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How to Observe Yom Kippur 2017

How to Observe Yom Kippur 2017


Yom Kippur In Brief

What: Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, when we are closest to G‑d and to the essence of our souls. Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement,” as the verse states, “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d.”1

When: The 10th day of Tishrei, coming on the heels of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year, which is on the first and second days of Tishrei).

How: For nearly 26 hours (in 2017, from several minutes before sunset on Sept 29 until after nightfall on September 30) we “afflict our souls” by avoiding the following five actions:

  • Eating or drinking (in case of need, see here and consult a medical professional and a rabbi)
  • Wearing leather shoes
  • Applying lotions or creams
  • Washing or bathing
  • Engaging in conjugal relations

Like Shabbat, no work is to be done, and special holiday candles are lit before the onset of the holy day.

Opening the synagogue ark.
Opening the synagogue ark.

The day is spent in the synagogue, where 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;
  • Neilah, the “closing of the gates” service at sunset, followed by the shofar blast marking the end of the fast.

Click here for a detailed overview of the day’s prayers.

Beyond specific actions, Yom Kippur is dedicated to introspection, prayer and asking G‑d for forgiveness. Even during the breaks between services, it is appropriate to recite Psalms at every available moment.

What to Do Before Yom Kippur

Photo: Chaya Mishulovin, Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie
Photo: Chaya Mishulovin, Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie

Forty days before Yom Kippur, on the first of Elul, we begin blowing the shofar every morning and reciting Psalm 27 after the morning and afternoon prayers. In Sepharadic communities, it is customary to begin saying Selichot early every morning (Ashkenazim begin just a few days before Rosh Hashanah)—building an atmosphere of reverence, repentance and awe leading up to Yom Kippur.

For the week before Yom Kippur (known as the 10 Days of Repentance), special additions are made to prayers, and people are particularly careful with their mitzvah observance.

We are all human, and we occasionally slip. Is there anyone you may have offended or otherwise hurt? Go ahead and ask for their forgiveness. Are you carrying any grudges? Now is the time to sincerely and wholeheartedly let them go.

Just as Yom Kippur is a day of fasting, the day before Yom Kippur is set aside for eating and preparing for this holy day. Here are some of the activities that we do on the day before Yom Kippur:

  • Kaparot is often performed in the wee hours of this morning
  • There is a beautiful custom to request and receive a piece of honey cake, so that if, G‑d forbid, it was decreed that we need be recipients, it be fulfilled by requesting honey cake and being blessed with a sweet year
  • We eat two festive meals, one in early afternoon and another right before the commencement of the fast.
  • Many have the custom to immerse in a mikvah on this day.
  • Extra charity is given. In fact, special charity trays are set up at the synagogue before the afternoon service, which contains the Yom Kippur Al Cheit prayer.
  • Just before the fast begins (after the second meal has been concluded), it is customary to bless the children with the Priestly Blessing.
  • Holiday candles are lit before the onset of the holy day. Read more about the various candles traditionally lit before Yom Kippur.

What We Do After Yom Kippur

Lulavim and etrogim for sale in Israel prior to Sukkot (file photo).
Lulavim and etrogim for sale in Israel prior to Sukkot (file photo).

After night has fallen, the closing Neilah service ends with the resounding cries of the Shema prayer: “Hear O Israel: G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is one.” Then the congregants erupt in joyous song and dance (a Chabad custom is to sing the lively “Napoleon’s March”), after which a single blast is blown on 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.

Indeed, although Yom Kippur is the most solemn day of the year, it is suffused with an undercurrent of joy; it is the joy of being immersed in the spirituality of the day and expresses confidence that G‑d will accept our repentance, forgive our sins, and seal our verdict for a year of life, health and happiness.

There is a custom that after Yom Kippur, we immediately begin (planning) construction of the sukkah, which we will use for the joyous holiday of Sukkot, which follows in just five days.

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Edward Miami September 30, 2017

Honesty This is the first time on this site and would like to thank all those who have posts right before this. I find no hostility, no anger, only honest answers to questions with no political slant. I will see other honest questions-which will serve to enlighten my own soul to also ask questions. Thank You. Reply

Sharrie London September 30, 2017

This was very interesting indeed. I had no idea that Jewish people did all of this. I wish you all a lovely year ahead and thank you for educating me on Jewish beliefs and values. Reply

Jasmine September 28, 2017

I hope with this season upon us , that Chabad and us all can help Puerto Rico and Mexico . Reply

holly usa September 28, 2017
in response to Jasmine :

my mom made an interesting comment when a lady on the news said she was flying to Florida bc she was out of baby formula: "why can't she nurse?" I replied that sometimes infants are allergic to the mother's milk but good point. I will pray that women with babies who have been dry and are out of infant formula are blessed with a miracle of milk and the infant receiving it with no allergiy until fuel gets the supplies to people. Reply

Rene Close Dispora via September 29, 2017
in response to Jasmine :

Jasmine thank you for remembering those of us who have been ripped from our homes. Mine was in Puerto Rico and now living in Dominican Republic with only myself to celebrate Yom Kippur. Much prayers for all who have loss more than I.
Shalom Reply

Neal Matos September 30, 2017
in response to Jasmine :

That's great to hear and hope all the best. Reply

Charles Wintner calabasas ca September 27, 2017

Bernard Baruch, a famous investor & market genius in a previous era, once credited Yom Kippur with saving him a fortune. Had he worked that day, he would have closed a position he had made, and would have lost most of his fortune.
Instead, he observed Yom Kippur as his mother had insisted. As a result, instead of losing money, he added to his already substantial fortune.

If Sandy Koufax and Bernard Baruch didn't work on Yom Kippur, I'm not either. Reply

Marsha Kessler East Chatham ny September 27, 2017

Are you related to Larry, father of Charles and Richard Hollander? Reply

Harvey Hollander Riverdale Bronx September 25, 2017

I'm sorry I've been a bad jew Reply

Don Miami Besch September 19, 2017

Is it OK to open your business and let someone else work for you? Reply

Anonymous Duluth September 25, 2017
in response to Don:

I wouldn't recommend that Reply

Simcha Bart for September 27, 2017
in response to Don:

In general, one may not run a business on Holy Days even if one is not present then. For further clarification feel free to contact our Ask the Rabbi service. Reply

holly USA September 27, 2017
in response to Don:

Post Bible society has integrated religious populations so if the employee practices a different religion they can work. I substitute taught a fashion class at Hoover High for a lady observing Yom Kippur as I was baptised Catholic at that time for that marriage and not practicing Judaic ritual. The kids were showing up no matter what so a teacher needed to be there :) So yes hire a woman and pay her as much as a man. Reply

Amos September 29, 2017
in response to Don:

That doesn't sound like much integrity. Reply

Holly USA September 28, 2017
in response to Simcha Bart for :

So what can be done for public tax paid schools to be closed on Yom Kippur the same way they are closed for Easter? ACLU lawyer sue the department of education? Separation of church and state is the US Constitution and yet public schools favor Christian religious holidays over Jewish ones. God bless. Reply

Anonymous Cleveland September 28, 2017
in response to Holly:

Easter is always on a Sunday. Reply

Jasmine October 15, 2017
in response to Holly:

I don't know if it is every state, however, I've known many Jewish students not penalized for not being at school during holy days. Muslims too and Christians for Good Friday so, Plus Resurrection Sunday is on Sunday. So are you saying that other states don't do this? Or do you just want all schools to be closed? I'm just trying to understand. Reply

holly usa September 28, 2017
in response to holly:

idea: to avoid expensive litigation have us tax funded public schools open every day. Each student and employee gets to take off 30 days every 365 day of a calendar year to accomodate their religious holidays, medical appointments, family events (funerals, births, reunions, counseling etc). Hire Catholic staff to teach Saturdays and hire Jewish staff to teach Sundays. --- if people do not like this idea and would rather have separate religious schools, then there needs to be a voucher for the student so the tax paid for schooling under age 18 goes towards their schooling. share this with beth el la jolla and hebew academy carmel valley san diego. military bases with schools on them must also accomodate this. sorry i will not edit spelling because the laptop is pressing on my bladder and my room does not have a restroom so i am putting away the computer til daylight. Reply

Anonymous September 6, 2017

what is the prayer said on the candles before the fast? Reply

Anonymous Rio, Brazil September 28, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Ba-ruch A-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech ha-olam a-sher ki-deshanu be-mitz-vo-tav ve-tzvi-va-nu le-had-lik ner shel [if Yom Kippur is on Shabbat add: Sha-bat vi-shel] Yom Ha-Ki-pu-rim. Reply

John August 22, 2017

As a fresh convert, this app is extremely helpful. It doesn't help that I have a poor memory, lol, but it is a great app and it will help me head my family in instructing them on the whens, whys, and hows of holidays. Reply

Viv Italy September 25, 2017
in response to John:

I've always been fascinated by Jewish culture. What is the path you followed? I sometimes feel like I need rituals and nothing "borrowed" from other religions suite my need for depth. - thank you Reply

Jane Pittman Portland, Oregon September 30, 2017
in response to John:

John, this is off the subject. When I read that you're a new convert I couldn't resist the urge to ask about the path you took to conversion.This is very important to me as I'm looking to start my own path to conversion and I've hit some obstacles that I hope someone can help me with.If this is something you feel comfortable talking about I'd be grateful. Thanks Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for October 11, 2016

Re: water fountain on Yom Kippur The laws regarding operating a water fountain on Yom Kippur are the same as Shabbat and in most cases, according to many opinions, the operation of the water fountain would be permitted. Of course, just because you can operate it, does not mean you can drink from it since eating and drinking are prohibited on Yom Kippur - unless it is for a child or someone who is ill and permitted to drink. Reply Staff via October 11, 2016

To Sheila The yahrtzeit candle should be lit today, the eve of Yom Kippur, before you light the holiday candles. Reply

Sheri (Serah Simah Bas Faigah) Zukin Los Angeles October 10, 2016

Is it permissible to use a water fountain on Yom Kippur? Reply

Sheila Jackson, MS October 10, 2016

When do I light my yartzeit light? Reply

Barry Reuben London August 15, 2017
in response to Sheila:

To remember those who have passed.

I lost my daughter aged 21. I light a candle, but not to remember her.
i think of her all day every day. Reply

Anonymous florida September 24, 2017
in response to Barry Reuben:

So sorry for your loss. May G-d comfort you. Reply

Anonymous Texas September 25, 2017
in response to Barry Reuben:

G-d Bless you. May the memory of your daughter live forever. I feel truly sorry for your loss. Reply

Nicole Moncton, NB September 25, 2017
in response to Barry Reuben:

I truly sympathize with your loss. May H-Shem Bless You and give you Strength in all matters! Reply

jim dallas October 6, 2016

everybody should engage this site! excellent and informative article and of great interest to me personally. thanks! Reply

chuck Calabasas, CA September 8, 2016

Thank you, Josh P. of Seattle, for that beautiful and important prayer. Why didn't you tell me this a long time ago? Reply

Josh P. Seattle, WA September 8, 2016

Re: Bris on Yom Kippur If you are not Jewish, you can send an email to a Jew at any time that is convenient for you. If they are observant, they will simply read your email after the conclusion of Yom Kippur.

If you are a Jew, I strongly recommend refraining from sending a congratulatory email until after the conclusion of Yom Kippur. Reply

Josh P. Seattle, WA September 6, 2016

Forgiveness @Andrea -
Part of the days leading up to Yom Kippur we do, in fact, extend forgiveness to others.

However, it might surprise you that we do this every night before we go to bed! In a prayer before going to bed, we make the declaration, "Master of the Universe, I hereby forgive anyone who has angered or antagonized me or who has sinned against me, whether against my body, my property, my honor or against anything of mine; whether he did so accidentally, willfully, carelessly, or purposely; whether through speech, deed, thought, or notion. May no man be punished because of me." Reply

Anonymous Ottawa September 27, 2017
in response to Josh P.:

Thank you for sharing this. Reply

Adrienne October 2, 2017
in response to Josh P.:

I love this prayer. So perfected in words.! Thanks for sharing. Reply

Andrea Marie Maryland September 5, 2016

Forgiveness As part of Yom Kippur, do you ever extend forgiveness to others who have offended you? Reply

Gene Alaska September 12, 2017
in response to Andrea Marie:

The 10 Days of Awe, up to the start of Yom Kippur (The day of Atonement) is the time you get right and forgive anyone that might have offended you and forgive those that have persecuted you. On Yom Kippur, a Sanctified FAST day, no food or water, is the time to spend with God. hope this makes sense. Reply

Walter Connecticut September 22, 2015

Is there somewhere I can go participate in the ceremonies Reply

Anonymous CA September 22, 2015

What is the proper way to email someone and congratulate them when their grandson's BRIS is on Yom Kippur? Thank you. Reply

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