At sundown on September 26, millions of Jewish people begin their religious tradition of fasting on Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. The fast continues on the 27th and culminates in a large break-the-fast after the sun has set. It is one of the holiest, and most celebrated, holidays of the year for modern Jews.
The fast is commanded by a passage in the Torah that is often translated as Ye shall afflict the soul (Leviticus 23: 23-32). There are other restrictions imposed by Jewish tradition, such as no sexual relations, no work, and no adornments with one's dress. The traditional idea is that on Yom Kippur one must subject himself to self-punishment and self-denial to seek forgiveness and make himself pitiable in front of God.
Yom Kippur is the climax of Yamin Noriam, a ten-day period that begins on Rosh Hashanah -- the Jewish New Year. The English translation of Yamin Noriam is The Days of Awe; or sometimes, The Days of Fear. It is a time, according to traditional Judaism, when God makes his judgment whether an individual will perish or flourish in the upcoming year. It is a time when one considers the past year and the deeds one has done. If one has wronged another, this is the time to make sure that the wrong has been righted. Yom Kippur, as the finale of this period of atonement, is the day when one seeks reconciliation with God for sins committed against him.
How could any of this tradition be of interest to Objectivists? Objectivists don't believe in God and we certainly don't think self-sacrifice is appropriate. And this is what Yom Kippur and the Days of Awe are traditionally about.
However, it is possible to take from these all-important Jewish holidays some very important concepts that can be abstracted out of the religious context for a rational, secular purpose. As Robert Bidinotto observes in his