Yom Kippur: Facts Traditions & History

The most significant festival in the Jewish calendar is Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement. It commemorates the end of the 10 Days of Awe, a period of reflection and repentance that follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and occurs in the month of Tishrei (September or October in the Gregorian calendar). Jews are urged to atone and ask forgiveness for crimes committed over the past year since, according to tradition, God determines each person’s fate on Yom Kippur. A special religious service and a 25-hour fast are conducted to mark the event. The “High Holy Days” of Judaism are known as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. On the evening of September 15, Yom Kippur begins, and it ends on the evening of September 16.

Yom Kippur History and Significance

The first Yom Kippur is said to have occurred after the Israelites had left Egypt and arrived at Mount Sinai, where God had given Moses the Ten Commandments. Moses saw his people worshiping a golden calf as he descended the mountain, and he broke the holy tablets out of rage. God pardoned the Israelites’ crimes and granted Moses a second set of tablets when they made amends for their idolatry.

According to Jewish sources, Yom Kippur was the only day during biblical times when the high priest could enter the inner sanctum of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. There, he would carry out a series of rites and anoint the Ark of the Covenant, which held the Ten Commandments, with blood from slaughtered animals. He atoned for the sins of the entire nation of Israel through this elaborate rite and begged God for pardon on their behalf. Until the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., the ritual is supposed to have persisted; it was subsequently modified into service for rabbis and their congregations in particular synagogues.

In accordance with Jewish belief, God decides whether each creation will survive or pass away in the upcoming year during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. According to Jewish law, on Rosh Hashanah, God puts the names of the virtuous in the “book of life” and executes the wicked; those who fall between the two groups have until Yom Kippur to repent. Thus, Yom Kippur and the days preceding it are regarded as a time for prayer, good actions, reflection on the past, and making apologies to others by observant Jews.

Celebrating Yom Kippur

The holiest day of the year for Jews is Yom Kippur, often known as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths.” Because of this, even Jews who don’t observe other customs refrain from working on Yom Kippur, which is prohibited during the holiday, and attend religious services instead, driving up synagogue attendance. To accommodate a high number of worshipers, some churches hire out additional space.

All Jewish adults are required by the Torah to fast from sundown on the evening of Yom Kippur to dusk the following day, with the exception of the ill, the elderly, and women who have recently given birth. Instead of being used as punishment, the fast is thought to cleanse the body and spirit. Jews who follow religious law observe additional prohibitions on taking a shower, cleaning their hands, applying cosmetics, wearing leather shoes, and having sex. These rules are designed to stop worshippers from concentrating on worldly things and flimsy comforts.

During Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, rabbis and their congregations read from a specific prayer book known as the machzor because the High Holy Day prayer services include unique liturgical texts, melodies, and customs. On Yom Kippur, there are five different prayer services, the first on the eve of the holiday and the final just before the sun sets the next day. One of the most significant Yom Kippur-specific prayers describes the ancient high priests’ atonement procedure. Both High Holy Days are marked by the sounding of the shofar, a trumpet crafted from a ram’s horn. At the conclusion of the final ritual on Yom Kippur, a single long blast is made to signify the

Yom Kippur Traditions and Symbols

On the eve of Yom Kippur, friends and family come together for a plentiful meal that must be finished before dusk. The goal is to build up enough energy to fast for 25 hours.

After the last Yom Kippur service, many individuals go home to celebrate by breaking their fast. It typically includes comfort meals that resemble breakfast, like blintzes, noodle pudding, and baked goods.

White clothing is customary among devout Jews on Yom Kippur as a representation of purity. To symbolize remorse, some married men dress in kittens, which are white funeral shrouds.

Pre-Yom Kippur feast: Families and friends meet on the eve of Yom Kippur for a large feast that must be finished before dusk. The goal is to build up enough energy to fast for 25 hours.

Breaking of the fast: Many people go home for a joyous lunch after the last Yom Kippur service. It typically includes comfort meals that resemble breakfast, like blintzes, noodle pudding, and baked goods.

Wearing white: On Yom Kippur, devout Jews are expected to wear white as a purity symbol. To symbolize remorse, some married men dress in kittens, which are white funeral shrouds.

Charity: In the days before Yom Kippur, some Jews give money or give of their time. This is viewed as a means of making amends and requesting God’s pardon. One kapparot practice involves chanting a prayer while swinging a live chicken or a bundle of cash over one’s head. The impoverished are then handed the chicken or the money.


Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement and Shalom Aleichem (Peace be upon you), is one of the most important Jewish holidays that we pay special attention to. It is a day when we reflect on our lives, forgive others, make peace with God and recommit to living better.

The day includes many rituals starting from sunrise when Jews gather in a synagogue for prayers and blessings, to praying over the Miqdashot (imprecations) placed on doorways during prayer time. If you are not participating in any ritual activities at home today but still want to mark this holy day, then why not spend some time painting or artwork? This year’s new art challenge theme is ‘peace’. Share your creation via social media using stand a chance for it being featured by Artsy.

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