What is Yom Kippur?

For Yom Kippur Break Fast Recipes, click here

What is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) is the day of repentance, the most holy day on the Jewish calendar. Described as a Shabbat shabbaton (Shabbat of solemn rest) in the Torah, Yom Kippur is a day of fasting, prayer, and reflection. Yom Kippur is the culmination of a period of time during the month of Elul in which Jews are required to take stock of their lives, to ask forgiveness from friends and family, and to take steps toward self-improvement for the year to come.

How is Yom Kippur observed?

Yom Kippur is observed for a 25-hour period, beginning at sundown, by refraining from work that is prohibited on Shabbat, plus five additional prohibitions: 1) eating or drinking; 2) bathing; 3) anointing the body with oil; 4) wearing leather shoes; and 5) sexual relations. There are five synagogue services over the course of Yom Kippur: Kol Nidrei (evening service focused on the cantor’s confession on behalf of the community); Shachrit (morning service); Musaf (additional service); Mincha (afternoon service); and Ne’ilah (closing service). It is customary to also include a Yizkor service (memorial for those who have died this year) as part of the morning service. Yom Kippur services contain many recitations of the Vidui (confession), which is a list of communal transgressions for which we ask forgiveness.

Traditionally, Jews believe that after judging a person for their deeds over the past year, God decides who will be sealed in the Book of Life (to live for another year) and who will die. Others simply use the day as a time to reflect on what they want to do differently this year. Some people wear white on Yom Kippur to symbolize the purity of the day.

What kinds of foods are eaten for the Yom Kippur Break-Fast?

There are two meals associated with Yom Kippur: the pre-fast meal and the break-fast meal (obviously, for the duration of the fasting holiday, no food or drink is allowed). The pre-fast meal is known as seudah ha-mafaseket (literally, “meal of separation” or “concluding meal”). Some traditional recipe choices for the meal include: rice, kreplach (stuffed dumplings), challah (dipped in honey, as Yom Kippur occurs 10 days after Rosh Hashanah), chicken, or fish. Meals usually should be prepared with minimum salt, as this could cause dehydration during the fast. It is important to drink plenty of water, of course. The break-fast meal usually consists of hi-carb dairy foods like sweet kugel (noodle pudding), bagels, quiches, soufflés, eggs, cheese, etc.

What is the proper greeting for Yom Kippur?

The greeting for Yom Kippur is “G’mar Hatima Tova” (May you be sealed in the Book of Life), or the shorter version “G’mar Tov.” It is also customary to say “Have an easy fast” before the holiday begins.

When is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur is observed on the 10th of Tishrei.

Yom Kippur occurs on the following dates:

Jewish Year 5773: Sunset September 25, 2012 – Nightfall September 26, 2012

Jewish Year 5774: Sunset September 13, 2013 – Nightfall September 14, 2013

Jewish Year 5775: Sunset October 3, 2014 – Nightfall October 4, 2014

Jewish Year 5776: Sunset September 22, 2015 – Nightfall September 23, 2015

Jewish Year 5777: Sunset October 11, 2016 – Nightfall October 12, 2016

Jewish Year 5778: Sunset September 29, 2017 – Nightfall September 30, 2017

Jewish Year 5779: Sunset September 18, 2018 – Nightfall September 19, 2018

Jewish Year 5780: Sunset October 8, 2019 – Nightfall October 9, 2019

Jewish Year 5781: Sunset September 27, 2020 – Nightfall September 28, 2020

Jewish Year 5782: Sunset September 15, 2021 – Nightfall September 16, 2021