Email Email   


Literally, Day of Atonement. Regarded as the holiest day in the year and known as “the Sabbath of Sabbaths,” Shabbat Shabbaton. A day of appeal for the forgiveness of sins, it is marked by fasting from sundown of the ninth to sunset of the tenth of Tishri. Because the rituals of repentance can absolve one only of sins committed against God and His law, the eve of the holiday is the appropriate time for asking the forgiveness of those whom one has offended. It is also customary among traditional Jews to offer kapparot, or atonement, on the eve of the fast. In the past, this was a colorful ceremony in which a live rooster or hen was swung around the head of each member of the family to recall the ancient sin-offerings. Today, a special money gift to charity is more common. During the ceremony, the head of the house recites the words, “This is my atonement, this is my forgiveness.”

The Yom Kippur service is the longest in the Jewish liturgy. It begins with the chanting of the mournful Kol Nidre just before sunset on the eve of the holiday. This prayer, composed before the 9th century C.E., asks for release from vows or promises made that cannot be kept. Prayers continue throughout the next day. Famous portions of the service include the Viddui, or confession of sins, and the Seder Avodah , or Order of Worship, attributed to the poet Yosi ben Yosi of Palestine, during the 4th or 5th century C.E. This long narrative describes the Yom Kippur service in the Temple. It reaches its climax with the entrance of the High Priest to the Holy of Holies to beg forgiveness for his own sins and those of the entire people. The Yom Kippur service concludes with the Neilah, or closing, so called because it refers to the closing of the gates of heaven at the end of the day. A single shofar blast and the words “Next year in Jerusalem!” terminate the fast.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email