Yom Kippur Art by Arza Somekh

Yom Kippur, also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. This year it it takes place Friday night October 3rd and finishes sundown the next day.

Ten days of Penance by Italian artist Azra Somekh reflects on the ten days that pass between the Jewish New Year and the end of Yom Kippur. During these days an individual should examine him/herself and use this opportunity to correct mistakes before the judgment on the last day. According to the artist after ten days the penitent is in front of a ladder; he/she can remain at the same spiritual level, go up or go down.

Jewish people traditionally observe Yom Kippur with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.

According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God (bein adam leMakom) and against other human beings (bein adam lechavero). The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt (Vidui). At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.

In order to apologize to God, one must:
Give to charity.

The traditions for this day are as follows:
No eating and drinking
No wearing of leather shoes
No bathing or washing
No anointing oneself with perfumes or lotions
No marital relations

Total abstention from food and drink usually begins 20 minutes before sundown, and ends after nightfall the following day. Although the fast is required of all healthy adults over 12 or 13, it is waived in the case of certain medical conditions.

Virtually all Jewish holidays involve a ritual feast, but since Yom Kippur involves fasting, Jewish law requires one to eat a large and festive meal on the afternoon before Yom Kippur, after the Mincha (afternoon) prayer.

Wearing white clothing (or a 'kittel' for Ashkenazi Jews), is traditional to symbolize one’s purity on this day. 

Image: courtesy of Arza Somekh
2001, 5761, 21,7 x 33,5 inches; acrylic on canvas

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