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Jews unite for atonement

October 09, 2008

More than a thousand Jews assembled for a solemn night of prayer at Temple Bat Yahm for the beginning of Yom Kippur on Wednesday night.

A day of atonement and the beginning of a 24-hour fast, Yom Kippur is by far the most widely attended service of the year at the temple.

The gathering has a heavy mood and is meant as a time for Jews to ask forgiveness from their family, friends and God for transgressions committed during the year.

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“It’s a beautiful ceremony, very serious,” said Executive Director Bill Shane.

Men wearing yarmulkes and prayer shawls and conservatively dressed women watched Rabbi Mark Miller deliver a message of repentance to the congregation.

For Miller, the day of atonement is not only about being judged, but how we judge others.

His sentiments focus on the current political campaigns, which he said have lacked substance and don’t acknowledge the complexity of issues.

“My message tonight is the conflict between perception and reality, perception and substance,” Miller said. “God, when he evaluates us, doesn’t only look at us superficially, but looks deep into the heart and the soul and the spirit and judges us on something far deeper.”

Until tonight at sundown, the congregation is expected to give up food and water and spend time in study and reflection.

Of course, not everyone is so strictly observant that they would give up watching a baseball game, for instance.

Shane remembers growing up and seeing men listening to ballgames on their transistor radios while sitting in prayer.

If the Angels had won their closely fought playoff game Monday, Miller might have had to contend with the same thing, as the crucial game five was scheduled for Wednesday night.

— Alan Blank


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