This week, on Shabbat, in the Reform Movement, we return to the weekly cycle of Torah readings because we conclude Pesach at sunset on Friday. The other movements will do a special reading for the 8th Day of Pesach on Shabbat. Therefore, we split Torah portion Acharei Mot into two parts: One part is read this week and one next week so that we are back on track with the rest of the Jewish world the following Shabbat. In the first half of Acharei Mot, we find commandments concerning the observance of Yom Kippur, including the practice of “self-denial.” The literal translation of the Hebrew is “afflict your souls.” This has come to mean fasting, refraining from sexual intimacy, and not wearing leather. There are other fast days on the Jewish calendar, including Tisha B’av in the summer, which commemorates tragedies in Jewish history. But Yom Kippur is the most significant, and the only one widely observed in Reform Judaism.
Rabbi D. Feingold