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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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Discussion (132)
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?
Doreen Garcia
October 11, 2016
Israel is in our hearts at such a time as this.
October 11, 2016
Michael. Ashkenazim wear a Tallis if married. And also a Tallis is worn at night during Kol Nidre.
Jerusalem israel
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.
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!
Kiauna Izliah
October 10, 2016
wearing the Talllis
It seems that I remember not wearing a Tallis on Yom Kippur? Is this correct?
Michael Freedmman
October 3, 2016
I was born on Yom Kippur, 10/11/1954.
James M. Czebiniak
Cicero, NY
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.
Shaul Wolf
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 .
analgesia cassels
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.
Paula Rhea
Irving, TX
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