Day 51. Solemn Holiday

“And this shall be a law to you for all time:  in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall pain yourself and do no work at all…For on that day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you of all that you have done wrong — before God you will be clean.”  Leviticus 16:29030

So it is described in the Torah. 

Today is Yom Kippur.  Actually it began last night, at sunset; and it continues until nightfall, tonight.  For Jews the world over, it is the holiest day of the year.

Yom Kippur is the day when we are supposed to fast, and spend most of the day in synagogue, in intensive prayer.  The day we atone and ask for forgiveness, for all the wrongs we have committed against God, and each other, during the past year.  The hope, at the end of the day, is that we’ve been forgiven.

For many, Yom Kippur is the only holiday they observe, the only time they go to synagogue.  It is that significant. In fact, fasting and abstaining from work of any kind, are only a part of what it means to observe Yom Kippur.  We are also not supposed to wash, bathe, use cosmetics, deodorants, perfume, etc. Technically, we’re not even supposed to wear leather shoes.  And, needless to say, sex is on the forbidden list, as well.

Why?  So nothing distracts us from ‘contemplation’.  This is a day of contemplation, thinking of and acknowledging our wrong-doing; and praying for forgiveness.  To truly ‘reflect’ we have to Continue reading

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Day 17. Good Intentions

In a previous post I wrote about how much I loved India.  That trip has left an indelible impression on me for many, many reasons.  First, the extremes:

The vastness of the country and the staggering number of people who live there.  The over-the-top opulence and the abject poverty.   The sight of some people driving BMWs, while others are riding camels, on the same street.  Sophisticated cities like Mumbai, with its glass and steel towers, compared to the backward villages in Rajasthan, where the tools and implements residents use every day look like they’ve come from an archaeological dig.

The overwhelming noise — an absolute cacophony of different sounds.  Horns, voices, vendors hawking their wares, music, traffic, screaming, laughing, dogs barking.  The mind blowing colour, everywhere you turn.  Prints, stripes, checks, plaids in combinations you cannot believe.  Bolts of fabric, saris, flowers, painted buildings, displays of every kind, stacked floor to ceiling.  The smell of curry, mingling with the scent of flowers, mingling with the odour of cooking food, mingling with the stench of dung.

What most impressed me, though, what I will never forget, are the people.  Whether they are wealthy or live in tents on the street, they are kind, generous, compassionate, sincere, warm, grateful, welcoming, inquisitive, understanding, wise, calm, well intentioned and very, very spiritual.

I was there for a month.  We spent part of an afternoon (completely by chance) and then had drinks with two brothers, princes, whose family not only owned the heritage palace hotel where we were staying, but most of the town.  They made us feel as if we were old family friends, they were so pleased to see.  The wealthy owners of a company that manufactures carpets and pashminas and clothing for export all over the world, and who also have a store where we shopped, invited us to their family home for dinner.  There must have been twenty-five or thirty members of their family there — the Continue reading