Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement

To many Jewish people, Yom Kippur is the most important Jewish holiday. It occurs at the end of Aseret Yemei Teshuva, the ten days after Rosh Hashanah, and is known as a day of atonement. As a matter of fact, the name literally means “Day of Atonement” in Hebrew. As with Rosh Hashanah and Aseret Yemei Teshuva, Yom Kippur is a holiday of repentance. Unlike these two other holidays, however, this holiday is special in that the repentance is between people and G-d. In other words, it is a holiday for the soul. In this article, you will learn about how Jews celebrate this special holiday and what it means to followers of the faith.

Many Jews who do not regularly practice or observe other Jewish holidays do observe Yom Kippur. It is common for Jewish people to not work on this day. Instead, this holiday is for attending synagogue. It is a holiday for introspection. Prior to this day of atonement, Jews prepare during the Ten Days of Awe, or Aseret Yemei Teshuva, when people repent for the wrong doings they committed against others. Yom Kippur is seen as a time to for final repentance to G-d. It is a last chance to finalize what G-d has written in the book that holds the secrets to people’s lives, such as if they shall live good or bad lives, and if they shall live or die.

It is common for many Jews to fast on Yom Kippur. This means that one cannot eat or drink for twenty-five hours, until the holiday is over. Health is a concern, however, and not all Jews are expected to fast. For example, small children and women who are about to go through childbirth are not allowed to fast, not even if they want to. Children who are slightly older are also permitted not to fast. Women have recently given birth are also not expected to fast, though they may if they want to. Any person who is considering fasting but suffers from health issues sees a rabbi to get advice.

Many Orthodox Jews will spend most of Yom Kippur in a synagogue. Services begin first thing in the morning and continue well into the afternoon. It is common for followers to go home for a nap in the early evening then return to the synagogue once they have rested. Another custom is to wear the color white on this holiday. The color white has a symbolic significance. It is a sign of repentance and of starting anew.

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