Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most sacred of the Jewish holidays. On Rosh Hashanna G-d has judged mankind and has recorded His judgment in the Book of Life. But G-d has given a 10 day reprieve – the 10 days from Rosh Hashanna until Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur the book of life is closed and sealed. Those who have repented for their sins are granted a good and happy New Year.
Preparation For Yom Kippur:
On Erev Yom Kippur we prepare ourselves for the awe-filled day ahead of us.
The following are some preparations:
During the last hours of the night, the day before Yom Kippur, Kaparot- a formula of atonement– are made using chicken or money.
If possible, we should eat twice the amount of food we normally would eat on one day.
Hattarat Nedarim is made.
Forgiveness is asked of one’s parents, teacher, spouse and acquaintance.
The wearing of white clothes is prescribed for Yom Kippur. We are filled with and confidence that, through G-d’s abundant mercy, our repentance will be accepted and we will come out of this day clean and pure like angels.
We honor the festival with festive clothing a Shabbat atmosphere in the house. The candles are lit with the blessings.
These blessings respectively usher in the festival, and express our gratitude to G-d for our living to enjoy this auspicious occasion.
Many also light Yahrzeit candles for the departed, for “the soul of man is the candle of G-d.”
What do we do on Yom Kippur?:
The entire day should be spent in prayer and repentance. The prayers that one utters should be said with understanding and recited in a tearful voice.
Yom Kippur is a day of “NOT” doing. There is no blowing of the shofar. In addition to not doing any type of work (melacha) prohibited on Shabbat, there are five more prohibitions:
1. Eating and drinking
2. Anointing with perfumes or lotions
3. Martial relationship
5. Wearing leather shoes
Why all these prohibitions?:
The idea behind all these prohibitions is to remove all physical distractions including the eating of food and all the pursuits that keep us busy every day, and, in this way, to enable us to devote the entire day and all our thoughts to moving closer to G-d and asking Him to forgive us.
The concept of “You shall afflict your soul…” mentioned in the Torah, has been interpreted as spiritual suffering. The five prohibitions fall within this domain.
It is believed that to fast on Yom Kippur is to emulate the agels in heaven, who do not eat, drink, or wash.
Yom Kippur Comes To An End:
As Yom Kippur ends, the last hour of service called “Ne’ila,” offers a final opportunity for repentance. The service closes with the verse, said seven times, “The Lord is our G-d.” The shofar is sounded once and the congregation proclaims –“Next year in Jerusalem.”