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Why can't Yom Kippur ever begin on a Saturday night?

Why can't Yom Kippur ever begin on a Saturday night?


The Jewish perpetual calendar was arranged in a manner that ensures that the first day of Rosh Hashanah will never fall on Sunday, Wednesday or Friday.1 This guarantees that Yom Kippur will not fall on a Friday or Sunday (i.e. Saturday night), which would produce two consecutive days when preparing food and burying the dead is prohibited, and that Hoshanah Rabbah will not occur on Shabbat, which would interfere with the custom of taking the willows on this day.2

The Rebbe explains that, kabbalistically speaking, the inner workings of Rosh Hashanah just don't jibe with the spiritual energies of these three days.

To explain:

G‑d created the world using seven modalities. We call these sefirot, with the two most prominent being chesed (kindness) and gevurah (severity; discipline). The other sefirot derive from one or both of these.

Each of the seven days of the week corresponds to one of the sefirot. Sunday is the day when chesed is dominant. Wednesday relates to netzach, which stems from kindness. Friday is yesod, one of whose primary functions is the "sweetening" of gevurah. (Click here for more on the sefirot.)

So what's wrong with Rosh Hashanah falling on a day that's about kindness? Sounds like a pretty good idea...

Rosh Hashanah, however, is not really about undeserved kindness. It's about discipline and work on our part. On Rosh Hashanah we crown G‑d as our King. We say, "G‑d, we want You to rule over us," and that's what makes Him keep the world in existence for another year. G‑d sustains the world not out of pure kindness and generosity, but because we present ourselves as His subjects and sincerely accept upon ourselves his sovereignty, and so He consents to being our ruler. It all depends on our service. No Divine service on our part, no reason for G‑d to keep the world going. (For more on this, see The Kabbalistic Spin on Rosh Hashanah.)

Were Rosh Hashanah a day when G‑d says to Himself, "I feel like giving more to this world, just giving freely and openly, without reason or requiring anything in return," then Sunday, Wednesday or Friday would be a perfect match. But considering the real theme of the holiday, those days don't work.

Interestingly, the very first Rosh Hashanah, the day when Adam and Eve were created, was on a Friday. Though it may seem a bit strange that Rosh Hashanah can never reoccur on its original day of the week, it actually makes lots of sense considering the context.

That creation of Adam and Eve – which constituted the finishing touch of creation – on that first Rosh Hashanah, was on act of undeserved kindness on G‑d's part, considering that there was no one yet around to earn any kindness. Hence it is understandable why it fell on a kindness-oriented day. But that aspect of Rosh Hashanah didn't carry over to future years.3

Let me know if this helps,

Malkie Janowski for

According to many, this rule took effect when the perpetual calendar was put in place in the 4th century by Hillel II (click here for more on this). According to Saadia Gaon (cited in Yesod Olam sha'ar 4 ch. 6), however, this rule was actually practiced even when the Sanhedrin would sanctify months based on witnesses who sighted the new moon.
See Talmud Sukah 43b; Rosh Hashanah 20a. Maimonides (Laws of the Sanctification of the Moon 7:8) also gives another reason for this rule, one that involves keeping the calendar aligned with the solar and lunar orbits.
Torat Menachem, 5711, first day of Rosh Hashanah; Igrot Kodesh of the Rebbe, vol. 2, p 247-249.
Malkie Janowski is an accomplished educator who lives in Coral Springs, Florida. Mrs. Janowski is also a responder on's Ask the Rabbi team.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Anonymous Boston, MA April 21, 2016

Eh, sure, but these insights aren't the pure truth of the matter. I don't know what is, but a guess is that it has to with....:Rosh Hashana-Malchus, pure chessed and malchus not mixing well (ask a spontaneously loving person to tell you what to do, and it'll be weird) Reply

Sam October 31, 2013

reply To Tim,
I just wanted to clarify a few issues. What is called "stam chalav" - meaning, milk that wasn't overseen by a Jew is still forbidden. For example, I cannot drink the milk of some random farmer in Vermont who goes and personally milks his own cows and gives me his milk. I think what you a referring to is a halachic decision of Rav Moshe Feinstein, who said that nowadays, with the FDA and all the thousand food regulations nd supervision, dairy companies are sufficiently deterred from putting anything else in the milk, and thus, it is the same as if a Jew was supervising the process. Also, there is a concept in hakacha called "lo ploog" - meaning, just because the reasons for a specific Rabinnic decree do not apply today does not mean we are allowed to nullify it. This concept is not applied in all cases but it is something to keep in mind whenever discussion of these topics arises. Reply

Tim Bell Austin October 18, 2011

I don't understand the mishpat I am assuming this Halakha of Rabbi Hillel II was because it took you a day in that time to prepare food. You couldn't just heat up some food from the pantry, like you can today. There does not seem to be a reason for this Halakha anymore. Just like the prohibiting the milk of an idolater it was overruled by a later court, and this should be as well. The key question is, why didn't earlier Poskim not think this was an issue? Like while the temple was standing. This ruling was enacted in 358 CE. Reply

Gershon September 7, 2009

I am puzzled by the statement " G‑d sustains the world not out of pure kindness and generosity, but because we present ourselves as His subjects and sincerely accept upon ourselves his sovereignty." Isn't much of the liturgy of Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur (eg, the last line of Avinu Malkeinu) about how we don't merit anything, and it is purely G-d's generosity that keeps us afloat? Reply

Mr. Brian Brody August 28, 2009

Yom Kippur Based on this information, one could assume that the First Yom Kippur occurred when God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden?

Would that be a correct statement? Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem September 4, 2017
in response to Mr. Brian Brody:

Yes it theory...however Adam's birth on Rosh Hashana, being a Friday, would make Tishrei 10 be on a Sunday. However, Yom Kippur was not "created" until the giving of the Torah.

Further...when the months were sacrtified via witnesses seeing the moon, then it could happen. Only now with a preset calendar do we now allow it Reply

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