Expand your experience of Yom Kippur on the Net

Unlike most Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur has few home rituals. There are no silly costumes or upbeat songs. But through some ancient and modern traditions, Yom Kippur can be more than just a day to endure, but a time for meaningful growth. Today, some Yom Kippur suggestions (and a recipe or two) from the Jewish Highway:

Yosef Abramowitz has a suggestion for learning about personal development while creating an intriguing family keepsake at www.jewishaz.com/jewishnews/971003/yosef.shtml. On the day before Yom Kippur, gather your family in the living room and have each person write a little letter to himself or herself. Choose a topic such as, "What I would like to do to be a better person in the coming year?" Seal it, address it and put it in the mail just prior to the next Yom Kippur. "You and your family members will enjoy receiving these annual letters, which can be used as a measuring stick for the past year," Abramowitz says. You can even save the letters in a scrapbook to create a precious record.

Although Yom Kippur may not be a kid's favorite holiday, there are some very good sites that help get across the day's message. The TorahTots site at www.torahtots.com/holidays/yomkipur/yomkstr.htm explains the rituals accompanied by some coloring pages. And the Awesome Days Kids' Club at www.vjholidays.com/rosh/kidsclub.htm is full of activities, stories, crafts, even music. Shlock Rock's "Shuckle Song" is a lively three-minute 40-second introduction to the rhythmic swaying during those long hours in synagogue.

While you're shuckling in shul, there's a good chance you're also pounding your chest with your fist. Some of the most powerful moments of the Yom Kippur liturgy happen during the Vidui or confession. As we pound, we sing "ashamnu, bagadnu, gazalnu…," an alphabetic recitation of regret for the wrongdoings of the past year. Mount Zion Torah Educational Center takes a traditional look at the meaning of the Vidui at www.mznet.org/holidays/newyear/confess.htm. And in Perspectives, the Jewish magazine of Columbia University, L. J. Gold uses the Vidui prayer to take a contemporary and sometimes disturbing look at his own shortcomings at www.columbia.edu/cu/jsu/perspectives/issue3/arts/gold.html.

For more on Yom Kippur, visit the Orthodox Union at www.ou.org/chagim/yomkippur/, Yeshivat Har Etzion Yom Kippur Journal at vbm-torah.org/yk.htm, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations at uahc.org/educate/parent/0202.html and Virtual Jerusalem at www.vjholidays.com/ rosh/yomkip.htm.

The most famous rituals of the day, of course, refer to what you don't do: Eat and drink. Richard Israel explains that in the Jewish religious tradition, the discomfort that is produced by fasting is thought to have instructional value and is intended to help us reflect on our human frailty. But this does not mean that Jews are intended to make themselves as miserable as possible. His pre-fast tips at www.joi.org/celebrate/yomkipp/ include the following: Drink plenty of water, eat a normal meal emphasizing carbohydrates like potato or noodle dishes, not proteins or fats, and start to cut down on caffeine a week before the fast. Finally, don't look at the fast as a quick weight loss scheme. You can regain most of what you lose during the fast by eating a couple of pieces of cheesecake.

But what about after Ne'ilah? In break-the-fast recipes for Yom Kippur at www.jewishfamily.com /jc/holidays/yom_kippur.phtml, Joni Schockett suggests ways to end your day: Break your fast with orange juice and don't stuff yourself. She provides recipes for what you could look forward to after the fast: cold poached halibut in lemon with hot sauce, creamy veggie and herb salad, and chocolate angelfood cake.

Have an easy fast and g'mar chatimah tovah. May you be sealed in the Book of Life for another year.

The writer is a Toronto-based television producer who writes, lectures and teaches about the Jewish Internet. His columns alternate with those of James D. Besser. Mietkiewicz can be reached at [email protected]