The painting is a detail of “Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur” by the 22-year-old Maurycy Gottlieb c. 1878.
By Len Abram
At sundown today, Friday, Oct. 3, Jews across the world and at the Beth El Temple Center on Concord Avenue will begin observing the holy day of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.
According to tradition, the Day of Atonement marks the end of 10 days of reflection and repentance, imagined in the liturgy as a Day of Judgment for each person before the Supreme Judge, whose final decisions are written in a heavenly book.
The Hebrew greeting, “Gemar chatimah tovah,” translated as “May you be inscribed for good in the Book of Life,” captures the metaphor and meaning of the day.
Abstaining from food and drink fulfills the Biblical commandments of self-denial and solemnity. Physical desires are denied to concentrate on spiritual needs through prayer and self-improvement.
At Yom Kippur, Jews often seek out those whom they have wronged to ask forgiveness.
Although the central prayers and confessionals are collective, emphasizing “we,” not “I,” Yom Kippur means something special to each person following the ancient tradition going back six millennia.