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A Quiet Yom Kippur

Ellen Levitt

Posted on September 29, 2020 00:08

3 users

This was an unusual Yom Kippur for me, due to the restrictions of Covid-19 social distancing.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Typically people know that it's a day of fasting and prayer. This year, 2020 (5781) was the most unusual Yom Kippur for me and every Jew around the world.

Usually on Yom Kippur, I've spent much of the day at synagogue, joining in communal prayers, eschewing food and drink. During the previous ten years, I also sang as a backup singer for the synagogue's cantor, part of an octet. Also since 2011, I had a special afternoon service honor (an "aliyah" during the Torah portion reading) which I inherited after my father's passing earlier that year.

However, our religious lives have been greatly changed during the COVID pandemic. Many synagogues are only holding online religious services, and those that do have in-person services are supposed to have them with far fewer participants. In addition, I've changed congregations (for several reasons) to another area synagogue, one which I actually did have links to as a child and again as a younger adult.

So this Yom Kippur I didn't sing in the evening and daytime of Yom Kippur, standing on the stage with a few other singers, nervously awaiting our cues. I didn't even join an online service nor an in-person service. Instead, I read the prayers more or less from start to finish, on my own, mostly in Hebrew, at home. My husband read a portion and my younger daughter sat with me for part of the time.

I assumed it would be a very quiet Yom Kippur. But ten minutes into the holiday, after I had lit the candles to usher in the holiday, I sat at the dining room table. I was reading the beginning evening prayers for the holiday, known as the Kol Nidre service, when I smelled something burning. I looked up from the prayer book and saw a small flame shooting out of a book several feet away from me! 

One of the holiday candles had tipped slightly and lit a book and a metal holder with photographs and small prayer books. It was located on a wooden hutch. I started shouting, then blew on the flame and grabbed a towel, and smothered the flames. Whew.

The damage was small and contained, but it managed to stink up the whole first floor of our house. I moved the remaining one candle that was lit. Honestly, it was the first time this happened, but I'll be ever more careful in the future.

I was jittery for a while, as I read prayers, but calmed down. I went to sleep early and in the morning, spent much of the day reading the daytime prayers, taking a nap, reading a book called The Dairy Restaurant by Ben Katchor (it didn't make me hungry ... too much). At the holiday's end, I ate a bagel and fresh fruit.

My mind wandered at times during the prayers. I thought of how different the holiday was, without being in the synagogue. 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on September 29, 2020 00:08

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Source: CNN

Read CNN's Fast Facts about Yom Kippur and learn about the meaning of the Jewish holiday.

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