Yom Kippur

Day of Atonement
  • Major Holidays
Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur

יום כיפור

Yome Ki-POOR

“The Day of Atonement”

What is Yom Kippur

During the ten days from Rosh HaShana to Yom Kippur, there is a special focus on repenting and self-improvement in both relationships between man and G-d and relationships between man and man. Yom Kippur is marked with a 25-hour period of fasting. Most of the day is spent praying in the synagogue.

On the holiest day of the year, in 1973, Israel’s Arab neighbors invaded the Jewish State, but G-d protected His people in a miraculous victory known as the Yom Kippur War. In our generation, non-Jews are embracing the Day of Atonement and there are at least 15 reasons why Christians fast on Yom Kippur.

When is Yom Kippur

Tishrei 10



Source and Origin of Yom Kippur

Alternate Names for Yom Kippur

  • Yom HaKippurim – “The Day of Atonements”
  • Shabbat Shabbaton – “The Sabbath of Sabbaths”

Commandments (Mitzvot) of Yom Kippur

  • No eating or drinking – from sundown on the eve of Yom Kippur until the stars come out the next night
  • No bathing – this includes washing hands, which may be washed with soap if they are dirty but should only be washed up to the knuckles.
  • No wearing leather shoes – this was a sign of material possessions, which is not at all the focus of the day
  • No marital relations – this takes away from the focus of the day- spiritual, and not physical, matters.
  • No anointing oneself (with perfumes, oils, creams, lotions, etc) – also a sign of superficial pleasures, which is not the focus of the day
  • Resting from work – like any other biblical Jewish holiday, work is forbidden.
  • Atoning for sins/asking G-d for forgiveness – the main point of the day, to wipe the slate clean and ensure that one is sealed in the Book of Life for a good year. For matters between people (e.g. hurting another person), one must ask forgiveness from their fellow first and then ask forgiveness from G-d for the sin.

Customs of Yom Kippur

  • Wearing white – the Jewish people are considered like angels on Yom Kippur. Dressing like angels by wearing white, the purest of colors, emphasizes this.
  • Spending most of the day in the synagogue – there are five sets of prayers on the day of Yom Kippur, as opposed to the usual four of a holiday. There is also an additional prayer on Yom Kippur eve, known as Kol Nidrei. All of these prayers ensure that one spends a significant amount of time in the synagogue, repenting, as opposed to engaging in frivolous acts that are not fit for such an important and holy day.
  • Giving charity beforehand – this is said to help atone for sins
  • Kaparot – although this ritual is traditionally done with a chicken, nowadays most people use money instead. The ritual involves picking up either the chicken or the money and waving it in a circle above one’s head while reciting a passage from the prayer book three times. The intention is to move all of one’s sins from oneself to either the chicken or the money and to make them a replacement so that one can continue to live a good life free of sin.

Related Articles


Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email