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What is Yom Kippur?

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Categories: Judaica, ModernTribe, Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur 2016 (5777) begins in the evening of Tuesday, October 11 and ends in the evening of Wednesday, October 12.

Yom Kippur 2017 (5778) begins in the evening of Friday, September 29 and ends in the evening of Saturday, September 30.

Yom Kippur 2018 (5779) begins in the evening of Tuesday, September 18 and ends in the evening of Wednesday, September 19.

Yom Kippur or the "Day of Atonement" is the most holy of all the Jewish holidays. It's a day of fasting, prayer and repentance. Along with the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur is part of the High Holidays, Similar to secular New Year's where we make resolutions for the coming year, on Yom Kippur we acknowledge our past sins, ask for forgiveness and make plans to improve ourselves. 

What are Yom Kippur customs?


On Yom Kippur, like Shabbat, we refrain from working. To concentrate on repenting, we fast (that's no eating or drinking) for 25 hours (from sunset to sunset). Those who are under bar/bat mitzvah age, sick or pregnant are excused. We also refrain from bathing, wearing leather shoes, anointing the body with oil, and sexual intercourse during Yom Kippur. The meal before fasting is a little heartier to prepare us for a day of fasting, and not too salty or spicy. Remember, you can't have water while fasting either! No wonder we often say "Have an easy fast."

After a day of fasting, it's finally time to break the fast. Bring on the carbs. Bagels and lox, noodle kugel, quiche, and blintzes.

While bagels and all the trimmings are customary to nosh on, you can't go wrong with some bagels and lox accessories either!

The Book of Life

Jews believe that on Yom Kippur it is determined who will be sealed in the Book of Life and live another year. It is customary to say "May you be sealed in the book of life."

Blowing the Shofar

Yom Kippur ends with one long shofar (aka an instrument made from a ram horn) blow. 

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