The Day of Atonement
Yom Kippur is the most holy day in the Jewish calendar. In accordance to Leviticus 16:29-31 Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, is commanded to be on the 10th day os the Jewish month of Tishri. As mandated by the Torah, it is a day spent in prayer atoning for our sins and it is a day of strict rest.
Preparations for Yom Kippur begin early in the morning. It is very important to prepare for Yom Kippur because as evening falls, we complete cease all work, all food, all drink and fall into the time for atonement. Therefore, the body needs to be prepared for the fast and the mind and soul need to be prepared to be in the proper place to ask for forgiveness.
Two large meals are prepared and eaten - one earlier in the day and one just prior to the onset of Yom Kippur - to prepare the body for the 25 hour fast. Before the onset of Yom Kippur we must conclude the seeking of forgiveness from any person we may have wronged during the past year. Another important component is to give a blessing of your children. There is no set formula for this blessing, but it usually includes hoping one's children will be righteous, Torah observant, have wisdom, and a heart filled with awe for G-d. Additionally, we also give to charity, a little more than usually. These customs will help prepare our minds and spirits to seek forgiveness from G-d.
As daylight begins to wane we conclude our preparations with one final meal. The meal needs to be concluded and candles lit 18 minutes prior to sunset. After the candles are lit, the fast begins. The fast lasts for 25 hours and 18 minutes. We abstain from food and drink, do not wash or anoint our bodies, do not wear leather footwear and abstain from spousal intimacy. We spend much of our day engaged in repentance and prayer.
In the course of Yom Kippur five prayer services are held. The tallit or prayer shawl is normally only worn for morning services. However, on Yom Kippur the tallit is worn in then night service called Kol Nidrei as a symbol of the special reverence of this day. The final prayer service is the Neilah (locking) prayer. The Neilah culminates in the resounding cries of the Shema Yisrael... "Hear O Israel, The L-rd Our G-d, G-d is One..." Then joy erupts throughout the synagogue with song and dance. Yom Kippur is concluded with a single blast from the shofar and the proclamation, "Next Year in Jerusalem!"
When 3 stars appear in the sky we are permitted to break the fast. While there is no particular food associated breaking the Yom Kippur fast, it is customary to eat a dairy meal. Many Israeli families have a dish called pashtida. This is an egg dish something akin to a quiche. Other popular break the fast dishes are kuggel, blintzes, and bagels with cream cheese.
Yom Kippur is the most solemn of days in Jewish calendar. But, it is also a time for elation because we know that we have followed G-d's law and been forgiven for our sins. On Rosh HaShanah G-d inscribed each person's fate for the year to come in the Book of Life, but the book was kept open to allow for changes for the repentant soul. For the past 10 days, the Days of Awe, we have been atoning for our sins. On Yom Kippur G-d seals the Book of Life. We move forward with the next year confident that G-d has sealed our favorable verdict in the Book of Life for a year filled with life, health, and happiness.
Back to Learning Center