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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.

About the artist: Sarah Kranz has been illustrating magazines, webzines and books (including five children’s books) since graduating from the Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan, in 1996. Her clients have included The New York Times and Money Marketing Magazine of London.
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December 6, 2013
Thanks for your help for my school project
September 15, 2013
Services can be Uplifiting
the solemnity of Yom Kippur has a mystery, and majesty that is difficult if not impossible to put into words. I felt this at the synagogue we attended, as the Cantor's voice soared and the music took us all, to another "place". It's an experience I will remember and I will return to this particular synagogue again. I look forward to Sukkot, a favorite holiday.

As to what Mr. Wexler wrote on line here, I agree that we should always regret what happens that involves us in a negative way, and try to make amends at that time, ekvery day of our lives. This holiday, Yom Kippur, a very holy holiday, feels like a coming together of Jews in a very different way, and the notion of At One Ment, as part of the Atonement, is what I feel. There is a majesty here, that is very hard to put ito words, but to feel it, and to carry it forward, is something I will do, or hope to do, the rest of the year.
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma
September 15, 2013
Yizkor Service
My life partner of over 55 years just died and sitting through Yizkor was extremely painful for me !! The Fast was a piece of cake, by comparison. It helped when many friends during Yizkor hugged me, but death of a spouse is painful enough, but having a Service that repeatedly makes it more and more painful, is cruel...
September 14, 2013
RE: Deanna in Washington
You are forgiven by G-d for sins you have committed against him. If you have done something against someone else you must ask for their forgiveness. But G-d will still forgive you.
Missouri USA
September 13, 2013
Yom Kippur
May you be inscribed in the book of life. May Hashem bring justice and accountability to those that harm another person. May G-d Bless those that truly deserve his holy blessings.
Dr. Sasha Winderbaum
Delray Beach, Fl
September 13, 2013
I believe that in order to "repent" of your sins of the past year you must be able to forgive others first. This is a time to seek G-d and make things right with Him and ask to have one more year and that this year He grant you just little bit more wisdom.
Washington, DC
September 13, 2013
But What Is Repentance???
I am 50+ and I still do not know a meaning for it that makes any sense. Even this learned site does not answer my questions.

IMHO, to the best of my knowledge, repentance is simply the effort to do a better job as one of Ha-shem's children (metaphor optional). But to me, it is not something that happens just once a year, as sacrilegious as that may sound. It has to happen daily, even hourly. It is your responsibility to the one who created you, as much as it is a right that a human being has, based on the fact of his very creation.
Howard Wexler
September 13, 2013
wishing Jewish people Happy Holiday
do i wish them a happy new year or happy holiday.

what the right thing to say when wishing them the best on this day???
September 11, 2013
Re: Services Too Late
1) Have you considered getting a babystter?

2) If not, the prayers can be said at home just like at shul. Make sure to have a Machzor (holiday prayerbook) at home before the holidays...
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
September 10, 2013
To Tzina N
The Torah calls Yom Kippur, Shabbat Shabbaton, the Sabbath of Sabbaths, hence it is more important than Shabbat... for more insights please see Fasting On Yom Kippur Which Falls on Shabbat Staff
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