This Friday, September 17 at sunset until Saturday, September 18 at sunset, Jews around the world will observe the holiday known as Yom Kippur. Many non-Jews have heard of Yom Kippur, but what exactly goes into observing Yom Kippur? In this article I will explore the answer to this question.
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for even the most unobservant Jew. It is a time in which we are the closest to God as we fast, pray, repent and recollect the previous year’s events and determine how we can be better Jews and human beings in the coming year. We abstain from food or drink as an act of purging ourselves, repenting before God. During the course of Yom Kippur there are five prayer services, with the first being Maariv which includes Kol Nidrei, on the eve of Yom Kippur. The morning service includes Shacharit, which is the morning prayer for Yom Kippur. The third prayer is known as Minchah, which includes the reading of the book of Jonah. And finally we have the prayer Ne’illah, which means “the closing of the gates” service at sunset.
We say Al Chet, which means we read the confession of sins eight times throughout Yom Kippur and recite Psalms every possible moment.
I love how the website owned by Chabad Lubavitch describes Yom Kippur: “The day is the most solemn of the year, yet an undertone of joy suffuses it: a joy that revels in the spirituality of the day and expresses the confidence that G-d will accept our repentance, forgive our sins, and seal our verdict for a year of life, health and happiness. The closing Neilah service climaxes in the resounding cries of “Hear O Israel... G-d is one.”
The services are concluded in this manner: “...followed by a single blast of the shofar, followed by the proclamation, “Next year in Jerusalem.” We then partake of a festive after-fast meal, making the evening after Yom Kippur a Yom Tov (festival) in its own right.
May this week be a blessing for you all and I pray that perhaps “next year in Jerusalem” will be a reality for Jews in the coming year.