Celebrating Yom Kippur

September 27, 2023

On Monday, September 25th, longtime SJA faculty member Ellen Meranze spoke during morning chapel in Fuller Hall about the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Ms. Meranze teaches in the Languages Department and in the Capstone program, and this quarter has taught a popular “X-block” class in American Sign Language.  


On Rosh Hashanah, it is written. On Yom Kippur, it is sealed. 


Good morning. Last night at sundown began the highest of the high holy days for Jewish people around the world: Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Today is the culmination of what began 10 days ago on Rosh Hashanah. Then we started the celebration and preparations for the year 5784 in the Gregorian calendar. 


Since Rosh Hashanah, we have been thinking carefully about the previous year. We have asked for forgiveness from those we may have wronged. We have asked those we have helped to know that we wish that we could have done more. We have asked those we have neglected for their understanding, and we have thanked those who have helped us. Today, we look forward. We fast to keep our minds focused on our thinking. We imagine a better year and our promises being sealed into the Book of Life.  


At sundown, as a celebration of the work and thinking that we have done, we feast. Many will eat honeycakes to symbolize the wish for a sweet year. Parents will bless their children. Today, many will spend the day at the Synagogue participating in services heaped with tradition, joy, gratitude, and humility. Services will end with joyful songs of hope and food.


I have chosen to spend part of my day here with you. You are the reason that I am both grateful and humble. You are my teachers, reminding me that there is always more we can do for others and that there is always more to learn. Later today, I will attend services, sing with joy, and break the fast! I will celebrate the year to come with hope for all who are part of my life!


On Rosh Hashanah, we say, “L’Shanah Tova,” which means “Have a good year.” Today, we say “G’Mar Tova,” which roughly translates to “a good seal,” as in being sealed into the Book of Life. And so today, I wish all of you a joyful day! I hope that each of you can celebrate all you have done and all you hope to do to make this year one full of hope, joy, humility, and gratitude. 


Remember that we are all both teachers and learners, and there is always more to learn and to give.


Thank you.



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