ALL religions have some semblances of similarities and Judaism is no exception. In the Jewish community, Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year when followers of Judaism are closest to Gd and to the essence of their souls. Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement,” as the verse states, “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before Gd.” The occasion is observed on the 10th day of Tishrei (in 2020, from several minutes before sunset on Sunday, September 27, until after nightfall on Monday, September 28), coming on the heels of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year, which is on the first and second days of Tishrei). For nearly 26 hours, Jews “afflict their souls”: they abstain from food and drink, do not wash or apply lotions or creams, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from marital relations. Instead, they spend the day in synagogues, praying for forgiveness.
Forty days before Yom Kippur, on the first of Elul, people would build an atmosphere of reverence, repentance and awe leading up to Yom Kippur. For the week before Yom Kippur (known as the 10 Days of Repentance), special additions are made to prayers, and people are particularly careful with their mitzvah observance. Like sabbath, no work is to be done on Yom Kippur, from the time the sun sets on the ninth of Tishrei until the stars come out in the evening of the next day.
The day is spent in the synagogues, where five prayer services are held. Beyond the specific actions, Yom Kippur is dedicated to introspection, prayer and asking Gd for forgiveness. After night has fallen, the closing Neilah service ends with the resounding cries of the Shema prayer: “Hear O Israel: Gd is our Lrd, Gd is one,” followed by partaking in a festive feast of after-fast meal, making the evening after Yom Kippur a yom tov (festival) in its own right. Indeed, although Yom Kippur is the most solemn day of the year, it is suffused with an undercurrent of joy; it is the joy of being immersed in the spirituality of the day and expresses confidence that Gd will accept repentance, forgive sins, and seal the verdict for a year of life, health and happiness. There is a custom that after Yom Kippur, immediately Jews begin (planning) construction of the sukkah, which they will use for the joyous holiday of Sukkot, which follows in just five days.
Devotees of all faiths can practically and sincerely associate with the significance of this festival and apply its relevance appropriately. All of us as Guyanese need to atone for our guilty consciences, especially in the wake of our political bias, ethnic weaknesses and racial intonation. Our questionable and assumed innocence is not beyond some degree of reproach. Boy oh boy, if ever there was or is the need for us to ever feel sorry , remorseful and apologetic, the time is ripe and right, now is the moment for us to repent and, yes, kneel on our knees and beg for forgiveness. This year in particular, Guyanese have misbehaved and caused fellow Guyanese to suffer a lot, physically, mentally, financially, socially and psychologically. We can try to hide, deny and cover our mistakes, but, each action is recorded and, “what goes around, comes around.” Many in the world are subscribing to the momentous passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the holy season as memorable and meaningful, perhaps hidden is some mysterious missive. The greeting for Yom Kippur is, “G’mar chatima tova,” meaning, “May you be sealed in the Book of Life.”
The world is locked in the ambience of peace as institutionalised by the United Nations General Assembly in the observance of “International Day of Peace.” More than 300 people were nominated as candidates for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, which the Nobel Committee makes clear, should not be mistaken for an honour, in it of itself. Russian leader Vladimir Putin has reportedly joined President Trump as a dark horse candidate for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, which will be announced next month. A collective of Russian public figures, including writer Sergey Komkov, were reportedly behind Putin’s nomination. It’s unclear what the former KGB agent, who annexed a neighbouring country, is credibly accused of tampering in U.S. elections and has seen his adversaries poisoned, (his rival Alexey Navalny), was nominated for doing. Early this month, more than 80 Nobel Laureates endorsed former Vice-president Joe Biden, Trump’s opponent in the 2020 election, for the presidency. Last year’s winner was Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Mr. Abiy Ahmed Ali.
In the heat of the “Black Lives Matter” movement and all the attention this issue has captured in the U.S. and the rest of the world, Gandhi’s message of peace and non-violence is so much more relevant and pertinent as answers to mankind. Gandhi’s birthday will be celebrated on October 2nd. Meanwhile, if we are to believe and accept the British data firm, YouGov’s annual poll released last Tuesday, former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama now hold the top spots for the most admired man and woman in the world. As Gandhi advised, “If we want to reach real peace in this world, we should start educating children.” Let us set the record straight by building on that very foundation in Guyana. We need to atone for the sake of peace.