Yom Kippur: Jews fast, repent, end High Holidays on holiest day of the year

Kol Nidre, or All Vows, composed by Max Bruch, performed by Pablo Casals and remixed with artwork edited by Leo Bar for Pix in Motion. Fonts are from a 19th-century Jewish prayer book. You also can view this video on Vimeo.

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SUNSET FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29: From the sweet wishes of Rosh Hashanah and through the High Holidays, Jews arrive tonight at what is often referred to as the holiest day of the year: Yom Kippur. A solemn observance, Yom Kippur (also called the Day of Atonement) is believed to be the final opportunity to make amends before one’s fate is sealed for the coming year.

Did you know? Throughout history, when Jews were forced to publicly convert to another religion, it’s believed that the Yom Kippur Kol Nidre service annuls those vows.

For 25 hours – this year, from sunset on September 29, the official start of Yom Kippur – Jews uphold a strict fast. Intense prayer accompanies the fasting, and many Jews spend hours repenting. Having asked forgiveness from others and made amends in the days preceding Yom Kippur, Jews ask forgiveness from God on Yom Kippur. Kol Nidre, or “All Vows,” gathers the larger Jewish community and begins Yom Kippur evening services; Ne’ilah, a service during which the Torah ark remains open and the congregation stands, is the final plea to God for forgiveness. A blast from the shofar follows the final prayers.

What is Kol Nidre? Kol Nidre, now widely regarded as a deeply emotional moment, is when amends are made and the community symbolically opens itself to regular members as well as others who rarely attend services. There is a long and complex history to the traditions of Kol Nidre—and there are many examples in Jewish fiction of moving scenes set at Kol Nidre. Overall, Kol Nidre represents a fresh resetting of commitments and promises within the community.

YOM KIPPUR: A PACKED SYNAGOGUE

Visit any Jewish house of worship and you will see ways that the main seating area can be expanded on special occasions; Yom Kippur is the main holiday when all the partitions separating rooms are removed, overflow seating sometimes is added in other parts of the building and the majority of the Jewish community shows up for at least part of the long series of services.

Although Yom Kippur is a solemn day, it is also one of celebration: Celebration of the anniversary of God forgiving the Jewish people for worshipping the golden calf. According to Jewish scholar and ReadTheSpirit contributing writer, Joe Lewis:

By traditional calculation, Moses brought the second tablets to the people on Yom Kippur. God’s nature is revealed to Moses as a God of mercy and compassion, patience and kindness (Ex. 34:6), and this idea is central to the liturgy of the day. We end the day with a blast on the shofar, eat our fill, and make plans for the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), which is only five days away.

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Categories: Jewish

Autumnal equinox, Mabon: Welcome, fall!

Trees of autumn shades in fall

Photo by Paul Bica, courtesy of Flickr

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22: Sharp scents of cinnamon and clove, met with the sweet taste of apple cider, marks autumn, and today, astrological events signal the autumnal equinox. Equinox, a celestial event, occurs twice per year and is so named because the length of day and night are (almost exactly) equal—after which, the number of hours of sunlight each day will wane until the winter solstice. For Pagans and Wiccans in the Northern Hemisphere, this time of year is known as Mabon, during which the gifts of the harvest are recognized and a type of Thanksgiving is celebrated. Mabon is also a time to seek blessings for the approaching winter months.

Did you know? The equinox phenomenon can occur on any planet with a significant tilt to its rotational axis, such as Saturn.

THE SIGHTS AND SMELLS (AND TASTES) OF AUTUMN

Take a walk through the woods, while enjoying the bold colors of autumn; make a horn of plenty that will grace the home through the season.

Looking for a DIY project for autumn? For centuries, people have been making apple dolls and corn dollies at harvest time. Learn how to make applehead dolls and corn dollies, with tutorials from Mother Earth News.

In search of fall recipes? First, check out Bobbie Lewis’s Mabon column, complete with a delicious recipe for apple cake. Want more? You’ll find other options at AllRecipes, Food Network, Taste of Home and Epicurious.

Love the smells of autumn? Bring the scents home with a make-it-yourself scented pinecone wreath.

MABON: THE SECOND HARVEST FESTIVAL

Pagans and Wiccans offer cider, wines and warming herbs and spices to gods and goddesses, while Druids call this time Mea’n Fo’mhair, honoring the God of the Forest. Wiccans celebrate the Mabon with altars, decorating them with pinecones, gourds, corn, apples and other autumn elements.

A time of mysteries, Wiccans recognize the aging of the goddess and visit ancestors’ graves, decorating them with leaves, acorns and other elements of fall. Tables are covered in feasts of breads, root vegetables and apple cider, as scents of cinnamon and nutmeg fill the air. Families gather, and preparations are made for the coming winter months.

For Pagans and Wiccans, Mabon is the second harvest festival; Lughnassadh precedes it, and Samhain will come later. Feasts are prepared, and individuals look to the dark of winter—a time of rest. Autumn’s abundance of harvest foods, combined with a shift to cooler temperatures, has long made it a popular time to reflect, renew and gather.

 

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Categories: International ObservancesWiccan / Pagan

Navaratri: Hindus celebrate nine nights of femininity and goddess Durga

Dancers in colorful dresses in front of stone temple

Garba dancers for Navaratri. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21: An ancient festival that emphasizes the motherhood of the divine and femininity, Hindus begin the nine-night religious festival known as Sharad Navaratri (English spellings vary; the name often appears without the middle “a”). Each night during Navaratri, Hindus worship a different form or characteristic of the Mother Goddess Durga, who is regarded as being manifested in cosmic energy and power. In general, Sharad Navaratri is the celebration of good over evil, though many aspects of this tradition vary by region in India and around the world.

Did you know? Navaratri means, literally, “nine nights” (“nava” and “ratri”).

Navaratri in its basic form takes place a number of times during the seasons of each year, but it’s Sharad Navaratri—this festival, at the beginning of autumn—that takes precedence over any other. Sharad Navaratri culminates on a final day known as Dussehra.

Legends related to this observance differ: Some indicate that Shiva gave permission to Durga to visit her mother for nine days, while others describe Durga’s victory following a nine-day battle with the demon Mahishasura. Life-size clay figures depicting this battle are commonly seen in temples during Navaratri. But there is a universal theme to this tradition, too: All Hindus aim for purity, avoiding meat, grains and alcohol—and usually installing a household pot that is kept lit for nine days. Some devotees fast, and others consume only milk and fruit for nine days.

ORCHESTRAS, DANCING AND SHRINES

Navaratri brings out orchestras and community-wide singing in India: nighttime dances in the streets combine with bountiful feasts and shrines are elaborately decorated. In Saraswat Brahmin temples, statue figures are adorned with flowers, sandalwood paste and turmeric.

In some regions of India, it’s believed that one should try to envision the divinity in the tools used for daily life—whether books, computers or larger instruments—and decorate them with flowers and other adornments, in hopes of both humbling themselves and bringing auspiciousness upon the items that aid them in livelihood.

NEWS: NO ADVERTISEMENTS WITH IDOLS, LEADER SAYS ‘HINDUS ONLY’

This year, advertisement boards will be banned on vehicles that accompany the Navaratri idol procession, reports The Hindu. (Read more here.) During the holiday period, temples will be declared festival areas and processions will take place in various regions.

News publications continue to report that the colorful, vibrant celebrations that are the trademark of many Hindu festivals are attracting more and more tourists; in response, some Hindus are beginning to request that certain events are open only to practicing Hindus. (One India reported.) This year, reports are following a Hindu leader who is proposing that the Aadhaar card be mandatory at Garba events during Navaratri.

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Categories: Hindu

Rosh Hashanah: Jews ring in a new year, begin High Holidays

Apples, honey, pomegranates on silver trays

Traditional foods for a “sweet” New Year, or Rosh Hashanah. Photo by Sufeco, courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20: Wish your neighbor L’shanah tovah: “For a good year!” It’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. For two days, Jews around the world attend services, seek forgiveness and joyfully enter the annual period known as the High Holy Days. Sometimes called the Days of Awe, this period culminates in Yom Kippur, the solemn Day of Atonement (which starts at sunset on Friday, September 29 this year).

Did you know? You can find biblical background on these Days of Awe in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus.

Literally “head of the year,” Rosh Hashanah was never referred to by name in the Bible. Instead, references in Leviticus were made to Yom Teruah, the day of the sounding of the shofar. There are many stories and lessons associated with the blowing of the shofar now, but the Bible does not clearly explain the symbol. In the synagogue, 100 notes are blown each day of the New Year festivities; some refer to this noise as a “call to repentance.” Traditionally, Jewish teaching associates Rosh Hashanah with the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.

DATES, HONEY AND A ‘SWEET’ NEW YEAR

For Rosh Hashanah, honey and apples are the most famous holiday foods in the United States; other foods, including dates and pomegranates, have ancient associations with the New Year and still are enjoyed in Jewish communities around the world. The honey-and-apples symbol, often seen on holiday cards and other Rosh Hashanah media, is a reminder of the joy in welcoming a “sweet” new year.

New Year recipes: Looking to bake up something delicious this Rosh Hashanah? Try Huffington Post’s 21 recipes with honey and apples or a Rosh Hashanah honey cake, courtesy of the New York Times. For an entire menu of Rosh Hashanah recipes, check out Chabad.org, AllRecipes, Epicurious, Food Network and Martha Stewart.

Tashlikh: A lesser-known Jewish tradition related to Rosh Hashanah is tashlikh, or “casting off.” After filling their pockets—most often with small bits of bread—devotees walk to flowing water and empty their pockets, thereby symbolically “casting off” the sins of the old year.

BEGINNING THE HIGH HOLIDAYS

Sometimes referred to as “High Holidays,” or “High Holy Days,” this is Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and, often, the days in between the two holidays. One description of this period says, in essence, that G_d opens the books of judgment as the new year begins and finally, on Yom Kippur, the judgment for the year is “sealed.”

IN THE NEWS: ROSH HASHANAH 2017

What’s buzzing in news headlines this Rosh Hashanah?

  • Rosh Hashanah facts every Jew should know: Chabad.org has compiled a list of 17 Rosh Hashanah facts every Jew should have (read it here).
  • Traditional gift guide: Are you wanting to give a traditional gift (or a few) this Rosh Hashanah, but stumped on what to buy? The Jerusalem Post has put together a Rosh Hashanah 2017/2018 Traditional Gift Guide (check it out here).
  • Christians celebrating Rosh Hashanah: According to statistics, Christians celebrating Rosh Hashanah is a growing trend. Read the story in the Times of Israel.
  • A chef inspired (plus recipes): Cookbook author and food connoisseur Joan Nathan reports that experiencing Rosh Hashanah abroad is what first got her passionately interested in food. In this article, the OC Register has some of her Rosh Hashanah recipes.

 

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Categories: Jewish

Patriot Day: Linking the spirit of responders on 9/11 with courage today

Red rose on black granite with names etched on it, skyscrapers in back

A rose at the memorial of Tower One of the World Trade Center. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 11: Remember the lives lost and the loved ones still mourning on 9/11, or Patriot Day—the day designated to recall the tragic events in the United States that took place on September 11, 2001. Each year, memorials across the country pay tribute to the 2,977 who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of 2001. Though the day was originally called Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, a shorter name—Patriot Day—soon took favor. A resolution introduced in October of 2001 decreed that each President should designate September 11, of each year, as “Patriot Day,” and it was signed into law that December. Nationwide, a moment of silence is observed at 8:46 a.m. EDT. (Wikipedia has details.)

Learn more about the 9/11 Memorial, or plan a visit to the site, by visiting here.

OUR SPIRIT TODAY

Each year, the White House publishes a national proclamation about Patriot Day. The 2017 message connects our American responses to the 9/11 attacks with the same collective, generous spirit responding to the aftermath of destructive hurricanes right now. The White House proclamation says, in part:

It has been 16 years since the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Children who lost their parents on that day are now parents of their own, while many teenagers currently in high school learn about September 11th only from their history books. Yet all Americans are imbued with the same commitment to cause and love of their fellow citizens as everyone who lived through that dark day. We will never forget. …

We will always remember the sacrifices made in defense of our people, our country, and our freedom. The spirit of service and self sacrifice that Americans so nobly demonstrated on September 11, 2001, is evident in the incredible response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The same spirit of American patriotism we movingly witnessed on September 11th has filled our hearts as we again see the unflinching courage, compassion, and generosity of Americans for their neighbors and countrymen. The service members and first responders who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and in the years of service since would be proud of what we have all witnessed over these last three weeks and what will undoubtedly unfold in the coming months of recovery. By protecting those in need, by taking part in acts of charity, service, and compassion, and by giving back to our communities and country, we honor those who gave their lives on and after September 11, 2001.

 

 

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Categories: National Observances

Nativity of Mary, Theotokos: Eastern & Western Christians observe birthday

Mosaic of man and woman huddled over baby

A mosaic of Anna, Joachim and Mary, at Chora Church, in Istanbul. Photo by Nick Thompson, courtesy of Flickr

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8: Western and Eastern Christians celebrate Mary’s birth today, on the Nativity of Mary (or, as she is known in Orthodox Christianity, the Theotokos). Through many centuries, Christian churches have honored just three figures on both their birth and death anniversaries: Jesus, John the Baptist and Mary.

Known in both Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity as the Virgin Mary, Madonna is the only woman in Christian history to be given the honor of a holy birth. Eastern and Western Christians diverge in their understanding of Mary’s birth, however: for Catholics, Mary’s birth is connected with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, a dogma formally established by the Vatican in 1854; Eastern Christians believe that while Mary wasn’t without original sin, she was spared actual sin by God’s grace. It is agreed that Mary was born to Sts. Anne and Joachim in Jerusalem.

Ironically, the modern canon of scripture gives no mention of exact details concerning Mary’s birth, as the earliest known account is contained in an apocryphal text from the second century (for this reason, Protestants do not observe the holiday). Christian tradition tells that Mary’s life began piously in Galilee, Nazareth, as a baby born to elderly and previously barren parents. Though they remained faithful to God, Joachim and Anna were without children for many years—a characteristic regarded, at the time, as a punishment for sin. One fateful day, when Joachim had traveled to the temple to make an offering, he was chastised by the High Priest for being childless; his offering was turned away. The distraught husband and wife prayed to God, and the Archangel Gabriel appeared to them, promising a child whose name would be known throughout the world. In nine months, Anna bore a child.

MARY’S NATIVITY FEAST: AROUND THE WORLD

One of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Eastern Orthodox Church and a liturgical feast in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, the Nativity of Mary has been celebrated from the earliest centuries of Christianity: a feast for the Nativity of Mary began in the fifth century, and by the seventh century, it was recognized by Byzantine Christians to the East. In France, the grape harvest is at a peak, and winegrowers often refer to the Nativity of Mary as “Our Lady of the Grape Harvest.” Prime grapes are customarily brought to a local church to be blessed, and in some regions, bunches of grapes are attached to the hands of statues of Mary.

Note: For those following the Julian Calendar, this feast day falls on September 21 of the Gregorian Calendar.

In several regions of the world, Mary’s Nativity is marked with seasonal customs and the start of the Indian summer, or “after-summer.” Seeds for winter crop are blessed in many churches across Europe, and in the Alps, cattle and sheep are herded in grand procession from their summer pastures down to the valleys and stables, where they will reside for the cold season. In some areas of Austria, milk from these cattle and sheep is given to the poor, in honor of the Virgin Mary.

IN THE NEWS: MARY SPARED DURING HARVEY

A multitude of news publications is reporting the story of a family whose homes burned down during Hurricane Harvey, only to find that a lone statue of the Virgin Mary stands amidst the rubble. (Read more, and watch a news clip, here.) The two homes, which housed extended family members, burned while the owners had evacuated; upon return, the Blessed Mother statue was found unburied amid the destruction. The family reports that the Virgin Mary is a figure of great importance in their faith and life.

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Categories: Christian

Labor Day: Celebrate and learn America’s rich labor history

Blak-and-white illustration of big crowd in streets, in lines

Labor Day in New York, 1882. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 4: Parades, barbecues and travel abound this Labor Day weekend, but alongside the festivities, consider giving this holiday the merit it really deserves: a look at the history and relevance of labor in the lives of American workers. Labor Day is the result of the long struggle for recognition by the American labor movement; the first Labor Day celebration, celebrated in 1882 in New York City, attracted more than 10,000 workers who marched through the streets. Beyond recognizing the social and economic achievements of American workers, Labor Day makes us aware of the countless workers who have, together, contributed to the strength and prosperity of their country.

Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) wrote the first encyclical on labor and is often described as the founder of Catholic social teaching.

Labor & Faith

The value of human labor is echoed throughout the Abrahamic tradition, including stories and wisdom about the nature of labor in both the Bible and the Quran. Biblical passages ask God to “prosper the work of our hands” (Psalm 90), while the Quran refers to the morality of conducting oneself in the public square.

The Catholic church has been preaching on behalf of workers for more than a century. The landmark papal encyclical Rerum Novarum (“Of revolutionary change”) was published in 1891 and has been described as a primer on the rights of laborers who face abusive conditions in the workplace. This became one of the central themes of Pope John Paul II’s long pontificate. In 1981, he published his own lengthy encyclical, Laborem Exercens (“On human work”). Then, a decade later, John Paul returned to this milestone in Catholic teaching in Centisimus Annus (“Hundredth year”).

AMERICAN LABOR DAY: A HISTORY

At the end of the 19th century, many Americans had to work 12-hour days every day of the week to make a living. Child labor was at its height in mills, factories and mines, and young children earned only a portion of an adult’s wage. Dirty air, unsafe working conditions and low wages made labor in many cities a dangerous occupation. As working conditions worsened, workers came together and began forming labor unions: through unions, workers could have a voice by participating in strikes and rallies. Through unions, Americans fought against child labor and for the eight-hour workday.

Did you know? The Sunday preceding Labor Day is known as “Labor Sunday”—dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

Some labor demonstrations turned violent—such as the Haymarket Riot of 1886, which is remembered, to this day, in May 1 labor holidays around the world. Instead of a May holiday, however, American leaders preferred to remove “our” holiday from that tragedy by four months, in the civic calendar. Instead, American holiday planners encouraged street parades and public displays of the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations in each community—including cheerful festivities and recreation for workers and their families. Oregon became the first state to declare Labor Day a holiday, in 1887, and by 1896, Labor Day was a national holiday.

LABOR AND UNIONS TODAY

Experts estimate that union membership has now decreased to less than one in eight, though numbers are still strong in specific fields, such as education. Unfortunately, many retail stores today work their employees extra hours on Labor Day, to push Labor Day sales. That means a lot—considering that a large portion of Americans workers work in the retail industry.

NEWS, RECIPES & MORE

A Jerry Lewis marathon: The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon was associated with Labor Day weekend from 1966 through 2014, and so in honor of the star who died on August 20, at age 91, Turner Classic Movies will host a daylong marathon of films featuring Jerry Lewis this Labor Day. Learn more, here.

Labor Day and school: Why do some states choose to still begin the school year after Labor Day—and how does that choice affect kids? The Atlantic asked these questions in a recent article.

Travel: Looking for last-minute Labor Day weekend travel ideas? The Huffington Post offers suggestions, as does the Chicago Sun-Times.

Cookout Recipes: Hosting or attending a cookout or barbecue for Labor Day? Try a recipe from Food Network. To accompany summer recipes, Forbes lists the 10 best American white wines under $20, for Labor Day.

 

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Categories: National Observances