What is Yom Kippur?
- Why do we have Yom Kippur 10 days after the start of the new year? Surely we didn’t transgress so badly?
- What’s the history of Yom Kippur and when was the first one?
- How does the day work?
- What is the meaning behind the Kol Nidrei service?
- What is Neilah?
- What can’t I do on Yom Kippur?
Why Is Yom Kippur 10 Days after Rosh Hashanah?
Yom Kippur falls on the 10 the day of the month of Tishrei. This is exactly 365 days since the start of the previous year. The Hebrew calendar runs on the sighting of the moon making a lunar year 354 days long. The solar year is 365 days. The Jewish calendar is a combination of the two calendars since there is an eleven day gap each year the year will drift back by 11 days relative to the solar year.
To balance the calendar and to allow for the festivals of Pesach Shavuot and Sukkot to fall within the parameters of the agricultural year a leap year is added 7 times in 19 years. As such Rosh Hashana is the start of the new lunar year and Yom Kippur is the last day of the previous solar year. Which therefore makes sense that on the last day of the year we should ask forgiveness for the sins of the past year re 365 days not 11.
Such Yom Kippur is an atonement not of the current year but of the past solar year of 365 days!
Yom Kippur The History
When Does The Fast Of Yom Kippur Begin and What Do I Need To Do?
The fast begins at sunset. Along with no eating and drinking for the next 25 hours, we light candles and say the following prayer. We don’t wear leather shoes and it’s traditional to wear white clothing.
What Happens During The Yom Kippur Service?
We begin with a moving ceremony called Kol Nidrei. Two Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and paraded around the synagogue. The community asks for Forgiveness for the sins that we transgressed over the past year. The Torah’s then stand next to the chazzan who leads the community in the declaration called Kol Nidrei.
All vows and promises that we made this year, may they be annulled and cancelled. This declaration is made three times. To highlight its importance. The day is spent in prayer.
Each of the services adds another dimension to the day. The evening service contains many selichot penetitial prayers as we invoke the 13 attributes of mercy revealed of Moses in the aftermath of the Golden calf.
During the day more selichot are recited. The highlight of the day is the chazzans repetition of the mussaf service. In addition to the normal prayers we reenact the drama of how the high priest the Kohen HaGadol would perform the Yom Kippur service.
At mincha we read the story of Jonah with its themes of repentance. The final prayer service is called Neilah. At the moment of the closing of the heavenly gates we come again before Hashem to ask for forgiveness. The atmosphere changes to a desperate plea for repentance. The day ends with the sounding of the Shofar. The day is over and we wish each other a shana tova.
What Am I Not Allowed To Do On Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur is known as the Shabbat of all Shabbatot. It is the Holiest Day in the Jewish Calendar. Even if Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat then we still fast. Ususally if a fast falls on shabbat it is pushed over to Sunday. Not Yom Kippur. It takes precedence over everything.
There are 5 prohibitions on Yom Kippur:
- No eating and drinking
- We don’t wear leather shoes
- No anointing perfumes
- No washing
- No sexual relations.
The reason is that we wish to atone for the sins of the year by afflicting our bodies through withdrawals.
Wishing you all an easy and meaningful fast. A gmar chatima tova.