Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the holiest and therefore the most important day on the Jewish calendar. It marks the culmination of the Yomim Noraim, a period of ten days beginning on Rosh Hashanah, in which introspection and repentance are the key focus. It was on this day where the Kohen HaGadol would enter the Kodesh HaKodeshim, the Holy of Holies, to repent on behalf of the entire nation.
Following the sin of the Golden Calf, which occurred just months after the Jewish people were released from slavery in Egypt, Moshe shattered the first set of the luchot. Following this tragedy, he pleaded with Hashem to forgive the Jewish nation and to grant them an opportunity for redemption. Finally, on Yom Kippur, atonement was achieved, and Moshe received the second set of luchot. Following this day, Yom Kippur became a day of prayer and forgiveness, giving us the ability to wipe our slates clean of our mistakes and pray to be inscribed in the Book of Life.
Yom Kippur is the holiest and most sacred day of the year, and like on Shabbat, no work is done on this day. Each Jew is said to become like an angel, and so there are mitzvot on this day that are designed to minimise the relationship we have with the physical world. These additional mitzvot enable us to connect with the spiritual world. Just as angels are said to stand upright, we stand most of Yom Kippur; we wear white to symbolise purity and don’t eat or drink on this day. We also refrain from wearing leather shoes, applying lotions or creams, washing or bathing and marital relations to help reduce our physical involvement and therefore prioritise our spirituality in order to focus on God.
Just as on Yom Kippur it is a mitzvah to fast, the day before is set aside for preparation. Many men go to the mikvah, extra charity is given, and two meals are eaten before the fast begins. Is it also a widespread Jewish custom to perform Kaporos, literally meaning atonements. This custom consists of taking a chicken or money and swinging it over your head three times while reciting a passage. The chicken is then slaughtered and donated to charity, or it is sold and its value donated. In doing so, we are asking that the chicken be our substitute and the recipient of our bad decrees on the merit of the mitzvah of donating it to charity.
With more prayers and lengthier services than any other Jewish holiday, the Books of Life and Death are sealed on this day. Yom Kippur commences with a Maariv service beginning with the prayer of Kol Niderei, which is recited three times with increased intensity. The Prayers continue the next day with Shacharit, Musaf and Mincha. The Davening includes a reading from the book of Yonah, closes with Neila, and is followed by a shofar blast which marks the end of the fast.
From everyone at Kosher Kingdom, we wish you an easy fast and a good year ahead.