What is Yom Kippur, when is it, how is it observed?

Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, began Sunday at sunset.

What is the holiday about and how is it observed? Here’s a look at the celebration and the traditions.

What is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur is the “Day of Atonement” in the Jewish religion. The day is set aside to “afflict the soul," to atone for the sins over the past year.

The purpose of Yom Kippur is to atone with God for sins committed against Him, according to Judaism 101.

When is it this year?

Yom Kippur is celebrated on the 10th day of Tishrei a month in the Hebrew calendar. In 2020, that means Sunday, Sept. 27. It lasts until nightfall on the next day.

How is it observed?

For the 25 hours, Jews “afflict” their souls as a sign of atonement. Among the things done are:

  • Fasting for the entire time
  • Abstaining from washing
  • Abstaining from apply things to the skin such as lotions
  • No wearing of leather footwear
  • Abstaining from marital relations
  • No work is to be done

What is done on the day?

The day is spent mostly in prayer in the synagogue, and it is customary to wear white on the holiday.

In Orthodox synagogues, services generally last from 8 or 9 a.m. until around 3 p.m.

There is a break in services in the afternoon, where many go home to rest, then the evening service begins around 5 or 6 p.m. Those services last until after nightfall.

The services end with the blowing of the tekiah gedolah, a long blast on the shofar or ram’s horn trumpet.

During the day, there are five prayer services held.

What happens after the services?

After the last service ends and the shofar is sounded, the celebrants proclaim, “Next year in Jerusalem.” An after-fast meal is then eaten.

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