This, the third article in the series honoring spiritual traditions other than Christianity, focuses on Judaism. This is an effort to promote greater understanding and acceptance of those traditions who seek God in different, peaceful, and beautiful ways (which Unity promotes) yet have experienced discrimination and challenges in their past and current histories. This basic overview, however, focuses on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur as it is currently in progress (sunset September 17, 2010 – nightfall September 18, 2010). Yom Kippur is the festival most widely observed by Jewish people, including those that do not follow a traditional Jewish life during the remainder of the year (New Encyclopedia of Judaism, 1989, 2002, Jerusalem Publishing House Ltd.).
Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most solemn day in the Jewish religious calendar according to the New Encyclopedia of Judaism (1989, 2002, Jerusalem Publishing House Ltd.). It begins at sunset, involves a strict 25-hour fast by every male over 13 years of age and every female over 12 years of age (unless excused by physician or rabbinical orders), and continues until nightfall of the next day. Of all the Jewish days of fasting, Yom Kippur is the only one that is never postponed when it falls on a Sabbath day.
Five services comprise Yom Kippur, beginning with Kol Nidre (the initial evening service on the first day); followed by the Morning, Additional, and Afternoon prayers on the second day; and concluding with Ne’Ilah (New Encyclopedia of Judaism, 1989, 2002, Jerusalem Publishing House Ltd.). Each service has its unique features and specific liturgy. To listen to the beautiful Kol Nidre prayer sung, please watch the video available with this article.
The observance of Yom Kippur rests upon Biblical commandments to “afflict your soul” and “to make atonement before the Lord” (New Encyclopedia of Judaism, 1989, 2002, Jerusalem Publishing House Ltd. & Illustrated Dictionary and Concordance of the Bible, 1986, Jerusalem Publishing House Ltd.) found in Leviticus 16: 29-32 and 23: 27-32, as well as Numbers 29:7. The affliction of the soul is achieved primarily through fasting from food and drink (other prohibitions include bathing other than the fingers/eyes, applying cosmetics/lotions, sexual relations, and wearing leather shoes). The atonement is achieved through three acts: (1) acknowledging one’s transgressions; (2) repenting through confession; and (3) atonement rituals seeking God’s forgiveness. These ritual processes replace the practices in Biblical days of cleansing the temple through the slaying of a goal and the cleansing of people’s sins by sending a goat into the wilderness – the source of the term “scapegoat” (Illustrated Dictionary and Concordance of the Bible, 1986, Jerusalem Publishing House Ltd.).
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, allows man to atone for his sins against God, but not for those sins committed against man (New Encyclopedia of Judaism, 1989, 2002, Jerusalem Publishing House Ltd. & Illustrated Dictionary and Concordance of the Bible, 1986, Jerusalem Publishing House Ltd.). Prior to Yom Kippur, a Jewish person must seek forgiveness from any party he/she has injured and to reconcile with them or atonement on Yom Kippur for those sins will have no effect. This stance differs from that of Christianity and mental health encouragement to forgive others without requiring repentance from the individual who committed the harm and to choose reconciliation only when it would not put one in ongoing danger.
There are two synagogues in Columbus, Georgia, for those residents seeking to learn more about Jewish traditions, spirituality, and holidays such as Yom Kippur. There are:
- Shearith Israel Synagogue at 2550 Wynnton Road, Columbus, GA 31906. Phone: (706) 323-1443.
- Temple Israel at 1617 Wildwood Avenue, Columbus, GA 31906. Phone: (706) 323-1617.
According to “Holidays” on answers.com (1999), Yom Kippur will fall on the following days in the next 3 years:
- Jewish year 5772: sunset October 7, 2011 – nightfall October 8, 2011
- Jewish year 5773: sunset September 25, 2012 – nightfall September 26, 2012
- Jewish year 5774: sunset September 13, 2013 – nightfall September 14, 2013
For residents of Columbus, Georgia, who seek ongoing spiritual support that honors other spiritual traditions, the following six Unity churches are within driving distance:
- Unity of Albany (GA) – approximately 75 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 178 Hugh Road, Leesburg, GA. Phone: (229) 435-1001.
- Unity of Montgomery (AL) Spiritual Center – approximately 77 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 1922 Walnut Street, Montgomery, AL 36106. Phone: (334) 263-1225.
- Unity in the Heart of Georgia (Byron, GA) – approximately 78 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 127 Peachtree Parkway #701, Byron, GA. Phone: (478) 737-7537.
- UnitySouth Atlanta Church (Jonesboro, GA) – approximately 84 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 10 a.m. on Sundays is 7541 Mr. Zion Boulevard, Jonesboro, GA. Phone: (404) 578-3033.
- Unity of Dothan (AL) – approximately 90 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 942 South Oates, Dothan, AL 36301. Phone: (334) 794-2840.
- Unity West Church (Douglasville, GA) – approximately 94 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 6472 East Church Street – Suite F, Douglasville, GA 30134. Phone: (678) 570-1487.