In Yom Kippur, a time to fast and reflect

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Starting at sundown on Tuesday, much of Boston’s Jewish population will begin to celebrate the holiest day of the year and the conclusion of the High Holidays – Yom Kippur.

Following 10 days after the joyous celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur is a more solemn occasion for reflection and preparation for the year ahead.

This year, Rosh Hashanah fell on Sept. 14 and Yom Kippur begins at sunset on Sept. 22.

In 2012, nearly half of Jews (43 percent) named Yom Kippur as the holiest of Jewish holidays, likely because of its underlying themes of “atoning” for sins, by repenting and fasting.

Even leaders of the United Nations participated in a ceremony Monday to symbolically repent for their “sins.”

Faithful Jews follow Yom Kippur, literally “Day of Atonement,” by fasting from sundown until sunset. Many will trade work at school or the office for prayer, lectures and services at synagogue.

Although praying and abstaining from food is the focus of the day, the most observant Jews also give up other daily routines, even bathing.

On Rosh Hashanah, according to tradition, God records an individual’s fate for the upcoming year.  On Yom Kippur, this fate is sealed. The days in between the holidays are meant for Jews to repent from any wrongdoing.

This year, the holiday intersects with two other key events for religious Americans – the beginning of Eid-al-Adha , one of two important Muslim holidays. The celebration commemorates Abraham’s obedience to God and sacrifice of his son Ishmael, before God intervened and provided a sheep to sacrifice instead, according to the Qur’an.

Many Muslims observe this four-day holiday, which begins on Wednesday evening, by donating to charity, sharing a meal and attending services at a local mosque.

Pope Francis’s visit to the United States also falls on these holidays and has raised concerns among some members of the Jewish community.

Although Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, is regarded as a friend of the Jewish people, some have expressed disappointment that his visit on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar makes it difficult, if not impossible, for Jews to participate in interfaith gatherings with the Pope.

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or @karabettis

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