The High Holy Day Series: Yom Kippur

Posted by Dorit Revitch on

Yom Kippur, Hebrew Yom Ha-Kippurim, English Day of Atonement, most solemn of Jewish religious holidays, observed on the 10th day of the lunar month of Tishri (in the course of September and October) when Jews seek to expiate their sins and achieve reconciliation with God. Yom Kippur concludes the “10 days of repentance” that begin with Rosh Hashana (New Year’s Day) on the first day of Tishri.

The Bible refers to Yom Kippur as Shabbat Shabbaton (“Sabbath of Solemn Rest,” or “Sabbath of Sabbaths”) because, even though the holy day may fall on a weekday, it is on Yom Kippur that solemnity and cessation of work are most complete. The purpose of Yom Kippur is to effect individual and collective purification by the practice of forgiveness of the sins of others and by sincere repentance for one’s own sins against God. Yom Kippur is observed on Wednesday, October 5, 2022.

Yom Kippur is marked by abstention from food, drink, and sex. Among Orthodox Jews, the wearing of leather shoes and anointing oneself with oil are forbidden. Orthodox Jews may wear long white robes called Kittel.

Yom Kippur is a day when sins are confessed and expiated, and man and God are reconciled....

Jewish congregations spend the eve of Yom Kippur and the entire day in prayer and meditation. On the eve of Yom Kippur, the Kol Nidre is recited. Famous for its beautiful melody, the Kol Nidre is a declaration annulling all vows made during the year insofar as they concern oneself (obligations toward others are excluded). Friends also ask and accept forgiveness from one another for past offenses on the evening before Yom Kippur, since obtaining forgiveness from one’s fellows signifies God’s forgiveness. God is believed to forgive the sins of those who sincerely repent and show their repentance by improved behavior and performance of good deeds.

The services on Yom Kippur itself last continuously from morning to evening and include readings from the Torah and the reciting of penitential prayers. Yizkor, which are memorial prayers for the deceased, may also be recited by members of the congregation. The services end with closing prayers and the blowing of the ritual horn known as the shofar.

According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. During the 10 Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend their behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God (bein adam leMakom) and against other human beings (bein adam lechavero). The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt (Vidui). At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.

As one of the most culturally significant Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur is observed by many secular Jews who may not observe other holidays. Many secular Jews attend synagogue on Yom Kippur—for many secular Jews the High Holy Days are the only times of the year during which they attend synagogue—causing synagogue attendance to soar.

In Israel one of the signs that Yom Kippur is arriving has nothing to do with atonement or fasting, it has to do with no traffic of cars, all bicycles shops are busy, and parents getting their kids new bicycles, new roller blades, skateboards etc, or fix the flat tires or the wheels or whatever is necessary for the Kid to have a Nice Yom Kippur like all his friends,  as it’s a Shabbath Shabaton in Israel traffic of cars or any type of vehicle is forbidden, the only day in the year that it is all over the country, so kids take advantage to go out and ride the bicycle freely, it sometimes does create a problem as ambulances do rush for the rescue when needed, and have to be very careful so are police and fire department, all first responders.

On the eve of Yom Kippur you see secular families who just finished their Arucha Mafseket ( Pre-Fast meal, the last meal for the next 25 hours, walking together to the synagogue to hear Kol Nidrei, and the whole family goes together with the little kids on the Bicycles and skateboards, at the synagogue there is always a big crowd that lingers to the streets around the synagogue, you go in and out of the synagogue just to listen to the prayers when you want and you are welcomed, you can stay there all day and night as the synagogue will stay open, and pray, or just visit and come back when you wish.

In Israel Yom Kippur is a very Holy day, not that it is not holy for hews in other places in the world but….

You feel the buzz in the air for days before it, since Rosh Hashana it is like G_D’s spirit and holiness is there more than ever, you plan things around Yom Kippur the before and after, you feel something in the air, at least I did every year.

Why in fact do we celebrate Yom Kippur? what if we feel we didn’t sin this past year?

Well Good people of the universe, we all sin, and the biggest sins are the one we sin against each other, an unkept promise, gossiping, name-calling, cheating, telling white lies, or just lies, those are not crimes, but sins, for crimes we have the law, but our spirit and soul are something else.

When we sin, our own soul damages each time a bit, and we don’t even know it.

Yom Kippur and atoning, putting our souls into a bit of an uncomfortable situation due to fasting, and repenting, and praying all day, is all about correcting our souls, our compass if you want to call it.

On the evening of Yom Kippur before sunset, it is customary to call, or meet with your friends and family and ask for forgiveness, receive, and grant forgiveness to others. G_D always forgives us when we ask forgiveness as we pray he is merciful, but the sins against our fellow men/women must be forgiven by our fellow men/women.

Yom Kippur is more about sins between a human being and his friend than a human being and G_D, as said before, G_D is merciful, and he forgives.

The date of Yom Kippur is always the 10th day of the month of Tishrei, 10 days from Rosh Hashana, why that date, did something happen that this day was chosen?

Yes something did happen:

Just a few months after the people of Israel left Egypt in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), they sinned by worshipping the golden calf. Moses ascended Mount Sinai, for the first time, and prayed to G_d to forgive them. After the second 40-day stint on mount Sinai, full Divine favor was obtained. The day Moses came down the mountain (the 10th of Tishrei) was to be known forevermore as the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur.

That year, the people built the Tabernacle, portable home for G‑d. The Tabernacle was a center for prayers and sacrificial offerings. The service in the Tabernacle climaxed on Yom Kippur when the High Priest would perform a specially prescribed service.

While the High Priest wore ornate golden clothing all year long, on Yom Kippur, he would immerse in a mikvah and will wear plain white garments to perform the Yom Kippur service.

There are specific actions we take on Yom Kippur which are to be kept from sunset on the evening of Yom Kippur till sundown the next day , where there are 3 stars above, a total of 26 hours.

Those actions are mainly abstaining from the following:

  • Eating or drinking all men from the age of 13 and women from the age of 12 (Unless one has a medical condition, in which case he/she needs to consult a Dr whether he/she is allowed to fast or not)
  • Wearing leather shoes
  • Applying lotions or creams
  • Washing or bathing
  • Engaging in conjugal relations

The day is spent in the synagogue, where we hold five prayer services:

  • Ma’ariv with Kol Nidrei on the eve of Yom Kippur, Kol Nidrei is believed to be opening the gates to heaven where G_D sits and listens to all our prayers.
  • Shacharit in the morning of the Yom Kippur day.
  • Musaf
  • Mincha
  • Neila Closing of Yom Kippur in the evening, closing of the gates and followed by Shofar blasts.

Beyond the above specific actions and some others, which we did not touch, 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.

After these 26 hours what comes next?

After night has fallen, the closing Neilah service ends with the resounding cries of the Shema prayer: “Hear O Israel: G_d is our Lord, G_d is one. (“Shema Israel Adonai Elokeino Adonai Echad”)”, after which a single blast is blown on the shofar, followed by the proclamation, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

We then go each to his own home and family and partake of a festive after-fast meal, making the evening after Yom Kippur a Yom Tov (festival) of its own.

It is also customary on this night to start planning and building the sukkah, which we will use for the joyous holiday of Sukkot, which follows in just five days. (We will talk about Sukkot next week)

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.

When you wish to hear A beautiful Kol Nidrei version here it is:

And one more of Avinu Malkeinu together with the beautiful views from Israel

In the meantime have a lovely day and a beautiful weekend.

Shabbath Shalom till Next time.


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