Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
Kabbalah Online
Kids Zone

What Is Yom Kippur?

What Is Yom Kippur?

The holiest day of the year. Fasting and atonement, solemnity and joy . . .


Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year—the day on which we are closest to G‑d and to the quintessence of our own souls. It is the Day of Atonement—“For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d” (Leviticus 16:30).

For nearly twenty-six hours—from several minutes before sunset on 9 Tishrei to after nightfall on 10 Tishrei—we “afflict our souls”: we abstain from food and drink, do not wash or anoint our bodies, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from marital relations.

Before Yom Kippur we perform the Kaparot atonement service; we request and receive honey cake, in acknowledgement that we are all recipients in G‑d’s world, and in prayerful hope for a sweet and abundant year; eat a festive meal; immerse in a mikvah; and give extra charity. In the late afternoon we eat the pre-fast meal, following which we bless our children, light a memorial candle as well as the holiday candles, and go to the synagogue for the Kol Nidrei service.

In the course of Yom Kippur we hold five prayer services: Maariv, with its solemn Kol Nidrei service, on the eve of Yom Kippur; Shacharit—the morning prayer, which includes a reading from Leviticus followed by the Yizkor memorial service; Musaf, which includes a detailed account of the Yom Kippur Temple service; Minchah, which includes the reading of the Book of Jonah; and Neilah, the “closing of the gates” service at sunset. We say the Al Chet confession of sins eight times in the course of Yom Kippur, and recite Psalms every available moment.

The day is the most solemn of the year, yet an undertone of joy suffuses it: a joy that revels in the spirituality of the day and expresses the confidence that G‑d will accept our repentance, forgive our sins, and seal our verdict for a year of life, health and happiness. The closing Neilah service climaxes in the resounding cries of “Hear O Israel . . . G‑d is one.” Then joy erupts in song and dance (a Chabad custom is to sing the lively “Napoleon’s March”), followed by a single blast of the shofar, followed by the proclamation, “Next year in Jerusalem.” We then partake of a festive after-fast meal, making the evening after Yom Kippur a yom tov (festival) in its own right.

© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
Sort By:
Discussion (113)
August 23, 2015
atonement: AT ONE MEANT
If I do something wrong I try to make good, what I did, by saying I'm sorry and also by saying I'm sorry to a Greater Power. And yet, knowing it's all part of a Divine Story, I also know we're going to have to forgive, Divinity. And if what I just wrote is a conundrum, then you aren't on the same page. Massive synchronicity, meaning the astonishment of stories, that continuously connect in vastly intelligent ways, across a universe in this small life, as in all that I do, which I am duly recording according to Vow, means, we didn't write This Story. And this is why, we ask to be written in the Book of Life for another year. Yes, it's up to the Divine Scriptwriter. But the paradox, the eternal paradox rest right here, and you will never be able to wrest that paradox to the ground. Jacob wrestled with the Angel. Bless is also blesser or to wound, in French. I am writing a Language Based Story. Paradoxically, none of us wrote this Story. Exodus depends on the Egyptians, all stories connect
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma
August 21, 2015
50th Birthday on Yom Kipper
Not sure how I feel about turning 50 on Yom Kipper this year.
Gail Katz
Brooklyn, NY
May 7, 2015
Why are her hands purple?!
December 7, 2014
what does the picture potray about yom kippur
October 19, 2014
The o is omitted out of respect for the name of the Lord, not because of Yom Kippur.
Prescott, AR
October 14, 2014
Why is the "o" In GOD omitted in this article ? Does it have something to do with YOM KIPPUR? Please educate me. Thanks!
October 13, 2014
you realize its spelled god right?
What is up with this spelling. Are we so afraid to have faith in today's world that we cant even spell out anything to do with religion?
October 4, 2014
Thank you for your comments and prayers. It enriched me immensely...
Estela m.
October 3, 2014
I'm thankful for Yom Kippur because it helps me to focus on forgiving others and asking for forgiveness, too. Fearing G-d and repentance is very important. I have much to think about and pray about.
October 3, 2014
why don't you spell out the word God?
Show all comments
Load next 50