Yom Kippur

On the 10th day of the Tishrei month, we celebrate Yom Kippur, the day of atonement and fast, considered the holiest and the most solemn day of the year in the Jewish calendar.

Wide 800px gottlieb jews praying in the synagogue on yom kippur


Yom (ha-)Kippurim (Hebrew:Day of Reconciliation [Atonement, Repentance]; Yiddish: Jonkiper, Jinkiper), wrongly called Judgement Day (Hebrew: Yom ha-Din = Day of the Judgement; Yiddish: Jom-Hadin), or Day of Pardon – the day of atonement and fast; the only fast ordered in the Torah (Leviticus 16: 1–34), celebrated in Autumn, on the 10th day of the Tishrei month; considered the holiest and the most solemn day of the year in the Jewish calendar, the most important of Sabbaths – the Sabbath of Sabbaths – Shabbat of Shabbats (Hebrew: Shabbat Shabbaton). Everybody gets the opportunity to evaluate one’s own conscience in peace, to atone for their sins, to decide to amend and to forget others their faults, and to receive forgiveness. According to the tradition, on the day before Yom Kippur one asks for forgiveness from everybody with whom they were in disagreement during the previous year. The injustices done to others have to be compensated. On the eve of Yom Kippur, according to the tradition, alms are given to the poor, and donations – for charity. A strict prohibition from work and strict fast (regarding both food and drinks) are in force for the entire day, from the sunset of the first day until the sunset of the next. One is also obliged to renounce bodily pleasures – bathing, rubbing with perfumes or lotions, wearing leather shoes, marital relations.

Yom Kippur is preceded by atonement rites: Kapparot, a bath in the mikveh. On the day before Yom Kippur, as a preparation for fasting, one should eat more than usual. It is the only holiday which isn’t extended for the second day in the diaspora, due to difficulties with fasting strictly for two days.

The liturgy on the day itself begins with the Kol Nidre prayer. A specific part of the service is the confession of sins – Vidui, practiced in two prayers – Ashamnu and Al Cheyt, during which various sins are being listed in alphabetical order. This confession is addressed directly at God. After the Shemoneh Esrei, everybody sings Piyyutim.  The Musaf is accompanied by the Avodah, a set of prayers describing the temple ritual for this particular day. The service ends with a prayer called Neila, after which the shofar marks the conclusion. In the synagogue, one should wear white clothing (kittel), a symbol of purity and humility. After leaving the house for the Kol Nidre prayer, parents bless their children so they’re inscribed in the Book of Life. Yom Kippur marks the end of the Ten Days of Awe (Yamim Nora’im), which begin on the day of Rosh Hashanah and, according to the tradition, every fate which wasn’t defined on the New Year’s Day, is resolved on Yom Kippur. During the times of the Temple of Jerusalem, the sins of all people were symbolically passed on the scapegoat, exiled into the desert, „to Azazel”.

The High Priest confessed sins three times: on his own behalf, on behalf of all priests, and on behalf of all people of Israel. It was also the only day when the High Priest was allowed into the most sacred place of the Temple, the Holy of Holies. He also changed his golden clothing to white.

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