment
they are afraid their acquaintances will mock them
they do not know the words of the prayers
they are unfamiliar with the procedure and tradition of prayer, etc.
The participants discuss the responses. Then the leader (a) draws general conclusions from the responses on the section being discussed here (b) and notes the prevailing importance of unfamiliarity with the traditions of the Jewish people, its centuries-old history, and its historical mission. Follow-up: Then the leader sums up the result of the discussion with regard to the present exercise, and lists the main arguments advanced by the program participants and their opinions on the reasons why people do not pray.
The leader draws and substantiates the conclusion that faith in the power and necessity of prayer is the natural state of mankind, and that the entire history of the Jewish people corroborates man’s connection with the Most High, to whom all our prayers are addressed and devoted.
From the Torah, we know that the forefathers of the Jewish people addressed their prayers to the Most High, each at a certain time of day:
Avraam (Abraham)—in the morning hours (Bereshith 19:27
Yitzchak (Isaac)—in the afternoon (24:63)
Yaakov (Jacob)—in the evening (28:11)
On that basis, Jewish tradition has adopted three main prayers (for divine service in synagogues or for individual use):
Morning prayer –SHACHARIT
Afternoon prayer—MINCHA
Evening prayer—MAARIV
Activity 3: Further, we suggest that you do one more exercise, which will allow the program participants to get to the heart of the Jewish tradition of prayer in a light-hearted, playful way. For this purpose, the participants are divided into three groups. Each group receives from the leader one of the three portions of the Torah (copies of the text) mentioned above (that is, passages from Bereshith): Chapter 19:27-30, Chapter 24:63-67, Chapter 28:10-13. Each group works with the portion of text it has been given and prepares a brief dramatization based on it. In turn, the program participants act out their portions. From 30 to 45 minutes are allotted for this exercise. Exercise OutcomeBy carrying out this exercise, we achieve two goals:
First, the program participants become aware that the historical roots of the prayers are connected with the forefathers, or “Founding Fathers,” of the Jewish people (the Avot)
Second, the participants become acquainted with the various motivations that lead people to pray.
The leader explains that people turn to prayer in various life situations. Prayer is always addressed to G-d and contains—in accordance with the specific situations—a request, a confession, gratitude, and an expression of adoration. The appeal of the person praying to the Most High is denoted by the word tefilah. Prayer, and tefilah is always a dialogue between a human being and G-d. This dialogue is always individual in nature. The Yom Kippur prayers are an exception, however. On this day all those who pray are united by a single theme—the theme of confession, the acknowledgement of their sins. In Hebrew this prayer is called Vidui, meaning “confession.” The Vidui prayer is read during all five services on Yom Kippur. The special feature of this prayer is the fact that it was written and is delivered on behalf of all those who are praying on this day: “For the mistakes we committed…” and it includes all the possible sins of Israel (the Jewish people as a whole) in alphabetical order. Thus this prayer does not emphasize the personal sins of an individual person—it is a matter of one’s own teshuvah, or repentance, and relationship with G-d and with human society. The Vidui prayer speaks of the sins of the entire Jewish people, for which each separate Jew bears individual responsibility. This defines one of the basic principles of Judaism and of the Jewish interpretation of the world. All Jews--from Avraam, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, from the generation of Moses to our own selves, and then our children and their descendants as well—we all, through our relationship to G-d, constitute a united whole, which is known as “KNESSET ISRAEL,” or the complete assembly of the souls of Israel. Thus the Vidui prayer has enormous significance for understanding the philosophical essence of Judaism and the historical mission of the Jewish people. Yom Kippur in the Days of the Temple This section is included for the purpose of gaining a deeper understanding of the roots of the prayers on the day of Yom Kippur. The synagogue service on Yom Kippur has its origin in the service in the Temple. The laws of the Day of Atonement are described in the Torah, in the book Vayikra, Chapters 16-18. In that era every divine service on this day and all the sacrifices were performed exclusively by the high priest, who did not sleep all night, as the service began after midnight and continued all day. Let us recall that 15 sacrifices, or offerings, were made on this day. Long before dawn the court of the Temple was filled with people. On Yom Kippur the high priest recited three confessional prayers. First he confessed his own sins; second, those of all the Cohens, or members of the priestly class; third, he asked forgiveness for the sins of the Jewish people as a whole. The tradition of the scapegoat is connected with the third confessional prayer. This goat, called Azazel, was sent out into the desert “bearing on its head all the sins of the Jewish people.” Azazel was the name of the precipice from which the goat was pushed to its death in the wilderness. According to the Talmud, Azazel symbolizes the cleansing of the sons of Israel of all sin and the destroying of the consequences of their transgressions. Later a prayer took the place of the sacrifice. Activity 4 - Final activity: To complete the program, we suggest that you do the following assignment: Ask each program participant to write his or her confessional prayer for Yom Kippur anonymously on a sheet of paper. The leader will collect all the papers and then redistribute them among the participants. In this way each person gets to know a new prayer. Then the leader should read all the prayers aloud and comment on them.
Leader’s Conclusion Regarding the Program All Jews are like parts of one large organism. When its individual parts are sick, then the entire organism is sick. The sages say that all Jews, as it were, are sitting in a single boat. When one makes a hole in the bottom of the boat, in the spot where he himself is sitting, then the entire boat sinks and all who are in the boat are lost. The Yom Kippur prayers remind us of this once again.
The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, Ed. Dr. J.-H. Hertz, CH, late chief rabbi of the British Empire, 1996. Jerusalem: Gesharim, Soncino Press.
Weissman, Moshe. Midrash rasskazyvayet [The Midrash Says]. Vayikra,. Jerusalem: Shvut Ami.
Yom Kippurim. Sudnyy Den’ [Day of Judgement]. Jerusalem: Amana.
Number of Program Participants: No more than 20 persons Age: 13-18 years of age
Class Length: Three hours Materials : Copies of the text of the Vidui prayer and the book of Bereshith. Index cards in two colors, sheets of blank paper, felt-tipped pens.
3. The Five Prohibitions
Description The program acquaints the participants with Halachic laws, concepts, terms, and Jewish traditions and customs. It promotes the formation of ethical standards, principles to live by in light of the concept of the Verbal Torah (Oral Torah) and of traditional Judaism. In the course of the class, the basic significance of Yom Kippur, recognized both by Jews and also by other peoples, is revealed. Jewish Programs suggests that you use the plan given here as a part of the events devoted to Yom Kippur. The traditions of this day are preserved immutably and are practiced in many generations of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewry. The class described here is part of a project devoted to the moral, ethical, and historical aspects of Yom Kippur. Objectives The program participants should:
think out an answer to this question: How is Yom Kippur different from the other Jewish holidays?
examine the traditions and customs of this day and draw their own conclusion about the possibility of observing them (in full or in part).
Conducting the Program Brief introductory talk by the program leader… Yom Kippur is the most important holiday in the Jewish tradition, a day of fasting, repentance, and forgiveness of sins. The sages of the Talmud call this day the time of reaching a final decision on a person’s fate in the coming year. Preparation for Yom Kippur begins in advance and is linked with numerous customs. Legend tells us that on Rosh Hashanah (the New Year), the Most High opens His books and writes in them “who will live and who will die, who will die at his predestined time and who before his time…” But…the sentence is signed only on the day of Yom Kippur. The time between the beginning of Rosh Hashanah and the conclusion of Yom Kippur is known as the “Ten Days of Awe” or “Ten Days of Repentance.” These days were given to us so that we can reflect on and repent of our actions as we stand at the threshold of Yom Kippur, the Day of Judgment. The Rambam (Maimonides) wrote: “Repentance and prayer are effective at any time, but during the ten days from Rosh Hashanah till Yom Kippur they are especially potent, and they are accepted immediately by the Most High.” During the days before the beginning of Yom Kippur and on the day of Yom Kippur itself, it is customary to observe certain traditions and customs.
Activity 1: To study (or review) them, we recommend that you do the following exercise with the class participants. We have provisionally given this exercise the name “Yom Kippur Lotto.” The procedure for conducting the exercise is as follows:
The leader divides the participants into groups of five to seven persons each.
Each group selects a head.
The leader gives each group two sets of index cards: a set of type A cards and a set of type B cards. Examples of the cards of each type and a description of them are presented below.
The group discusses and selects for each A card the B card that corresponds to it.
Discussion in the groups and matching up of card pairs should last for five to seven minutes.
Then the leader begins a general discussion of the exercise.
The head of each group reads aloud the text of the paired A and B cards, and the leader determines the order in which the groups answer and the sequence in which the type A cards are analyzed.
Each group receives points for correctly matching a pair of cards.
The leader gives the necessary explanations, reports each group’s result at the present stage of the exercise, and, on the basis of the total number of points earned, determines the winning group (a prize may be given).
Examples of cards:Below are given examples of sets of cards of type A (these are numbered) and type B (these are not numbered). Let us make it clear that the sets of cards should have been prepared in advance. The leader determines the number of sets and the number of cards of type A, including the basic concepts related to the topic. The A cards each contain one concept related to the topic of Yom Kippur:
1. Kaparot
2. Selichot
3. Seudah ha-mafseket
4. Mikveh
5. Shofar
6. Mincha
7. Neilah
8. Taanit
9. Aron Kodesh
10. Havdalah (Changes and additions may be made.)
The B cards are explanations of the basic concepts, given in the same sequence used in the A cards:
Kaparot, “cleansing”—a ritual performed on the eve of Yom Kippur, when the head of the family takes a rooster or a hen, waves it several times over the head of each family member, and recites this prayer: “This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement.” Today this custom is observed by waving money, which is given to charity after the ceremony.
Selichot, “forgiveness.” —prayers that are read during the period of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as well as on fast days.
Seudah ha-mafseket – meal marking the boundary between periods of eating and fasting; the final meal before the beginning of the fast on the eve of Yom Kippur.
Mikveh –a body of water, immersion in which cleanses one of ritual impurity.
Shofar – ram’s horn, blown in the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and at the close of Yom Kippur.
Mincha, “offering, gift.” The prayer after the midday meal, one of three daily prayers.
Neilah, “closing.” The prayer read only at the end of the day of Yom Kippur, when the heavenly gates of mercy close.
Taanit – the fast, the prohibition of eating and drinking.
Aron Kodesh – the cabinet (ark) where the Torah scrolls are kept in the synagogue.
Havdalah , “separation.” The conclusion of the Sabbath or of a holiday. The ritual performed on these days after the evening prayer as a sign of the separation of the holy from the ordinary.
Note: The initial words of the explanatory text (the concepts) do not appear on the type B cards.
Follow-up:Next the leader sums up the result of the discussion of basic concepts and explains that all the rituals performed on Yom Kippur or on the eve of this day can be divided into two categories:
1. prescriptive, that is, obligatory, giving directions:…to recite selichot …to perform kaparot …to go to the mikveh …to ask forgiveness of one’s relatives, friends, etc. …to light candles on the eve of the holiday, etc. 2. prohibitive, that is, forbidding one: ... to eat and drink …to wash one’s hands and face and to bathe …to anoint one’s body …to wear leather shoes …to engage in marital relations
These prohibitions are set forth in greater detail in a treatise of the Talmud (Yoma 8:1). The prohibitions established for Yom Kippur are lifted only if a threat to life exists. And so, let us repeat that Yom Kippur is a Fast Day. On this day it is forbidden to eat, drink, bathe, wear leather shoes, and use cosmetics. All this helps people free themselves from physical needs for a while and think about the spiritual basis of their life and about the necessity of self-improvement. The sages say that the five restrictions are intended to prevent us from using the abilities given us to do harm.
Activity 2: For this section of the class, we recommend that you do an exercise. The leader asks the audience a question: “What is the point of the five prohibitions or restrictions?” (Note: It is a good idea to prepare a poster in advance, listing these prohibitions.) Some possible versions of answers are listed below:
The ban on eating and drinking serves the purpose of correcting faults related to eating. For example, if we have eaten something that is off limits or if we have eaten to excess. This prohibition also relates to work, since the money earned is also used for satisfying our appetites.
When bathing, people experience pleasure. The ban on washing on Yom Kippur warns us not to make excessive efforts to revel in physical pleasures.
The leather shoes symbolize the world of man, as opposed to the world of nature, since only humans consciously use clothing and footwear. The sages suggest that this prohibition serves to remind us that we should not use the achievements of civilization to harm the natural world or ourselves.
Cosmetics embody everything that exceeds a person’s reasonable needs for pleasure and comfort. This prohibition reminds us that we need to limit our liking for all material things.
The ban on physical intimacy on Yom Kippur is intended to improve or correct the relations between the sexes.
Note: For a better understanding of these prohibitions, we recommend dividing the audience into groups, for example, into groups of three. During the next 10 minutes, each group should come up with one example for each of the five prohibitions. Then all the exercise participants should discuss the examples given by each group. The Leader’s Summation Of course, most people live a completely normal life—they don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t lie, and so forth. But sometimes we allow ourselves seemingly small faults that Jewish tradition categorizes as sins. Along with this, people commit a host of petty misdeeds that cannot be called sins, but that must be avoided (for example, wasting time). The days preceding Yom Kippur are a time to engage in analysis and correction, a time to observe prohibitions and control our actions, a time to familiarize ourselves with the centuries-old traditions of the Jewish people. The time has come for all of us to reflect, to analyze the course of our life, and to try to correct whatever is within our power to correct.
Note: According to Jewish law, every girl over the age of 12 and every boy over the age of 13 should fast for 24 hours. Anyone who is capable of observing this fast is obligated to do so. Anyone who is incapable should at least go without food and drink for as long as possible. Anyone for whom fasting would be harmful for medical reasons should not attempt to fast; moreover, in this case, fasting is prohibited.
Siddur, The Gates of Prayer, Ed. P. Polonsky. Jerusalem, 1996.
Kitov, Eliahu, Kniga nashego naslediya [The Book of Our Heritage], Volume 1. Jerusalem, 1991.