National Post | Life

“Happy” is certainly not the first word that comes to mind for most of us when we describe our Yom Kippur experience.  After all, the Torah commands us to afflict ourselves on this day (Leviticus 23:26-31).  The fasting makes us weak and famished, while the day’s other prohibitions—against bathing, anointing, wearing leather, and intimate relations—remind us of mourning practices.  The medieval Karaites went still further, interpreting the Torah as requiring the wearing of ashes and sackcloth, sleep deprivation, and similar practices.  While today’s traditional Jewish practice rejects unlimited or undefined anguish (synagogue air conditioning systems are regularly checked before the fast!), even our more limited asceticism clearly creates a feeling of deprivation.  For good reason, Yom Kippur is colloquially referred to as a Day of Awe, not a holiday.  Indeed, the day most similar to Yom Kippur, at least in ritual practice, is Tisha b’Av, the summer fast day considered…

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