What is Yom Kippur? Learn about the meaning behind Yom Kippur, as well as the traditions related to this holiday.
What is Yom Kippur?
Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement” in Hebrew. This is the holiest Jewish holiday of the year and ends the ten days of High Holidays or “Days of Awe,” which begin with Rosh Hashanah.
- On this day, Jewish people refrain from work and all adults fast from sundown the evening before Yom Kippur until nightfall the next day.
- This day is about asking God to forgive sins, reflecting on past mistakes accepting repentance, and praying.
- Fasting is a way to cleanse and purify the body and soul.
- Many will wear all-white clothing to also symbolize purity.
- On the day itself, there are many traditional prayers. One of the most important prayers describes the atonement ritual performed by high priests during ancient times.
- Yom Kippur ends with a single blast that is blown on the shofar—a trumpet made from a ram’s horn.
When is Yom Kippur 2018?
Note that the Jewish calendar is different than today’s civil calendar (the Gregorian calendar). It is a “Luni-Solar” calendar, established by the cycles of the Moon and the Sun, so the lengths of days vary by the season, controlled by the times of sunset, nightfall, dawn, and sunrise. Yom Kippur is held on the 10th day of Tishrei, ten days after the start of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year).
All Jewish holidays begin at sundown on the date listed.
Yom Kippur begins:
|2018||5779||Sunset September 18, 2018 (to nightfall September 19)|
|2019||5780||Sunset October 8, 2019 (to nightfall October 9)|
|2020||5781||Sunset September 27, 2020 (to nightfall September 28)|
Yom Kippur Traditions
The day before Yom Kippur (and fasting), a special and bountiful meal is enjoyed with a candle lighting at the end of the meal. Many people remember those who passed before them. Some Jews also visit cemeteries on this day before Yom Kippur.
Another tradition leading up to Yom Kippur is to perform charitable acts. Many Jews give money or time to the poorest among them.
After Yom Kippur ends with the shofar, there is much celebration, music, and dancing. A festive “break-the-fast” meal is served with lots of satisfying breakfast foods such as bagels and spreads, kugel, blintzes, and egg dishes. See how to make your own bagels!
If you observe Yom Kippur, please share your traditions below!