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Published: Saturday, 10/8/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

Jews observe Yom Kippur, their holiest day


Today is Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

For many Jews, the holiday that comes after the Ten Days of Awe means long hours in synagogue services and setting aside time for personal reflection.

In observing Yom Kippur, Jews abstain from food, drink, and worldly pleasures, including smoking and sexual relations. Many do not bathe, shave, brush their teeth, or use perfume or cologne so as not to be distracted from their focus on self-assessment, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Although it is a solemn occasion, the holiday also contains a sense of joy that comes from spiritual cleansing and the forgiveness of sins.

At sundown Wednesday, Jews will begin the seven-day holiday of Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles.

The celebration includes the building of temporary outdoor shelters, or sukkahs, as reminders of the Israelites' 40-year desert journey as told in the biblical book of Exodus.

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