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Yom Kippur

2022 Yom Kippur Programming  |  Online Yom Kippur Resources  |  2022 High Holiday Programming


What is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur is the Jewish religion's Day of Atonement (reparation for a wrong or injury). Jews traditionally ask for forgiveness for their wrongdoings over the past year, believing that on this day, God places a seal on the Book of Life, in which he has inscribed our names for the year to come. This one day of observation falls ten days after Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), beginning at sundown and ending at sundown the following day.

What are the customs and traditions followed on Yom Kippur?

Fasting: Jewish tradition is to fast during Yom Kippur. Since it begins at sunset and ends the following sunset, the fasting period is approximately 25 hours. The reason we fast is to separate ourselves from the earthly world, devoting our energy, focus, hearts and minds on our relationship with God. Refraining from eating is one way of divorcing ourselves from our earthly needs and wants; and a way of showing our devotion to God. Other ways people demonstrate their devotion is refraining from washing, sexual relations and indulging in luxuries (like wearing leather, a sign of luxury in earlier times). Traditionally, Jews begin practicing the fast upon their B'nai Mitzvah. Children under the age of nine are not permitted to fast, and those for whom fasting would be hazardous to their health, including pregnant women, are exempt. Sustaining health & life comes before all else in the Jewish religion, and fasting safely and responsibly is the goal (click here for tips).

Break-the-Fast: Break-the-fast is the informal meal that occurs after sundown at the end of Yom Kippur, during which those that have been fasting will break the fast. While this meal happens in the evening, like breakfast, the spread normally consists of breakfast items such as bagels, cream cheese, smoked fish and protein salads like egg salad and tuna salad. An easy meal to get catered by the local deli, so your hungry host doesn't have to do too much prep-work, smelling the delicious lox and fresh baked bagels while still fasting. 

Prayers & Services: Synagogues offer services for Yom Kippur on the evening Yom Kippur begins (Erev Yom Kippur) and the following day, beginning in the morning. The prayer book used during Yom Kippur is called a Machzor. It is a High Holy Day prayer book that covers Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur - while each holiday has its own distinct observance and function, their themes are intertwined and the holidays are recognized together under one High Holy Days umbrella.

  • Erev Yom Kippur services begin with the Kol Nidre (All Vows), a prayer chanted three times, asking that all of the vows and oaths we have taken throughout the year be forgiven, so we may begin the new year with a clean slate. 
  • The Viddui, or Yom Kippur confession, is also an important prayer said during this holy day. The Viddui includes the Ashamnu, an alphabetical listing of sins we, or our community, have committed (it is said in first person plural, as while each of us many not have individually committed a particular sin, as a community we take responsibility for those who may have done so). As worshippers list these transgressions, they gently beat their chest, demonstrating a symbolic punishment close to their heart, which ultimately led them to sins of greed, lust and anger.
  • Conservative congregations typically read a passage from Leviticus, in which Aaron must bring offerings to God as an act of Atonement for himself, his family and his entire community. (One offering is a goat...ever heard of a "scapegoat"? One that is made to bear the blame of others.) During the afternoon of Yom Kippur, it is customary to read the Book of Jonah, a book that reminds us of God's infinite mercy and shows us how we, like Jonah, can stand in the dark, unseeing and unable to solve the world's riddles, yet be comforted by our Creator and the understanding that we do not need immediate answers to every mystery to live fully and find peace.
  • Yom Kippur services end with the Ne'ilah, the closing of the gates. This service is our final act of affirmation of our faith in God, beginning with the Shema and ending with a long blast of the Shofar (the tekiah gedolah), which symbolizes the granting of our divine forgiveness and our inscription in the Book of Life. Most congregations complete the service with le-shanah ha-ba'ah be-Yerushalayim (next year in Jerusalem), the city symbolizing hope and freedom for the Jewish people throughout the ages. 

Common Greetings: As with many Jewish holidays, there are particular greetings that are common during Yom Kippur. Below are a few key phrases to help you as you greet your community.

  • "Gmar Hatimah Tovah" - Translated to "A good signing/sealing." The English version of this would be to say "May you be inscribed for a good year in the Book of Life." This greeting is the core of Yom Kippur's significance, as Jewish people are repenting during Yom Kippur to prove to God their worthiness of a good next year.
  • "Yom Tov" - Translates to "Good Day," a typical and generic greeting for Jewish holidays.
  • "L'Shanah Tovah" - Translates to "Happy New Year." This phrase is most commonly used during Rosh Hashanah, the celebrated New Year. However, Yom Kippur is close on its heels and focused on starting off the new year on the right foot. Continuing to wish others a happy new year is still relevant and common.
  • "Have an easy fast" - Fasting is not easy, which is one reason that Jewish custom requires it as a way to show devotion to God. Wishing others an easy fast is a warm reminder of your care for their wellbeing and their inclusion in a community that is observing holy customs together.

Attire: Jewish custom is to dress nicely (though not luxuriously) for Yom Kippur, many choosing to wear the color white as a symbol of purity.


The Significance of Yom Kippur

Despite all of the introspection, reflection, repentance and goal-setting we undertake during the month of Elul, after celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, custom is to take one last occasion to reflect and atone for the sins of the past year. We atone for our sins, both individual and communal, before God closes the books and inscribes our fates for the year to come (to be sealed at the close of Yom Kippur). It is the final step in understanding our past wrongs and their effects on ourselves, others and the world and taking responsibility for them in an effort to build a better path for tomorrow.


2022 Programming

YOM KIPPUR SERVICES - CLICK HERE TO REGISTER (Please register whether you are joining us virtually or in-person.)

Below is our Yom Kippur schedule of in-person and virtual services. Click here to learn details about our programming.

October 4 | 7:30PM    Erev Yom Kippur (Kol Nidre)

October 5 | 9:00am    Yom Kippur Morning

October 5 | 11:00AM*   Torah Service

October 5 | 11:45AM*   Yizkor Service

October 5 | 2:30PM   Meditation

October 5 | 3:30PM   Rabbi's Study Session

October 5 | 4:00PM   Outdoor Family Service with Rabbi Aimee and Emily 

October 5 | 6:00PM   Ne'ilah

October 5 | 7:08PM   Havdalah followed by Break-the-Fast

*These times are approximate.

Online Resources

Prayer & Observance:

  • PJTC High Holy Days Song & Prayer - a sneak peek at some of the songs and prayers you will hear at our services. Take a listen to get in the High Holy Days mood and to familiarize yourself so you can join along. See the below sample...for more, including High Holy Days music for kids, click the link!


Getting Ready for Yom Kippur:

Kids Corner

Sun, March 26 2023 4 Nisan 5783