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  • Avi Villalobos-Sharone '26

My Yom Kippur Tradition

Updated: May 2

For most people, Yom Kippur is the day when many Jews don’t eat for some reason. In my family and among many Jews it’s more than that; it’s actually one of the most important days of the entire year. It’s a day to reflect upon your past year, forcing you to think about the ways in which you missed the mark (ways you fell short). While this is an important thing to do, Judaism also teaches that these shortcomings don’t make you a terrible person. Your mistakes are part of what makes you human, and while you should think about them and aim to become the best version of yourself, this should not come as a result of cruel self-deprecation. 

I believe the core of Yom Kippur isn’t doing the “religiously correct” actions, but whatever actions will help you to best reflect on yourself. This could mean going to the synagogue, fasting, or any number of other creative ways of changing behavior to clearly differentiate this day. So what does my family do? We aren’t super religious, and because of that, going to our local synagogue wouldn’t be the most meaningful way for us to reckon with our actions in the past year. We do fast as our main way of marking this day as unique, but to me the most special thing we do is have our own mini-service in the woods. We sing songs, talk about the meaning of Yom Kippur, blow the shofar, meditate and reflect individually, and throw tashlich to cast away our wrongs. The whole experience is an ever-evolving product of our own making, designed to help us reflect on ourselves in our own way. We then of course rush home and hungrily make and eat a huge break-fast dinner. My main point is that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate Jewish holidays. If being surrounded by other Jews in a synagogue and feeling that strong sense of community is what’s most meaningful to you, then that is a great way to celebrate holidays. I imagine that for many less religious Jews, however, this isn’t the case, and speaking as one I believe that you can connect to Judaism in a very meaningful way by tailoring your experience in ways that speak to you.

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Author’s note: I would like to add that this essay was written in December of 2022, prior to the insane rise in antisemitic rhetoric following the atrocities of October 7th and the accompanying war. S


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