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Conforming to the Five Prohibitions of Yom Kippur

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Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement is one of the most sacred of the Jewish holidays. It is in this day that Jews spend their entire time to prayers, fasting, and reconciliation. There are five prohibitions that one needs to observe during Yom Kippur. These prohibitions are aimed at reducing the focus on one’s personal needs and concentrating on spiritual elevation.

  1. Abstain yourself from eating and drinking thirty minutes before sundown until after nightfall the following day. It is believed that when we deny ourselves with physical sustenance, we emulate the angels who do not eat or drink.  All Jews are required to fast with the exemption of those who would present a high risk - pregnant women, old and sickly, and children below 9 years old.
  2. Refrain from engaging in marital relations during Yom Kippur. Couples are refrained from having sexual intercourse. Harhakot restrictions that are practiced when the wife is a Nidda must be observed during Yom Kippur. Couples are also prohibited from touching and engaging in intimate conversations.
  3. Do not wear shoes made of leather on Yom Kippur. In Biblical times, wearing leather sandals were prohibited in holy places. In addition, leather shoes were deemed a luxury in ancient times. Yom Kippur is a day of repentance and humility. People are therefore expected to let go of all luxuries.
  4. Refrain from washing or bathing on the day of Yom Kippur. Cleansing provides comfort to one’s self , the reason why it is prohibited. Yom Kippur stresses the importance of spiritual purity. A mikvah (ritual bath) should be done a day before Yom Kippur.
  5. Refrain from wearing perfume, makeup and jewelries during Yom Kippur. As with the other prohibitions, spiritual cleansing is given importance rather than earthly needs.

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