Yom Kippur - What's it all about?

Yom Kippur, what is that all about?
Don't worry, this isn't going to be a blog about how spiritual religion is.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. It is the day of atonement and repentance. The day in the year where you repent for your sins from the previous year and hope that you get sealed in the book of life for the year to come. My thoughts have always been that's a tad morbid. Don't get me wrong, if you have murdered someone, not sure the book of life is meant for you. But not being sealed in the book of life for having a cheeky non kosher nando's seems a tad harsh.


Regardless of observance, a lot of Jewish people decide that this is the one day a year where they might attend synagogue or take the day off work and most Jews will adhere to the 25 hour fast that comes with Yom Kippur. Considering Yom Kippur is apparently a celebratory festival, I'm not sure how many celebrations you go to without at least a biscuit of sorts.
We've just stuffed our face with Honey Cake for a sweet new year and now it feels like we're being punished for gluttony. 
As kids, Yom Kippur was that day where we didn't watch TV, we didn't drive, we didn't really do anything other that do puzzles whilst our stomaches rumbled. 
My relationship with Judaism this year has certainly had it's ups and downs. One of the up's has been being a part of the company of The Band's Visit. I have never worked with this many Jewish actors before and certainly not this many Israeli's. What has been interesting for me to see is how in Israel, you don't have to prove and promote your Jewish identity, where as in London, you end up feeling you have to wear your identity like a badge. Yom Kippur is the one day a year where for some reason I still feel like if I work, that's it, my year will fall apart. I always have Yom Kippur contracted off work, and this year, the wonderful Donmar moved the Yom Kippur performance. They cancelled this evenings performance and added an extra matinee in the final week of the show. (I may or may not be on as Dina on Tues 29th 2.30pm) So there is no show and those in the company who wish to fast can do so, without the worry of being told they have to work. Being a part of a community of people who share in an understanding has always been comforting.

The Down's have been more about understanding how sometimes archaic tradition can hold you back.
Observance doesn't make you more or less Jewish. Being Jewish is something you are born into, you cannot change. It's values you can choose to embrace to live a life with meaning, but that doesn't mean that religion has to be at the centre of your decision making. One can have a Friday night dinner and enjoy time spent with the family without going to synagogue to bring in the Sabbath. One can have a strong cultural identity without it being a religious identity. 

I grew up going to Jewish schools and being a part of a North West London Jewish community. I understand the reasoning behind keeping to your own. The fear of the unknown can be crippling and let's not forget ancestral trauma. As Jews, we carry the weight of our ancestors pain and suffering. Does that mean we shouldn't forge our own paths forward to have a happy life?

With this year going forward, of course I hope to be sealed in the book of life (if you choose to believe that a higher being has that power), but I also hope for myself to be able to make choices not governed by fear.
As Jon Bon Jovi said "It's My Life!"
If you fast, fast well, and if you don't, have a lovely day!


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