The holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur is also known as the Day of Atonement. This is the day when you are cleansed and purified of your sins before God/the Divine. This year Yom Kippur celebrations take place all over the world between 11th and 12th of October.
Yom Kippur commemorates, and celebrates, the day when God forgave the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf. Forty days after hearing God proclaim at Mount Sinai, the Jewish people committed the cardinal sin of idolatry. Moses then spent almost three months pleading with God for forgiveness, before it was finally granted.
This annual holy day, and major Jewish holiday, is now known as the Day of Atonement and is observed as a commemoration of the special relationship with God. This is a day when people connect with the true essence of their being, and further strengthen their bond and connection with the Divine.
Yom Kippur Preparations
Just before sunset on the Oct 11th fasting begins for a period of 26 hours, until nightfall on Oct 12th. Washing the body and the wearing of leather footwear is also avoided during this solemn period. On the eve of Yom Kippur, the primary mitzvah (deed) is to eat and drink in abundance, in preparation for the fasting that begins early the next day. Traditionally, two festive meals are eaten on the eve. One pre-fast meal is eaten earlier in the day, and the second is consumed just prior to the onset of Yom Kippur.
The Kaparot atonement service is performed, and requests for honey cake are granted in acknowledgement that we are all recipients in God’s world. Children are blessed, with the lighting of a special memorial candle. This is also the time to ask for forgiveness from anyone whom we may have wronged during the past year. Before sunset, the girls and women in the home light the special holiday candles, and everyone then makes their way to the synagogue for the Kol Nidrei service.
The Day Of Atonement
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, and the day on which the Jewish people reflect on past events, and ask forgiveness for the sins of the previous year. Although Yom Kippur is a solemn time of the year, there is an undertone of joy that is expressed through the acceptance of repentance, forgiveness and New Year health and happiness to come. During the course of Yom Kippur five prayer services are held. Prayers are recited to strengthen the spiritual connection to the soul and the Divine. The Neilah service, and ‘locking’ prayer, ends the day. This is when the gates of Heaven close around everyone inside.
After the closing service joy erupts in song and dance, and this culminates in a blast of the shofar (ram’s horn). An after fast meal marks the festive end of the traditional Yom Kippur celebrations.
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