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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Michael Barclay

Day of Atonement approaches

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

STEPPING INTO A SPIRITUAL REALITY—Yom Kippur is the peak of the High Holy Day season, says Rabbi Michael Barclay of Temple Ner Simcha, a Westlake Village-based synagogue that is hosting holiday services at The Canyon in Agoura Hills. At Temple Ner Simcha, there is no cost for Yom Kippur services.

The holy day, which begins at sunset Fri., Sept. 29, marks the peak of the High Holy Day season, which began on Rosh Hashana and ends after Sukkot, Oct. 4 to 11.

Rabbi Michael Barclay described the High Holy Days as a court for human souls where opening arguments are offered on Rosh Hashana and the verdict is pronounced when the Book of Life is closed on Yom Kippur.

Since the temple stopped charging dues last year, it’s become home to the largest free High Holy Day services in the U.S., Barclay said, with more than 1,100 people signed up for Friday’s Yom Kippur service at The Canyon club in Agoura.

The rabbi said Ner Simcha was the first non-orthodox congregation in the nation to do away with fees and the shift has allowed his Westlake Village based temple to reach Jews living below the poverty line.

The Talmud teaches that Yom Kippur is one of the two happiest days of the year—Tu B’av, the Jewish holiday of love observed in the summer, is the other—and Barclay said that while voluntary pledges are welcome, price shouldn’t be a barrier for believers.

“It’s a day of reflection and a day of joy,” he said. “I really don’t believe in the typical model that you have to pay to pray.”

The holiday, which according to tradition marks the day Moses received the second set of the Ten Commandments, is observed with 25 hours of fasting and prayer.

“We are not fasting for penance,” Barclay said. “We are fasting to step out of our physical bodies and into a spiritual reality.”

Sam Glaser, cantor at Ner Simcha, is an award-winning musician with more than 20 albums to his name. As cantor, he is responsible for singing liturgical music and leading prayers.

Barclay described Ner Simcha as “transdenominational,” and said attendees can expect practices that are somewhere between reform and conservative Judaism interwoven with Hasidic and kabbalistic teachings presented in a mix of Hebrew and English.

“They’ll laugh and clap and cry,” he said. “We bring a tremendous amount of music and joy.”

Yom Kippur observances kick off with a music-filled Kol Nidrei on Friday evening.

“It’s a night for all of the vows we’ve made and didn’t keep over the past year to be forgiven and the vows for next year, as well,” the rabbi said.

Yom Kippur services start Saturday morning and run through the afternoon.

Reservations are full for this year’s Yom Kippur, but to learn more about Temple Ner Simcha, visit

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