What is Yom Kippur ?

Yom Kippur In Brief

  • Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, when the Jews in their state of repentance are closest to God and in the quintessence of their souls.

  • The Jews believe that on this day they can make the last appeal to God to forgive them; their last chance to change the judgment for the sins they have committed. The day is marked to demonstrate their repentance and make amends.

  • Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of Tishri, i.e. Rosh Hashanah followed by the Days of Awe culminates into Yom Kippur.

What are some of the customs on Yom Kippur?

  • Yom Kippur atones only the sins man has committed towards God. It does not include the sins towards another human. All sins confessed are in plural, emphasizing the responsibility of the community as a whole towards the wrong done.

  • On this day, even the Jews who do not observe the other Jewish customs, make it a point to attend the synagogue for prayer, do not go to work, and fast.

  • They spend the entire day praying in the synagogue till the services end at nightfall.

  • Yom Kippur is a day for fasting and many Jews do not even consume water as per custom.

  • Some notable athletes have observed Yom Kippur, even when it conflicted with their playing their sport.

  • The fast goes on for 25 hours.

  • People wear the colour white, which is symbolic of a pure soul which has been washed of all its sins.

  • Some wear the white robe in which the dead are buried, called the kippel.

Five Prayer Services

  • Maariv - Its solemn Kol Nidrei service, on the eve of Yom Kippur.

  • Shacharit - Morning prayer, it includes a reading from Leviticus followed by the Yizkor memorial service.

  • Musaf - It includes a detailed account of the Yom Kippur Temple service.

  • Minchah - It includes the reading of the Book of Jonah.

  • Neilah - Closing of the gates service at sunset.

Customs and Traditions

Avoid five actions during Yom Kippur

1. Eating or drinking
2. Bathing
3 Applying lotions, creams
4. Wearing leather shoes
5. Engaging in conjugal relations

The Feast of Yom Kippur

  • The day is the most solemn of the Jewish Calender, yet an undertone of joy suffuses it with the faith that they have received the forgiveness of God. Since on Yom Kippur the Jews believe they have been forgiven for their sins, they break the fast with a proper celebratory meal.

  • Jews traditionally eat a Meal of Cessation - called Seudat Mafseket - before the Yom Kippur fast. This meal includes meat products, as well as high water content products, to help sustain them for a fast of 25 hours. 

  • The celebratory meal to break the fast includes bagels, kugel (a baked pudding or casserole similar to a pie), Matzoh Ball soup, blintzes ( a thin pancake), Brisket etc.

  • The food as per custom is always kosher, i.e. food that is obtained in accordance with Jewish law.

The Feast of Yom Kippur

Last Updated: 1st September, 2017