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10 Facts About Yom Kippur

Serving as one of the holiest days of the year for religious Jews, Yom Kippur takes place during an annual period in Judaism known as the High Holy Days. Concentrating on atonement and repentance, the holiday traditionally involves a 25-hour period of fasting accompanied by intense prayer. In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of Yom Kippur with a collection of facts.

Background on Yom Kippur

Celebrated on the 10th day of Tishri , Yom Kippur (which translates into “Day of Atonement”) is considered one of the most significant of Jewish holidays , so much so that nonobservant Jews are usually moved to attend synagogue, refrain from work, or participate in a fast. In Leviticus 23, the meaning of atonement is mentioned as follows:

“And HaShem spoke unto Moses, saying: “Howbeit on the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; there shall be a holy convocation unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; and ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto HaShem. And ye shall do no manner of work in that same day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before HaShem”¦”  

What does Yom Kippur mean to those of the Jewish faith? Many believe that the holiday represents the last opportunity to sway God’s judgment of deeds done in the previous year and his decisions regarding the fate of followers in the coming year. Supposedly, the ‘books’ that God is to record his judgments on Rosh Hashanah become sealed at the end of Yom Kippur, which is why such intense reflection, repentance, fasting, and worship takes place when observing the holiday.

Facts About Yom Kippur

1.    The Bible refers to Yom Kippur as “Shabbat Shabbaton” which translates into “Sabbath of Sabbaths” because it is during the holidays that people are absent from work.

2.    It is believed that the eve of Yom Kippur is thought one of the best times to seek and grant forgiveness form God. While sins committed against God are quickly forgiven, those committed against another individual should involve seeking forgiveness from that person and attempting to set things straight. One teaching states, “Yom Kippur does not atone until one appeases his neighbors.”

3.    Besides staying out of work, observers of Yom Kippur cannot eat food, drink (including water), and engage in sexual intercourse. In Orthodox Jewish circles, strict adherence to Talmudic regulations include not wearing leather shoes, not washing, and not “anointing oneself” , such as wearing deodorant, lotions, colognes or perfumes.  

4.    The majority of time spent observing Yom Kippur takes place in a synagogue with special services taking place from morning until the evening.

For more information on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, read the second part of this article, which presents facts centered on wearing white, synagogue services, past traditions, and an explanation of the Days of Awe.