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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.

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ruth housman marshfield hills August 7, 2017

The Mitzvot atonement
at one meant
a tone meant

Hashem wrote us all into a cosmic story deeply about One as in the Shema. Forgiveness is key.

Maybe to you she's only a woman but she has been commenting on Chabad for years. We are sparks. This is the gathering of sparks and we are vessels. To share the road should be Kabala 101.

To receive silence, to hear the sighing of the pines, the still small voice within is to know all this that is streaming, takes us all to the water. Hashem wrote us all into the most amazing Story ever told. The Book of Splendour, The Book of Love, The Book of Ruth. truth will out. It is a Cosmic Love Story. Reply

Anonymous Clarksville July 22, 2017

I was born into a Muslim family in the USA
almost eight decades ago (when almost no one I knew outside of my family had knowledge of this faith),
spent my first seven years among Catholic
kids who taught me their faith, later I attended a Congregational church and by the time I was in high school, all my buddies were Jewish. I lost my most beloved friend on Yom Kipper 2016, the Day of Atonement. Reply

Doreen Garcia Oviedo October 12, 2016

Day of Atonement make up date? If you were unable to keep this day, what other day can I do, for the day of atonement? Reply

Godfrey October 11, 2016

Israel is in our hearts at such a time as this. Reply

Jakob Jerusalem israel October 11, 2016

Michael. Ashkenazim wear a Tallis if married. And also a Tallis is worn at night during Kol Nidre. Reply

Anonymous October 10, 2016

I'm Muslim I raised in Belgium I went to Catholic school .I love Jewish religion.I hope I can convert to Jewish religion.I love all Jewish holidays and Jewish people.God bless you all. Reply

Kiauna Izliah Bushnell October 10, 2016

I feel blessed that my birthday this year (October 12) is on the holiest day of the year. To spend my day before the Lord in prayer and supplication is truly a blessing! Reply

Michael Freedmman via October 10, 2016

wearing the Talllis It seems that I remember not wearing a Tallis on Yom Kippur? Is this correct? Reply

James M. Czebiniak Cicero, NY October 3, 2016

I was born on Yom Kippur, 10/11/1954. Reply

Shaul Wolf October 1, 2015

Re: Grocery store On Yom Kippur we refrain from any weekday activity. Handling money and making acquisitions are considered to be weekday activity, and are therefore avoided on Yom Kippur. Reply

analgesia cassels licerpool via September 29, 2015

leaving o out of spelling G-D It's not about having faith in the thank you each to his own.our faith is in G-D the world was created by him.we omit the O out of respect .so we are not saying or referring to our father his name's respect.for our father .not the world.he is holy when ever we refer to him we don't use his name . Reply

Paula Rhea Irving, TX September 23, 2015

re: 50th Birthday on Yom Kipper Shalom and felicitations on your 50th birthday! (Trust me - it just gets better.)
May your fast be easy. Reply

Anonymous Baltimore September 23, 2015

Why can't we go to the grocery store Reply

Chiron Venizelos USA September 22, 2015

Thank you. Thank you for this site, it has helped me to understand what Yom Kippur is all about. Reply

Ronnie Giles Hasbrouck Heights September 22, 2015

Question Regarding "What Is Yom Kippur?" I'm not Jewish so maybe I'm missing something here, but why is "God" always referred to as "G-d"? Reply

Anonymous Valley Stream September 22, 2015

Turning 50 I think it's a blessing to be turning 50 on this lovely day of atonement and eventually the promise of a clean slate. Reply

Laurie September 21, 2015

Yom Kippur Yom Kippur- a new day to begin our lives and strive to be kind to everyone! Reply

William Kentucky September 21, 2015

"Peace in Jerusalem." On this High Holy Fast and Feast for Yom Kippur, may we pray from our hearts to G-D for forgiveness and reconciliation with our King. For this Holi-day, may there be peace in Jerusalem. May all the faithful in the Diaspora remember to pray for peace in The Homeland of Israel. Shalom. Reply

Anonymous California September 21, 2015

I'm not Jewish but I respect and admire the Jewish culture And special the solemnitis of their traditions. G D bless the Jewish community all over the world. Reply

analesia cassels britain, liverpool via September 21, 2015

yom kippur I love yom kippur.I know I am closest to our G-d when I say I am sorry for sin.I know he is closest to me when he looks into my heart and sees me at least trying by fasting and doing his will I'm trying to show him how much I love is an honour to perform mitzvah.I wish every one an easy fast and a yom to.analesia Reply

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