Yom Kippur

By Emily Tang & Annie Kinzlmaier

The Next Yom Kippur:

The next Yom Kippur is in the Jewish year 5776 (2015) from sunset on September 22, 6:54 pm to nightfall on September 23, 6:52 pm.

What Yom Kippur is About:

Yom Kippur is the most important holiday of the Jewish Year. Jews spend the whole day in prayer and meditation on this day. Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of Tishri, the Hebrew Month around September/October. The name “Yom Kippur” means “Day of Atonement”. This is the last chance to demonstrate repentance and make amends with sins, but this only includes sins between man and G-d, not for sins against another person. According to tradition, it is on Yom Kippur that G-d decides each person’s fate, so Jews are encouraged to make amends and ask forgiveness for sins committed during the past year. The first Yom Kippur was after the Israelites’ exodus (mass departure, especially emigrants) from Egypt and arrival at Mt. Sinai, and that is where G-d gave Moses a sacred set of tablets. From Mt. Sinai, Moses saw his people worshiping a golden calf. He shattered the sacred tablets G-d gave him in anger. Because the Israelites atoned for their idolatry, G-d forgave their sins and offered Moses a second set of tablets on the Tenth Day of Tishri. This was the Ten Commandments and atop Mt. Sinai, he told the Israelites that they were forgiven. This day was since been known as Yom Kippur, the Day of Forgiveness. Jewish Texts recount that during biblical times, Yom Kippur was the only day where the high priest could enter the inner sanctum of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. (This temple is one of the three Jewish temples in Jerusalem). There, the high priest performs a series of rituals where he would sprinkle blood from sacrificed animals on the Ark of the Covenant, this contains the Ten Commandments. During this, the high priest would ask for G-d’s forgiveness for the people of Israel. The tradition continues to say that this ritual continued until the destruction of the Second Temple (by the Romans in 70 A.D). After that, it was adapted into a service for the rabbis and their congregations in individual services.

Rituals, Customs, and Practices on Yom Kippur:

Many Jews will refrain from work from Friday to Saturday evening as it is a Sabbath, which is a day of religious observance and abstinence from work. There is a 25 hour fast beginning before sunset and the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur. There is no eating or drinking - even water, unless a threat to life or health is involved. Children under the age of nine are not allowed to fast, and neither are pregnant women. There is no washing or bathing. Cosmetics and deodorants etc. are not allowed, and you are not allowed to wear leather shoes. Orthodox Jews wear canvas sneakers under their dress clothes on Yom Kippur. You are not permitted to have affairs. On the day of Yom Kippur, Jews attend synagogue services. These services close with the blowing of the ritual horn, called a shofar. Kol Nidre (all vows) is the prayer that begins the service that is recited on the eve of Yom Kippur. It is the prayer where Jews release vows. It is a statement that all vows with G-d are revoked.

Kol Nidre Prayer:

Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik neir shel (shabbat v’shel) you hakippurim.

This translates to: Blessed are you our God, creator of time and space who enriches our lives with holiness commanding us to kindle to (Shabbat and) Yom Kippur lights.

This prayer has often been held up by anti-Semites as proof that Jews are untrustworthy because the vows are not kept. The prayer is made because Jews take vows so seriously that they consider themselves bound (to G-d) even if they make the vows under a time of stress when they cannot think straight. On the evening of Yom Kippur, friends and family ask and accept forgiveness from each other. Asking forgiveness and accepting it is a sign that G-d has forgiven them.

Did You Know?

Some Orthodox Jews hold a live bird over their heads as atonement for sin. The fowl is killed afterward and given to the poor. Instead of an actual bird, some Jews use a bag of money symbolizing the price that the bird is sold for. This is the ancient custom of kapparot, or atonements, and is practiced during the afternoon before Yom Kippur begins.

Works Cited

"Yom Kippur." Britannica School. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2014. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://school.eb.com/levels/middle/article/340978>.

"Yom Kippur." History.com. A&E Television Networks. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/yom-kippur-history>.

"Yom Kippur: History & Overview." Yom Kippur: History & Overview. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/holiday4.html>.