Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the most significant holiday in Judaism. It is a day when the Jewish people ask forgiveness for the wrongs they have committed over the past year. It is the holiest day of the year and is traditionally observed with a day-long fast and intensive prayer.
This year Yom Kippur begins the evening of Wednesday, September 15th, and ends on the evening of Thursday, September 16th. It marks the culmination of the 10 Days of Awe, a period of introspection and repentance that follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
In honor of Yom Kippur 2021, let’s look at some customs for the Day of Atonement:
- Participate in religious services: As Judaism’s last and most important of the ten high holy days of the year, even those who may not regularly attend synagogue will do so on Yom Kippur when work is forbidden. According to history.com some synagogues have leased space to handle sizeable numbers.
- Fast: As part of the somber mood of the day of repentance on this holy day, Jewish people fast from sundown on the first day (September 15) to an hour after sundown on the next day (September 16). This is one of six Jewish holidays marked by a fast.
- Break Fast: Break fast meals are usually held in communal spaces or people’s homes. Popular items include bagels and schmear, or kugel because they can be prepared in advance. During a Jewish fast, food and beverages are prohibited – including water. So, most synagogues will provide a light break fast, so worshippers do not go to their dinner on an empty stomach.
- Additional restrictions: Because Yom Kippur is considered the holiest of all ten high holy days there are 4 additional restrictions to the normal Sabbath constraints. The additional prohibitions include no washing or bathing, no perfumes or deodorants, no wearing leather shoes, and no sex.
- Appropriate greeting: Avoid saying “Happy Yom Kippur” as it is not considered a happy holiday. Historically, the greeting has been G’mar chatima tova or “Be sealed in the Book of Life.” If this is challenging to pronounce or remember, then “Have an easy fast” is also appropriate.
The end of the ten Jewish High Holidays that began with Rosh Hashanah will end with the traditional sounding of the shofar. For all that are observing this year, G’mar chatima tova.
Mindy Hofman is the founder of Inspiring Women Media and author of a forthcoming book about successful women in Austin (expected to publish in 2022). She is a self-proclaimed women’s rights champion and strongly believes in the transformative power of women supporting women. Mindy graduated from The Art Institute of New York City with a degree in Graphic Design and worked as a graphic designer in New York City and San Francisco. Today she resides in Austin, TX where she has lived for the past 5 years with her daughter and two small dogs.
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