Yom Kippur, observed on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, is a day of fasting, prayer, and asking G‑d and our peers for forgiveness.

Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement.” It is interesting to note that the original name, as recorded in the Torah, is Yom Hakippurim, which means pretty much the same thing in a slightly different form.

Yom Kippur Definition

Yom Kippur is an annual fast, observed by Jews since the infancy of our nation. It marks the day G‑d forgave our ancestors for the Sin of the Golden Calf just months after the Exodus from Egypt

In ancient times, Yom Kippur was celebrated in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (and its forerunner, the portable Tabernacle) by the High Priest, who brought special offerings, including animal sacrifices and incense. Since the destruction of the second Temple, Yom Kippur services consist of prayers in the synagogue (the services begin with Kol Nidre at the onset of the fast, and conclude with Ne’ilah the following evening). One who cannot attend synagogue observes at home.

The fast begins before sunset on the evening preceding Yom Kippur and finishes after nightfall the following day. As per Leviticus 23:32, during the entire 25-hour period we desist from eating and drinking, engaging in conjugal relations, applying lotions, washing, and wearing leather shoes. Like Shabbat, no work is to be done, and women light holiday candles before the onset of the holy day.

For the duration of Yom Kippur, we are elevated to an angelic state, one with G‑d, each other, and ourselves. At its conclusion, we are confident that our shortcomings have been forgiven by G‑d, just as we have forgiven our fellows.