|Observed by||Jews, Samaritans, some Christian groups|
|Significance||Atonement for personal and national sins, fate of each person is sealed for the upcoming year|
|Observances||Fasting, prayer, abstaining from physical pleasures, refraining from work|
|Date||10th day of Tishrei|
|2017 date||sunset, September 29 –
nightfall, September 30
|2018 date||sunset, September 18 –
nightfall, September 19
|2019 date||sunset, October 8 –
nightfall, October 9
|2020 date||sunset, September 27 –
nightfall, September 28
|Related to||Rosh Hashanah, which precedes Yom Kippur|
|Part of a series on|
Yom Kippur (/, , , /; Hebrew: יוֹם כִּיפּוּר, IPA: [ˈjom kiˈpuʁ], or יום הכיפורים), also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.
Yom means "day" in Hebrew and Kippur comes from a root that means "to atone", which is related to the biblical name of the covering of the Ark (called the kapporet). Yom Kippur is usually expressed in English as "Day of Atonement".
Yom Kippur is "the tenth day of [the] seventh month" (Tishrei) and is regarded as the "Sabbath of Sabbaths". Rosh Hashanah (referred to in the Torah as Yom Teruah) is the first day of that month according to the Hebrew calendar. On this day forgiveness of sins is also asked of God.
According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God (bein adam leMakom) and against other human beings (bein adam lechavero). The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt (Vidui). At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.
The Yom Kippur prayer service includes several unique aspects. One is the actual number of prayer services. Unlike a regular day, which has three prayer services (Ma'ariv, the evening prayer; Shacharit, the morning prayer; and Mincha, the afternoon prayer), or a Shabbat or Yom Tov, which have four prayer services (Ma'ariv; Shacharit; Mussaf, the additional prayer; and Mincha), Yom Kippur has five prayer services (Ma'ariv; Shacharit; Musaf; Mincha; and Ne'ilah, the closing prayer). The prayer services also include private and public confessions of sins (Vidui) and a unique prayer dedicated to the special Yom Kippur avodah (service) of the Kohen Gadol (high priest) in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
As one of the most culturally significant Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur is observed by many secular Jews who may not observe other holidays. Many secular Jews attend synagogue on Yom Kippur—for many secular Jews the High Holy Days are the only times of the year during which they attend synagogue—causing synagogue attendance to soar.
Erev Yom Kippur (lit. "eve [of] day [of] atonement") is the day preceding Yom Kippur, corresponding to the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. This day is commemorated with additional morning prayers, asking others for forgiveness, giving charity, performing the kapparot ritual, an extended afternoon prayer service, and two festive meals.
Leviticus 16:29 mandates establishment of this holy day on the 10th day of the 7th month as the day of atonement for sins. It calls it the Sabbath of Sabbaths and a day upon which one must afflict one's soul.
Leviticus 23:27 decrees that Yom Kippur is a strict day of rest.
The number five is a set number, relating to:
The traditions are as follows:
A parallel has been drawn between these activities and the human condition according to the Biblical account of the expulsion from the garden of Eden. Refraining from these symbolically represents a return to a pristine state, which is the theme of the day. By refraining from these activities, the body is uncomfortable but can still survive. The soul is considered to be the life force in a body. Therefore, by making one’s body uncomfortable, one’s soul is uncomfortable. By feeling pain one can feel how others feel when they are in pain. This is the purpose of the prohibitions.
Total abstention from food and drink as well as keeping the other traditions begins at sundown, and ends after nightfall the following day. One should add a few minutes to the beginning and end of the day, called tosefet Yom Kippur, lit. "addition to Yom Kippur". Although the fast is required of all healthy men over 13 or women over 12, it is waived in the case of certain medical conditions.
Virtually all Jewish holidays involve meals, but since Yom Kippur involves fasting, Jewish law requires one to eat a large and festive meal on the afternoon before Yom Kippur, after the Mincha (afternoon) prayer.
In order to apologize to God, one must:
Before sunset on Yom Kippur eve, worshipers gather in the synagogue. The Ark is opened and two people take from it two Sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls). Then they take their places, one on each side of the Hazzan, and the three recite (in Hebrew):
In the tribunal of Heaven and the tribunal of earth, we hold it lawful to pray with transgressors.
All personal vows we are likely to make, all personal oaths and pledges we are likely to take between this Yom Kippur and the next Yom Kippur, we publicly renounce. Let them all be relinquished and abandoned, null and void, neither firm nor established. Let our personal vows, pledges and oaths be considered neither vows nor pledges nor oaths.
The leader and the congregation then say together three times "May all the people of Israel be forgiven, including all the strangers who live in their midst, for all the people are in fault." The Torah scrolls are then placed back into the Ark, and the Yom Kippur evening service begins.
Some married Ashkenazi Orthodox men wear a kittel, a white robe-like garment for evening prayers on Yom Kippur, otherwise used by males on their wedding day. They also wear a tallit (prayer shawl), which is typically worn only during morning services.
Prayer services begin with the Kol Nidrei prayer, which is recited before sunset. Kol Nidre is a prayer that dates back to 9th century Palestine. It is recited in a dramatic manner, before the open ark, using a melody that dates back to the 16th century. Then the service continues with the evening prayers (Ma'ariv or Arvit) and an extended Selichot service.
The morning prayer service is preceded by litanies and petitions of forgiveness called selichot; on Yom Kippur, many selichot are woven into the liturgy of the mahzor (prayer book). The morning prayers are followed by an added prayer (Mussaf) as on all other holidays. This is followed by Mincha (the afternoon prayer) which includes a reading (Haftarah) of the entire Book of Jonah, which has as its theme the story of God's willingness to forgive those who repent.
The service concludes with the Ne'ila ("closing") prayer, which begins shortly before sunset, when the "gates of prayer" will be closed. Yom Kippur comes to an end with a recitation of Shema Yisrael and the blowing of the shofar, which marks the conclusion of the fast.
|Repentance in Judaism Teshuva
|Repentance, atonement and
higher ascent in Judaism
|In the Hebrew Bible|
|Altars · Korban
Temple in Jerusalem
Prophecy within the Temple
|Confession · Atonement
Love of God · Awe of God
Meditation · Services
Tzedakah · Mitzvot
|In the Jewish calendar|
|Month of Elul · Selichot
Shofar · Tashlikh
Ten Days of Repentance
Kapparot · Mikveh
Sukkot · Simchat Torah
Ta'anit · Tisha B'Av
Passover · The Omer
|In contemporary Judaism|
|Baal Teshuva movement
Jewish Renewal · Musar movement
The Talmud states, "Yom Kippur atones for those who repent and does not atone for those who do not repent". Repentance in Judaism is done through a process called Teshuva, which in its most basic form consists of regretting having committed the sin, resolving not to commit that sin in the future and to confess that sin before God. Confession in Judaism is called Vidui (Hebrew וידוי). There is also a commandment to repent on Yom Kippur. Accordingly, Yom Kippur is unique for the confessional, or Vidui, that is part of the prayer services. In keeping with the requirement to repent on Yom Kippur, Jews recite the full Vidui a total of 9 times: once during Mincha on Yom Kippur eve, and on Yom Kippur itself during Ma'ariv (2 times), Shacharit (2 times), Musaf (2 times), and Mincha (2 times); at Ne’eilah, only the short confessional is said. The first time in each service takes place during the personal recitation of the Amidah (standing, silent prayer), and the second time during the cantor's repetition of the Amidah (except during the preceding Mincha), in a public recitation.
The Yom Kippur confessional consists of two parts: a short confession beginning with the word Ashamnu (אשמנו, "we have sinned"), which is a series of words describing sin arranged according to the aleph-bet, and a long confession, beginning with the words Al Cheyt (על חטא, "for the sin"), which is a set of 22 double acrostics, also arranged according to the aleph-bet, enumerating a range of sins. It is notable that during the public recitation of Ashamnu together with the cantor, the entire congregation sings these words to a tune, representing the joy of being cleansed from one's sins.
A recitation of the sacrificial service of the Temple in Jerusalem traditionally features prominently in both the liturgy and the religious thought of the holiday. Specifically, the Avodah ("service") in the Musaf prayer recounts in great detail the sacrificial ceremonies of the Yom Kippur Korbanot (sacrificial offerings) that are recited in the prayers but have not been performed for 2,000 years, since the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans.
This traditional prominence is rooted in the Babylonian Talmud’s description of how to attain atonement following the destruction of the Temple. According to Talmud tractate Yoma, in the absence of a Temple, Jews are obligated to study the High Priest’s ritual on Yom Kippur, and this study helps achieve atonement for those who are unable to benefit from its actual performance. In Orthodox Judaism, accordingly, studying the Temple ritual on Yom Kippur represents a positive rabbinically ordained obligation which Jews seeking atonement are required to fulfill.
In Orthodox synagogues and many Conservative ones a detailed description of the Temple ritual is recited on the day. In most Orthodox and some Conservative synagogues, the entire congregation prostrates themselves at each point in the recitation where the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) would pronounce the Tetragrammaton (God’s holiest name, according to Judaism).
The main section of the Avodah is a threefold recitation of the High Priest’s actions regarding expiation in the Holy of Holies. Performing the sacrificial acts and reciting Leviticus 16:30, ("Your upright children"). (These three times, plus in some congregations the Aleinu prayer during the Musaf Amidah on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, are the only times in Jewish services when Jews engage in prostration, with the exception of some Yemenite Jews and talmedhei haRambam (disciples of Maimonides) who may prostrate themselves on other occasions during the year). A variety of liturgical poems are added, including a poem recounting the radiance of the countenance of the Kohen Gadol after exiting the Holy of Holies, traditionally believed to emit palpable light in a manner echoing the Torah's account of the countenance of Moses after descending from Mount Sinai, as well as prayers for the speedy rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of sacrificial worship. There are a variety of other customs, such as hand gestures to mime the sprinkling of blood (one sprinkling upwards and seven downwards per set of eight).
Orthodox liturgies include prayers lamenting the inability to perform the Temple service and petitioning for its restoration, which Conservative synagogues generally omit. In some Conservative synagogues, only the Hazzan (cantor) engages in full prostration. Some Conservative synagogues abridge the recitation of the Avodah service to varying degrees, and some omit it entirely. Many Reform and Reconstructionist services omit the entire service as inconsistent with modern sensibilities.
Yom Kippur falls each year on the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, which is 9 days after the first day of Rosh Hashanah. In terms of the Gregorian calendar, the earliest date on which Yom Kippur can fall is September 14, as happened in 1899 and 2013. The latest Yom Kippur can occur relative to the Gregorian dates is on October 14, as happened in 1967 and will happen again in 2043. After 2089, the differences between the Hebrew calendar and the Gregorian calendar will result in Yom Kippur falling no earlier than September 15. Gregorian calendar dates for this year's and upcoming Yom Kippur holidays are:
Note: Yom Kippur begins at sundown on the preceding day and ends at nightfall on the listed day.
The Torah calls the day Yom HaKippurim (יוֹם הַכִּיפּוּרִים) and in it Leviticus 23:27 decrees a strict prohibition of work and affliction of the soul upon the tenth day of the seventh month, later known as Tishrei. The laws of Yom Kippur are mentioned in three passages in the Torah:
Traditionally, Yom Kippur is considered the date on which Moses received the second set of Ten Commandments. It occurred following the completion of the second 40 days of instructions from God. At this same time, the Israelites were granted atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf; hence, its designation as the Day of Atonement.
The following summary of the Temple service is based on the traditional Jewish religious account described in Mishnah tractate Yoma, appearing in contemporary traditional Jewish prayer books for Yom Kippur, and studied as part of a traditional Jewish Yom Kippur worship service.
While the Temple in Jerusalem was standing (from Biblical times through 70 C.E.), the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) was mandated by the Torah to perform a complex set of special services and sacrifices for Yom Kippur to attain Divine atonement, the word "kippur" meaning "atone" in Hebrew. These services were considered to be the most important parts of Yom Kippur because through them the Kohen Gadol made atonement for all Jews and the world. During the service, the Kohen Gadol entered the Holy of Holies in the center of the Temple, the only time of the year that anyone went inside. Doing so required special purification and preparation, including five immersions in a mikvah (ritual bath), and four changes of clothing.
Seven days prior to Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol was sequestered in the Palhedrin chamber in the Temple, where he reviewed (studied) the service with the sages familiar with the Temple, and was sprinkled with spring water containing ashes of the Red Heifer as purification. The Talmud (Tractate Yoma) also reports that he practiced the incense offering ritual in the Avitnas chamber.
On the day of Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol had to follow a precise order of services, sacrifices, and purifications:
The Kohen Gadol wore five sets of garments (three golden and two white linen), immersed in the mikvah five times, and washed his hands and feet ten times. Sacrifices included two (daily) lambs, one bull, two goats, and two rams, with accompanying mincha (meal) offerings, wine libations, and three incense offerings (the regular two daily and an additional one for Yom Kippur). The Kohen Gadol entered the Holy of Holies three times. The Tetragrammaton was pronounced three times, once for each confession.
Yom Kippur is a legal holiday in the modern state of Israel. There are no radio or television broadcasts, airports are shut down, there is no public transportation, and all shops and businesses are closed.
In 2013, 73% of the Jewish people of Israel said that they were intending to fast on Yom Kippur. It is very common in Israel to wish "Tsom Kal" ([an] easy fast) or "Tsom Mo'il" ([a] benefiting fast) to everyone before Yom Kippur, even if one does not know whether they will fast or not.
It is considered impolite to eat in public on Yom Kippur or to sound music or to drive a motor vehicle. There is no legal prohibition on any of these, but in practice such actions are universally avoided in Israel during Yom Kippur, except for emergency services.
Over the last few decades, bicycle-riding and inline skating on the empty streets have become common among secular Israeli youngsters, especially on the eve of Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv and Israel in general.
In 1973, an air raid siren was sounded on the afternoon of Yom Kippur and radio broadcasts were resumed to alert the public to the surprise attack on Israel by Egypt and Syria that launched the Yom Kippur War.
Some notable athletes have observed Yom Kippur, even when it conflicted with their playing their sport.
In baseball, Sandy Koufax, the Hall of Fame pitcher, decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. Koufax garnered national attention for his decision, as an example of the conflict between social pressures and personal beliefs.
Hall of Fame first baseman Hank Greenberg attracted national attention in 1934, nearly three decades earlier, when he refused to play baseball on Yom Kippur, even though the Tigers were in the middle of a pennant race, and he was leading the league in RBIs. The Detroit Free Press columnist and poet Edgar A. Guest wrote a poem titled "Speaking of Greenberg", which ended with the lines "We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat / But he's true to his religion—and I honor him for that." When Greenberg arrived in synagogue on Yom Kippur, the service stopped suddenly, and the congregation gave an embarrassed Greenberg a standing ovation.
Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green, similarly, made headlines in 2001 for sitting out a game for the first time in 415 games (then the longest streak among active players), to honor Yom Kippur, even though his team was in the middle of a playoff race. Other baseball players who have similarly sat out games on Yom Kippur include former Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis, former Houston Astros catcher and current Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, and outfielder Art Shamsky.
Gabe Carimi, the Consensus All-American left tackle in American football who won the 2010 Outland Trophy as the nation's top collegiate interior lineman faced a conflict in his freshman year of college in 2007. That year Yom Kippur fell on a Saturday, and he fasted until an hour before his football game against Iowa started that night. Carimi said, "Religion is a part of me, and I don't want to just say I'm Jewish. I actually do make sacrifices that I know are hard choices." In 2004, Matt Bernstein, standout fullback at University of Wisconsin–Madison, fasted on Yom Kippur, then broke his fast on the sidelines before rushing for 123 yards in a game against Penn State.
In 2011, golfer Laetitia Beck declined a request to join the UNC Tar-Heels Invitational competition, because it conflicted with Yom Kippur. Instead, she spent the day fasting and praying. She said: "My Judaism is very important to me, and ... on Yom Kippur, no matter what, I have to fast." Boris Gelfand, Israel's top chess player, played his game in the prestigious London Grand Prix Chess Tournament on 25 September 2012 (eve of Yom Kippur) earlier, to avoid playing on the holiday.
In 2013, the International Tennis Federation fined the Israel Tennis Association "more than $13,000 ... for the inconvenience" of having to reschedule a tennis match between the Israeli and Belgian teams that was originally scheduled on Yom Kippur. Dudi Sela, Israel's # 1 player, quit his quarterfinal match in the third set of the 2017 Shenzhen Open so he could begin observing Yom Kippur by the time the sun set, forfeiting a possible $34,000 in prize money and 90 rankings points.
Messianic Jews and some other sabbatarian churches also observe Yom Kippur as a holy day, from evening to evening. In the Christian observance, it is a time of prayer and fasting from all food and drink and a time of instruction through study and church attendance. It focuses on Christ's sacrifice and atonement for sins. It is seen as a time to give thanks and praise, to humble oneself and to seek repentance. It is also a time where Messianic Jews pray for Israel and Jews who have not yet proclaimed Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah that was promised in prophesies from the Old Testament.[relevant? ]
Starting 2016 the United Nations officially recognizes Yom Kippur, stating that from then on no official meetings would take place on the day. As well, the United Nations stated that, beginning in 2016, they would have nine official holidays and seven floating holidays which each employee would be able to choose one of. It stated that the floating holidays will be Yom Kippur, Day of Vesak, Diwali, Gurpurab, Orthodox Christmas, Orthodox Good Friday, and Presidents' Day. This was the first time the United Nations officially recognized any Jewish holiday.
According to textual scholars, the biblical regulations covering Yom Kippur are spliced together from multiple source texts, as indicated by evidence such as with the duplication of the confession over the bullock, and the incongruity in one verse stating that the high priest should not enter the Holy of Holies (with the inference that there are exceptions for certain explicitly identified festivals), and the next verse indicating that they can enter whenever they wish (as long as a specific ritual is carried out first). Although Rashi tried to find a harmonistic explanation for this incongruity, the Leviticus Rabbah maintains that it was indeed the case that the high priest could enter at any time if these rituals were carried out. Textual scholars argue that the ritual is composed from three sources, and a couple of redactional additions:
On the basis of their assumptions, these scholars believe that the original ceremony was simply the ritual purification of the sanctuary from any accidental ritual impurity, at the start of each new year, as seen in the Book of Ezekiel. Textual scholars date this original ceremony to before the priestly source, but after JE. According to the Book of Ezekiel, the sanctuary was to be cleansed by the sprinkling of bullock's blood, on the first day of the first and of the seventh months — near the start of the civil year and of the ecclesiastical year, respectively; although the masoretic text of the Book of Ezekiel has the second of these cleansings on the seventh of the first month, biblical scholars regard the Septuagint, which has the second cleaning as being the first of the seventh month, as being more accurate here. It appears that during the period that the Holiness Code and the Book of Ezekiel were written, the new year began on the tenth day of the seventh month, and thus liberal biblical scholars believe that by the time the Priestly Code was compiled, the date of the new year and of the day of atonement had swapped around.
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