Jewish Holidays and Festivals

Please see for a schedule of what day a holiday occurs in this calendar year.

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is on the tenth day of the new year. It is a day of fasting and worship and is a most important and sacred holiday, the most solemn of all Jewish holidays. The holiday begins at sunset on the ninth day of Tishri, the first month of the Jewish new year, and lasts until sunset on the tenth day.
  • Yearly day of Jewish repentance. A male goat represents sins of people.

  • Atonement of Israel at Second Coming of Christ (Christ's shedding of blood for Israel's sins)
Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast and/or attend synagogue services on this day. The holiday is instituted at Leviticus 23:26-32.

It follows Rosh Hashanah, closing the penitential season. In Orthodox worship Yom Kippur is the day judgement is sealed upon us by the Heavenly Tribunal. But if the sinner repents and atones for his sin between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the judgement may be revoked, and so this is a day of at-one-ment with God through sincere repentance and nobler living.

On Yom Kippur Jews fast from sunset to sunset.

This most beautiful of ceremonies is begun with the singing by the cantor and congregation of the Kol Nidre (all the vows), the haunting and riveting song which petitions God to annul all vows, oaths and transgressions. My [Marlena Tanya Muchnick's] memory of hearing the Kol Nidre is with me even today. Its mournful tone and spiritual intensity make it impossible to hear without evoking strong emotion, even tears. If ever a song was made to reach the Supreme One, the Kol Nidre must be considered.

Even in biblical times Jews were in the habit of making many vows during emotional or perilous times which were impossible to keep, so a means had to be created whereby they could be released from them. These promises included those made during religious persecutions when Jews were forced to accept Christianity under duress.
Yom Kippur reminds the pious how Avraham was reprieved after offering his son in sacrifice. Very solemn, with anguish, it recapitulates the long history of violence and humiliation to which Jews have been subjected.

The name "Yom Kippur" means "Day of Atonement." It is a day set aside to "afflict the soul," to atone for the sins of the past year. As noted in Days of Awe, Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and God, not for sins against another person. To atone for those sins, first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs committed against them, if possible. That must all be completed before Yom Kippur. No work can be performed on that day and total fasting is observed.

Yom Kippur is really in similitude of Christ's atonement, where in the days of the temple a goat was selected to be the scapegoat with the sins of the people cast upon it. After elaborate prayer by the priest, it was sent into the wilderness. The Shema* is said and the shofar (ram's horn) is blown just before sunset to signify the end of the sacred event.

*Shema: Jewish Credal Prayer. Please see both Deuteronomy 6:4 and Mark 12:29.

The shofar is blown on three occasions.
  1. It is a call to repentance. The dead are called to life.

  2. Secondly, it reminds God that He is in a covenantal relationship with the Jews.

  3. Third, it is a call to arms and to confuse Satan the accuser on the birth of a new year.

The ram's horn symbolizes the story of Avraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

Yom Kippur is celebrated only one day everywhere.
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