Maybe these folks meant well, but all they had to do is a little bit of research and they could have avoided a gaffe, one that many could take as an affront. Yom Kippur starts Wednesday night and goes until Thursday night, night being after sunset. This Chabad Website has much in depth but easy to read about this most holy of holy days.

If you have Jewish friends, please do not wish us a happy holiday. It is the highest of holy days and we do not ‘celebrate’ or do anything merry or fun during it.

The Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, is a time set aside to repent for sins and to reflect on the year past and the year to come. Observant Jews generally attend synagogue, with readings from the Torah, and fast for 25 hours. It is a time for reflection, not celebration.

Many of us appreciate your kindness, and I write this not to chastise, but to educate. If you would like to say something, please do. But Much better you say, “Have an easy fast” or “Good yontif,” or “Good holiday” or “Blessed Yom Kippur.”

Be well in this our New Year. As someone with major health issues I’ve been told, and it is written in multiple places, that for those with severe health reasons to not fast. 

Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow, Director of Spiritual Care for Hebrew SeniorLife, adds there are many ways for seniors to have a meaningful Yom Kippur, fasting or not. “The obligation to fast is about inflicting your soul,” she explains. “While some suffering is intended, the idea is to put aside worldly pleasures during this day such that you can reflect on the themes of Yom Kippur: repentance and renewal. It’s a time to focus on the meaning of life – to open up your heart to new possibilities – and set personal goals for the year ahead.” This reflection can be achieved in many personal ways beyond the realm of food, including attending religious services, reading reflective texts, and contemplation. “Fasting does not define Yom Kippur,” she says. To help non-fasters put their eating in context with the purpose of the day, Rabbi Paasche-Orlow offers a Prayer for Yom Kippur for One who Cannot Fast as a possible meditation.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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