Official Student Newspaper of Henry M. Gunn High School

Victor Dang

Sophomore Ben Levy: Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, which ended on the evening of Oct. 5 this year, is the most important day of the religious year for Jewish people such as sophomore Ben Levy. Yom Kippur’s significance can be best understood through its direct Hebrew translation: “Day of Atonement.” Ten days prior to and culminating in Yom Kippur, Jews repent for the sins they have committed in the past year and ask for forgiveness. “It’s like a refresher before every new year to wash away your sins,” Levy said. “You feel great after.”

Perhaps the most well-known element of Yom Kippur is fasting. A common misconception is that the twenty-five hours of fasting on Yom Kippur are meant to simulate suffering. In reality, the purpose behind fasting is to help Jews focus on their praying by eliminating physical distractions. “When you are in a synagogue all day with no food in you, it makes it feel like a more holy place,” Levy said.

Many Jewish households will prepare elaborate meals to break their fasts, including cuisine from their various Jewish backgrounds. “In my house, it’s a tradition that my dad makes a big meal to break the fast,” Levy said. “He’s Moroccan, so he’ll
prepare all these traditional foods.”

For Levy, Yom Kippur is significant because of its almost-sacred atmosphere. Perhaps most special is the primordial sound of the shofar, a traditional ram’s horn that is blown at the beginning and end of Yom Kippur to mark the special occasion. “I love going to synagogue,” Levy said. “You get to hear the shofar blow, which is always special for me.”

Finally eating and drinking after a long fast is a comforting moment. Many Jews still look upon fasting with appreciation, perceiving that the practice improves their own physical awareness, cleansing them both physically and spiritually. Levy, too, takes value from this difficult experience. For him, that is where the true beauty of Yom Kippur lies—in the ability to start anew and to see things from a slightly grander perspective. “Of course, [fasting] is a big struggle, but in some ways, it’s really worth it,” he said.

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