Shabbat of Shabbats

Today is the end of  Yom Kippur.
I have spent the last 24 hours in awe. A small group of friends invited me to go camping at the beach for the holidays. We traveled one hour north to our destination, just in time to get there before the sunset. This holiday is the most important Jewish holiday, the country as a whole close down their shops to commemorate it. Even the airport closes for a full 24 hours.

It is a day of fasting, a day of repentance. This day, the whole nation, including the secular Hebrew people, make a pause and take time to pray and repent of their sins. Known as well as Shabbat of Shabbats, the culmination of the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) is the fast day of Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). This is the day at the conclusion of which, according to Jewish Rabbinical tradition, God seals the Books of Life and Death for the coming year. The day is devoted to communal repentance for sins committed over the course of the previous year. Because of the nature of Yom Kippur and its associated rituals, it is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar.


We were in the center of both secular and religious families. We set our tents in the middle of the camping area and witnessed both sides of the celebration. I saw how the religious families received the Yom Kippur with one big meal before they initiate their fast. Their songs and prayers are among the attributes that highlight their evening. Members of the family took some time and explained why this holiday is so important. The repentance rituals and the prayers at the synagogue are the keys components of this day. I saw how their eyes would light up at the thought of forgiveness and I understood why at the end of their fast both children and adults were in such a joyful mood. They have learned to realize the burden of walking without forgiveness and now, after their fast, they can experience what it feels like to be freed from sin.

To our left, a huge secular family set their camp. For them, it was just another day off. They sang music, swam, had a few drinks and spent time with their families. At night, they lit up a bonfire really close to our tent. We approached them and had a small talk conversation. Once we mentioned God, they pretty much zoned us out. They were really nice people but had no interest in God.

During a morning walk, I was pondering of these two realities that today collide in Israel. I prayed for both sides of our camp area and took the time to indulge in the celebration and repent of my sins. I am aware that I don’t need a specific day to repent of my sins, but many get used to the unlimited access that forgiveness offers through Jesus, and it seems it could be easy to take that forgiveness for granted.

My day ended just as it started, in complete awe. A nation that not only looks after God forgiveness but values it. A family that is astray, however, keeps the holiday for personal gain. A heart that willingly admits that it has taken for granted the greatest of gifts.

Not bad for a first time camping experience.


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