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Yom Kippur

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Yom Kippur (Hebrew: יוֹם כִּיפּוּר), also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.

The Yom Kippur prayer service includes several unique aspects. One is the actual number of prayer services. Unlike a regular day, which has three prayer services (Ma’ariv, the evening prayer; Shacharit, the morning prayer; and Mincha, the afternoon prayer), or a Shabbat or Yom Tov, which have four prayer services (Ma’ariv; Shacharit; Mussaf, the additional prayer; and Mincha), Yom Kippur has five prayer services (Ma’ariv; Shacharit; Musaf; Mincha; and Ne’ilah, the closing prayer). The prayer services also include private and public confessions of sins (Vidui) and a unique prayer dedicated to the special Yom Kippur avodah (service) of the Kohen Gadol (high priest) in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Starting 2016 the United Nations officially recognizes Yom Kippur, stating that from then on no official meetings would take place on the day. As well, the United Nations stated that, beginning in 2016, they would have nine official holidays and seven floating holidays which each employee would be able to choose one of. It stated that the floating holidays will be Yom Kippur, Day of Vesak, Diwali, Gurpurab, Orthodox Christmas, Orthodox Good Friday, and Presidents’ Day. This was the first time the United Nations officially recognized any Jewish holiday.

There is no specific Hebrew greeting for Yom Kippur, although there are several which are relevant for the day. The standard festival greeting is Chag Sameach – pronounced “chag sah-may-ach” – which means simply “happy holiday” and which can be used as a greeting for any Jewish festival.