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In a wonderful conflation of holy days this year, based upon the lunar calendars used by both Jews and Muslims, tomorrow is both the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur and the Muslim holy day of Arafat.
Yom Kippur, which means “Day of Atonement” is the climax of the 10-day period that began with Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) on September 13th. This time period, which is known alternatively as the “the Days of Awe,” the “Ten Days of Repentance,” and the “High Holy Days,” is a time of reflection, repentance, and return. This year, Yom Kippur falls on 10 Tishrei 5776 on the Hebrew calendar, which is from sundown on September 22nd to nightfall on September 23rd.
Yom Kippur is the most observed holiday of the Jewish year when many Jews take the day off, fast, and visit the synagogue. It is a day of complete abstention from normal activities, including any work. Many observant Jews will also abstain from wearing leather shoes, bathing or washing, using perfumes or lotions, and intimate relations. Yom Kippur is observed with a 25-hour fast from all food and drink, which begins before sunset today and ends after nightfall tomorrow. In addition to fasting, it is a day of intense prayer, with families often spending most of the day in service at the synagogue.
The last ten days have also been among the most sacred in the Islamic tradition. A Prophetic tradition states that there are no days in which righteous actions are more beloved to God than the first ten days of the Islamic month of Dhu`l-Ḥijjah, which is the month in which the hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca takes place. Another tradition states that fasting on one of these days is equal to the reward of fasting for a whole year and that the reward for actions in these days is multiplied seven hundred times. The Day of Arafat which falls on the 9th of Dhu’l-Ḥijjah is considered the greatest day of the year. Like Yom Kippur, it is a day of fasting, prayer, and repentance, although the fast is only from before dawn until sunset. Fasting that day is said to wipe out the sins of the previous year and the year to come. Like some Jews during the High Holy Days, Muslims on hajj will abstain from shaving, perfumes, and intimate relations.
The day after Arafat is the second major Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of the Sacrifice, which is celebrated with special morning prayers, festivities, as well as the sacrifice of an animal and the sharing of its meat with family, friends, and the needy. Many people who observe this part of the ritual prefer to send their money overseas to provide meat to populations who rarely have the chance to eat it.
An early G’mar Hatima Tova and Eid Mubarak to all who are celebrating!