beginning of High Holy Days that end with Yom Kippur. Photo courtesy of Congregation Beth Israel
Blowing the shofar at the beginning of High Holy Days, which culminate in Yom Kippur. Photo courtesy of Congregation Beth Israel

Yom Kippur, the holiest and most somber day on the Jewish calendar, begins at sundown Tuesday, with the observant fasting and seeking forgiveness for their sins.

Yom Kippur concludes at sundown Wednesday, ending the 10-day period on the Jewish calendar known as Days of Teshuvah, which is variously translated as repentance, return and change. Many Jews fast on Yom Kippur and spend much of the time in synagogues.

According to Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur is the day on which Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the second set of commandment tablets and announced God’s pardon to people for worshipping a golden calf.

Observant Jews believe that God inscribes the names of the righteous in the Book of Life during the period of the High Holy Days, the 10-day period between Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur.

For that reason, the traditional greeting among Jews on Yom Kippur is Gemar Chatima Tova, which is shorthand for “May your name be written in the good book.”

Yom Kippur services begin with the Kol Nidre, an ancient prayer that literally means “all vows” or “all promises.” The last service of the day ends with the sounding of a ram’s horn called a shofar.

Rabbi Mark Borovitz, the CEO of Beit T’Shuvah, a nonprofit treatment center and education institute, will be joined by Christian clergy at his Yom Kippur services at Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City to declare a “state of moral emergency” in relation to incarceration, addiction, lack of empathy and connection to the plight of the poor and homeless, and racism in all forms.

“We have lost the sacred in our daily lives,” Borovitz said. “Connection, kinship and forgiveness are the key to seeing each other as human beings and not just objects.”

Borovitz will be joined at tonight’s service by the Rev. Greg Boyle, founder of the acclaimed youth program Homeboy Industries, in discussing the importance of kinship and the current lack of this value, specifically in Los Angeles.

They will explain why more people must embrace the ties that bound and how support unity, Borovitz said.

The Rev. Mark Whitlock Jr. of the Irvine-based Christ Our Redeemer African Methodist Episcopal Church will join Borovitz at Wednesday’s service to reflect on redemption and forgiveness, where and why it’s lacking in so many modern relationships, and how to resolve this important loss to our culture, Borovitz said.

“We’ve chosen to bring in Father Boyle and Reverend Whitlock because they are such wonderful spirits who both do so much to bring about redemption in this world,” Borovitz said.

“We must unite as different faiths, different communities and those of us with different backgrounds and celebrate what connects us as human beings, as we all need togetherness in a society that supports our humanity and our ability to forgive.”

Although most congregations require membership and tickets for Yom Kippur services, some synagogues and organizations have services that are open to the public for no charge. A free service will be conducted at 6 p.m. tonight at the Laugh Factory at 8001 Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood.

The service will be conducted in the Reform Jewish tradition by Rabbi Bob Jacobs. No donations will be accepted, club owner Jamie Masada said. Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. This is the 32nd consecutive year Yom Kippur services will be held at the Laugh Factory.

“Two of the main reasons I love doing this is it gives so many actors, writers, comedians, and the entire Hollywood community who are away from their families a place to pray for the holidays,” Masada said.

“And, with the economic crisis this country has been experiencing now for over a decade, so many people cannot afford the high cost of tickets that most temples charge in order to attend services. At the Laugh Factory Temple, all are welcome to come and pray.”

Tonight’s Kol Nidre service conducted by Rabbi Naomi Levy of Nashuva, which she describes as “a spiritual community and soulful experience,” will be streamed on beginning at 6:15 p.m. Nashuva is the Hebrew word for return.

—City News Service

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