Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Here’s what it means


Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, is considered the holiest day of the year for people practicing Judaism.

Technically, the holiday spans two calendar days, as the Jewish calendar is lunar. Days are marked from sunset to sunset. This year, it begins at sunset on September 24 and continues until the evening of September 25.

Yom Kippur concludes a 10-day period known as the “Days of Awe” that begins with the Jewish New Year, called Rosh Hashanah.

Jews around the world must face their misdeeds and sins throughout the year through worship and prayer so that they can atone for their misdeeds. With fear and wonder at God’s judgment, the Jews seek forgiveness. In doing so, people are called to reflect on their failures and shortcomings.

However you spend your day, now is the time to atone in your own way, whether in a synagogue or at home. Synagogues hold religious services throughout the day for observant Jews to come and pray introspectively, either asking forgiveness or expressing regret for sins committed over the past year. Once you have atoned, you begin the Jewish new year with a “clean slate,” absolved of past transgressions.

According to tradition and history, the origins of Yom Kippur date back to Moses freeing the ancient Israelites from slavery, as described in the book of Exodus. He led them to Mount Sinai, where Moses himself climbed the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments from God. Returning with the tablets, he discovered that his people were worshiping a false idol, a golden calf. Moses destroyed the tablets in anger, but the people atoned for their sin, so God forgave them.

Most observant Jews also fast from sundown to sundown during this holiday, abstaining from food and water. The more observant members go beyond fasting and also abstain from bathing, wearing leather shoes, indulging in perfumes or lotions, and entering into marital relations. Abstinence from earthly and material activities – whatever the degree practiced – symbolizes a purification of the spirit so that the commitment to repentance is true and pure.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Children (usually under the age of 13) are not required to fast. The sick and elderly are also exempt. Pregnant and breastfeeding women can also skip the fast if they wish, citing legitimate medical reasons. This is not the time for real punishment, but rather the time for uninterrupted reflection.

After a day of repentance and reflection, it is customary to have a meal to “break the fast.”

A tray of bagels and lox.

Families, worshipers and friends gather to eat together at sunset, which marks the end of the holiday.

In North America, typical break fast food comes from Jewish charcuterie: bagels, lox, schmears and all the toppings. And don’t forget coffee cake or Jewish apple cake for dessert.

If you are not Jewish and want to send best wishes to people celebrating Yom Kippur, the typical greeting is: “Keep a gentle fast.” Or you can say, “Have a good fast. »


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