GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After the sun sets on Sunday night, Yom Kippur officially begins. Millions of people around the world are getting ready for this day, the most widely observed holiday on the Jewish calendar.
Rabbi Michael Schadick with the Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids said they are busy preparing for their Yom Kippur services on Monday.
“We gather in great numbers to worship and fast and to be together on what is, for us, the most important day on the entire Jewish calendar,” Schadick said.
The rabbi, who has been with the temple for 23 years, said Yom Kippur is a day of atonement.
“We as a community ask God for forgiveness for our individual and communal sins, the things that we’ve done that we wish we hadn’t,” Schadick said.
Juan Herrera attends the Yom Kippur service every year. He said the holiday helps him look back on the things he did and move forward.
“Yom Kippur means like a second chance, right? Not everyone gets a second chance, right?” Herrera said. “Some of us have a maybe near-death experience, and once we’re there on that bed, we pray to God, and we ask, ‘Give me just a second chance.'”
During the holiday, most people aged 13 and up fast for a full 24 hours. Schadick said fasting helps put the focus on spiritual needs instead of physical needs.
“You’re supposed to think about the notion of contrition and forgiveness. And sometimes being a little hungry reminds us (of) … our blessings. Many people don’t have the chance to eat when they’re hungry usually,” Schadick said. “So on this day of all days for us, we remind ourselves again how lucky we are and it pushes us to think anew or with more intensity about how we might ask God for forgiveness.”
During Yom Kippur, the community spends multiple services together, honoring loved ones who have died and asking God for forgiveness.
Then, at the end of the holiday, they break the fast together.
“The feeling is hope that tomorrow we can do better there. But there’s a seriousness, a sense that we are in this together as a community and that because we’re together in such large numbers, it just feels like we are in the right place on the right day,” Schadick said. “There’s a feeling also that we have it in our hands to improve the world. It’s up to all of us — not just individuals, but all of us as a community to make the world a better place.”
The community also came together Sunday morning to set up the sukkah, a temporary building used for the holiday Sukkot, which begins Friday night.
“The holiday is our Thanksgiving holiday. We give thanks for the blessings of the season,” Schadick explained.
Sukkot starts Sept. 29 and ends Oct. 6. Services for Yom Kippur at Temple Emanuel are only open to members of the temple, but they are livestreamed online on the temple’s website.