Monday, September 20, 2010

Yom Kippur

This past Saturday was Yom Kippur also known as the Day of Atonement. It is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. Yom Kippur is another fasting day no food or drink from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. You are not allowed to bathe, use deodorant or perfume, no marital relations and you can not wear leather shoes. Traditionally you wear white clothing. Here in Israel everything is closed on Yom Kippur. No one is allowed to drive so on Yom Kippur you could walk down the middle of the highway if you want to. This holiday is from the Bible you can read about it in Leviticus chapter 16 and one verse in Exodus chapter 30. Yom Kippur was the day the high priest would enter the holy of holies. One goat would be slaughtered on the alter as an offering to God. A second goat would symbolically be burdened with the sins of the people of Israel and released into the wilderness this is where we get the term scapegoat. Today the Holiday is celebrated a little differently since there is no Temple. People go to the Western Wall and purchase a live chicken. You take the chicken by its legs and swing it over your head I think this symbolically transfers your sins to the chicken but I'm not sure. The chicken is then sent to the slaughter house and will be used to feed the poor. You can also do this with an envelope of money equivalent to the price of the chicken. The money then goes to purchase a chicken to feed the poor.

This would be a good time to mention the Haredim. The Hardedim are an ultra orthodox sect of Judaism. The men wear all black suits and black hats all the time no matter what the weather is. You can see their outfits here They have standards of dress that make them distinctive. They also wear black because the are in mourning for the loss of the Temple. On Yom Kippur they all wear white this is the only day they dress in white. Here in Jerusalem they live in a neighborhood called Me'a Sharim. If you want to walk through this neighborhood you have to be dressed to their standards of modesty. If you go into their neighborhood and they don't think you are dressed properly they will throw rocks at you.

This is an outfit similar to what the women wear in these conservative neighborhoods. Only married women have to cover their hair. Hair is considered an adornment. Some women shave their heads and wear a wig. Sometimes it looks like everyone has the same hairstyle but its just the same wig. Short strawberry blonde with side bangs. I was suprised how much the head scarf aged me. I look much older with my hair covered. The strand of pearls is worn on Sabbath or holidays. However on Yom Kippur and other fasting days jewerly is forbidden. Women in this community do not make eye contact with men they are not married to or related to. To make eye contact with these men is very offensive to them. You can not speak to a man you are not married to or related to.

Claire is wearing an outfit similar to what the teenage girls in the conservative communities would wear. Again girls don't have to cover their hair until they get married.

I just finished my final exam for the first level of Modern Hebrew. I even wrote an essay in Hebrew I think I'm able to write like a first grader in Hebrew now. :) I now have a few weeks of vacation before the fall semester starts.


  1. I had no idea what the observance of Yom Kippur was about. Your Dad read aloud to me the chapter and verse in Leviticus and Exodus you mentioned. Our Bible translation made it difficult to comprehend. Nice job of modeling the conservative dress of the married woman and the teenage girl by you and Claire. I'd fogotten where the term scapegoat originated. I personally think I would sling the envelope of coins over my head rather than the live chicken. What incredible symbolism.

    Big relief to have that Modern Hebrew final over with. I know you will be doing some language review over the break. Enjoy your rest.


  2. Glad to hear your first Modern Hebrew final is over! I know what you mean about feeling like writing like a first grader. When I am at elementary school here in Japan I can sometimes read the things in the lower grade classrooms and get really excited. I look at the big borad of kanji the kids will learn in that grade and get exicted when I know some of them.

    Great entry as always! Enjoy your vacation before the next semester!

  3. Dear Anna,
    Thanks for being more diligent with updating your is nice to see my daughter. I have started to check your blog before I look at hers! Thanks so much for the picture!


  4. I love the outfits. You girls look so cute!
    I had no idea that the term 'scapegoat' originated from that practice. I'm with your Mom on the money versus the chicken. I don't think I'd like to eat a chicken that has had ones sins transfered to it.
    Take your time off to have some fun kiddo.

  5. I get this weird picture in my head when I think about the chicken slinging. I can't imagine that chickens go happily into that good night after being given the equivalent of a Disney ride. It doesn't seem wise to me to be wearing white clothes on a day when chicken feces might be flying.

    Also, do yall have enough refrigerator magnets yet? Need a few more?