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Jewish community observes one of holiest days of year

By by jennifer preyss
Sept. 17, 2010 at 4:17 a.m.

A simple blue string tied around Fogal's wrist serves as a  reminder to reflect and pray for the 10 days leading up to Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement that began at sundown Friday. A service was planned at the B'nai Israel Temple in downtown Victoria.

Members of Victoria's Jewish community have spent the past 10 days praying and reflecting on the past year in preparation for Yom Kippur.

About 20 Jewish families were expected to gather at the B'nai Temple Friday night in downtown Victoria to observe the "Sabbath of Sabbaths" otherwise known as Yom Kippur, or The Day of Atonement.

Yom Kippur, which rivals Passover as one of the most significant and holy holidays on the Jewish calendar, began Friday at sundown with a temple service and a 24-hour fast that officially concludes Saturday evening after sunset.

"The experience is very communal," B'nai Rabbi Shira Lander, said. "It's a time of self-examination, a time to give yourself the opportunity to repent and address any wrongs that may have occurred in the past year."

Unlike other faiths that practice regular confession throughout the year, the 10 days leading up to Yom Kippur is the only time of year designated for Jews to communally confess, hoping to be written into the Book of Life - a Jewish tradition that says God will inscribe each person's fate into the book for the following year.

The Book of Life is sealed by God on Yom Kippur, allowing the 10 days of prayer and repentance leading up to The Day of Atonement to allow a favorable verdict in the book.

But Lander said those who worship, pray and seek to right wrongs during this solemn time, both with others and God, do so because it is the right thing to do, not so they will be written in the Book of Life.

Yom Kippur is preceded by 10 days of serious reflection, which officially begins on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

While celebrating Rosh Hashana last week, Lander distributed blue strings for the congregation to wear around their wrist.

"The blue threads are for us to remember to focus on one thing we may have forgotten last year, and remember that God is eternally merciful and welcomes us with open arms," Lander said.

Becky Fogal, an active member of the congregation, said she has been wearing her blue thread for the past 10 days, so that she would reflect and seek forgiveness during the days leading up to Yom Kippur.

"I've been making a point during the last 10 days to examine the past year and apologize to people," Fogal said. "It's just a time to be centered again, and it forces you to get back in touch with God."

This time of year is very personal for Fogal, and she said God somehow feels nearer right now.

"I always feel closer this time of year," she said.

After the Friday night Yom Kippur service at the temple, the congregation will reconvene Saturday morning for a day-long period of fasting and special prayer services.

A break-the-fast celebration will be held at sundown at the temple, with a traditional dinner of Jewish fare.

"Everyone is so fatigued from fasting and praying, there's a relief it's all over and we get to start the New Year," Fogal said.

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