Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. This is the time of year when most Jews show up for services, or at least more than usual.
In big cities, you sometimes even need tickets. The places get so crowded.To prepare, during the days before the holiday, people make amends, and ask forgiveness from their family and friends And then the day arrives.
We learn On this day you are to “afflict your soul…and Yom Kippur makes atonement for you and all Jewish people.”
So how do you afflict your soul?
Famously, by fasting from food and drink. There are other prohibitions, too – no bathing, perfume, sex or wearing leather.
That’s a lot of stuff you can’t do.Fasting and praying, though, are not enough as Yom Kippur demands that Jews also commit to changing their behavior.
As it says in the haftarah reading from the prophet Isaiah “An empty fast is not sufficient.
This is the fast I desire To share your bread with the hungry, to take care of the poor,to clothe the naked and to not ignore our fellows.”
Traditionally, you spend the entire evening and next day at prayer services. There’s many ways that people actually do this holiday – some people create their own rituals, taking a contemplative walk, or fasting at home.
Yom Kippur begins with a service just before sunset called Kol Nidre.
You’ll notice it’s the one time a year people wear a prayer shawl, or tallit, at night, and many are dressed in white.
Kol Nidre is a public apology in advance for failing to meet our own vows and admitting we’re not perfect.
The chanting of this stirring melody, is the beginning of a marathon that ends 25 hours.
Yizkor prayers are also said on the occasion of Yom Kippur.
The Evening, morning and afternoon services that follow each contain special passages. Importantly, people chant confessions, called vidui, silently, as well as out loud.
Readers chant from Leviticus about the scapegoat ceremony that atoned for people’s misdeeds, as well as the Book of Jonah, about the prophet who ran away from God and eventually changed his ways.
‘God has given us the choice between life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life!’ – Rabbi Debra Orenstein
‘Think of Yom Kippur as a lookout on the top of a mountain that you have been climbing all year. See your days and their moments spread out before you. Be willing to look now at this big picture of your life. Your ultimate goals. Your beliefs. See each person in your life as part of that picture. What lesson have they taught you even if you had to learn it through pain? What message is God sending you by putting this person in your life?’ – Sara Debbie Gutfreund
‘Every Yom Kippur, Jewish tradition requires a strict spiritual inventory. You aren’t supposed to just sit around feeling guilty, but to take action in the real world to set things right’ – Naomi Wolf