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Yom Kippur History: History of the Day of Atonement

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Yom Kippur 5771– The Day of Atonement – Begins at Sundown, Friday September 17, 2010.

As Yom Kippur is a Fast Day, it is traditional to wish those observing… “An Easy Fast.”

It is traditional to prepare a festive meal before the Yom Kippur fast?

The fast lasts from sundown Friday, September 17, 2010 — (which is known as Erev Yom Kippur) until sunset Saturday, Septmeber 18, 2010— which is about 25 hours. Candles are lit before leaving for temple services.

On this day G_d seals our fate for the coming year. (On Rosh Hashanah our fate is written in the Book of Life, and on Yom Kippur our fate is sealed!) We spend Yom Kippur in prayer, asking G_d to forgive us for our misdeeds and give us a good year.

 As part of the Yom Kippur service — the eve of Yom Kippur — we honor our departed loved ones by lighting a memorial candle (Yahrzeit light). A memorial service is conducted the day of Yom Kippur which is called Yizkor. Each departed sole is memorialized with a different prayer, filling in the departed person’s name in Hebrew. As part of the service, the person donates to a charity in memory of their departed loved ones — which is sent in after the holiday is over.

Yom Kippur, is also known as the Day of Atonement. It is the holiest day of the Jewish faith. While the holiday is considered solemn, it is a happy day because we receive G_d’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of others — Friendship and love is more powerful than the wrongs that were done. When we receive the forgiveness of G_d, it is a sign of His eternal, unconditional love.

Forbidden Practices

On Yom Kippur, we not only fast but are prohibited from:

  • Working ~ No work is conducted on this day — just as none is on the Sabbath.
  • No eating or drinking.
  • No lotions or perfumes.
  • No marital relations.
  • No washing for pleasure.
  • No leather shoes.

 The Kol Nidre is the most important prayer of the Yom Kippur evening service. The prayer is chanted three times so that even people who are late arriving may be able to hear it. The first time, the Hazzan chants Kol Nidrei, it is chanted very softly, the second time it is chanted a little bit louder, and the third and final time he raises his voice louder and louder. Kol Nidre is chanted before sunset because dispensation from a vow may not be granted on the Sabbath or on a festival. Kol Nidre absolves us of any vows we make in the coming year.

Musaf is the afternoon service which lasts most of the afternoon. During Musaf the Amidah is recited in silence while standing facing east. Parts of this service are song to melodies that go back far into our history. During this service we recall the story of the Ten Martyrs who were killed by the Romans for studying the Torah. We also remember all the Martyrs everywhere who gave their lives so that our religion may continue.

As our judgment is being sealed, and the holiday of Yom Kippur is coming to a close, the final prayer of Neilah is chanted. Neilah, which means, The Closing of the Gates of Heaven. symbolizes that the future of each person will be sealed for the coming year and the Gates of Heaven will be closed. While we were closer to G_d during the Ten Days of Penitence, G_d will remain close to us throughout the coming year — at all times, and in all places. During Neilah, the doors of the Ark remain opened and the congregation must remain standing.

Throughout the Neilah service we pray to G_d to seal us in the Book of Life. From the start of Rosh Hashanah, we asked G_d to inscribe us in the Book of Life. As the Day of Judgment draws to a close, we pray to G_d to seal us in the Book of Life. As the light of day diminishes and this sacred day is coming to a close a great spiritual feeling overtakes the entire congregation. Neilah concludes with the recital of the Eternal Shema Yisroel. At this moment the single, long blast of the Shofar is sounded. Yom Kippur concludes with the words Next Year in Jerusalem — The fast is over with the sounding of the Shofar!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and that it was enlightening.

Yom Kippur eCards

Say It With eCards offers a good-sized collection of tastefully designed Yom Kippur eCards as well as Easy Fast eCards and G’Mar Chastima Tova eCards.  You can find them all by visiting the Say It With eCards website at:


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As we are still celebrating the Jewish New Year 5771 ~ May You and Yours Be Written and Sealed For a Good Sweet Year ~G’Mar Chasima Tova!

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