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Yom Kippur: Reflection, Repentance Begin at Sundown

In a time of global tumult, Jews worldwide mark the holiest day of the Hebrew calendar.

In the Torah, the Book of Leviticus commands that the 10th day of the 7th month called Tishrei be set aside as the "Sabbath of Sabbaths," a day of fasting and reflection for the atonement of sins.

Jews here and around the world will observe this ancient tradition beginning Tuesday with the arrival of Yom Kippur, the "Day of Atonement," the most solemn occasion of the Hebrew calendar.

Before sunset, the day is marked by acts of charity and pleas for forgiveness. Two special meals also precede a 25-hour fast; synagogue attendance typically surges for the solemn rituals, where hours are spent in reflection and special prayers. Work on this day is forbidden.

The day's ultimate purpose is to seek redemption in the eyes of G-d.

As it has throughout the millennia, Yom Kippur arrives in yet another trying period for the Jewish people. Israel is threatened from within and without as its neighboring nations endure riots in the streets

The leader of one such neighbor ranted at the United Nations this week; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Semitic, anti-American vitriol was countered on Monday by loud protests in Manhattan.

The looming threat of terrorism has caused Nassau County and federal authorities to increase patrols around synagogues during the High Holy Days. Many synagogues are requiring photo identification for admission and have quietly increased their own security efforts, experts said.

Yom Kippur completes the annual period known as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora'im ("Days of Awe") which began with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Jewish teachings hold that G-d inscribes a person's fate for the coming year into the "Book of Life" on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. Between the two High Holy Days, Jews attempt to amend their behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done to G-d and their fellow man, Jewish scholars say.

Editor's Note: The spelling of "G-d" is intentional in this story in respect of a Jewish tradition. See the link for details.

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