Many Catholics who are not active in the Church will still seek out ashes this Wednesday. Likewise, many Jews who are not otherwise observant will follow the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, with great exactness, fasting and refraining from work and entertainment. People customarily dress in white as a symbol of purity and a reminder of God’s promise that our sins will be made white as snow. While the overture to Ash Wednesday for Christians may be a festive Mardi Gras celebration, for Jews it is the New Year feast of
Rosh Hashanah. Ten days before the Day of Atonement to God, people are expected to repair breaks in human life. These are days for offering forgiveness and seeking to repair harmed relationships with family, friends, or coworkers. Everyone is expected to seek out someone and “clear the air” by asking for understanding for any mean words or thoughtless deeds in the past year. Perhaps the ashes you receive will be invested with deeper meaning if you follow a similar plan. A conversation with some Jewish friends or neighbors about their experience of a season of repentance may be a blessing on your Lent.