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יום כפור


יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) is probably the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast and/or attend synagogue services on this day. Also known as Day of Atonement, יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people.


יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) is found in three separate passages in the תּוֹרָה (Torah) where it's referred to as שַׁבָּת שַׁבָּתוֹן (Shabbat Shabbaton), “a Sabbath of complete rest". In the Talmud יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) is simply called יוֹמָא (Yoma), “The Day.”

The תּוֹרָה (Torah) portrays יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) as a day centered almost exclusively on the Temple in Jerusalem. It was on this day that the כהֵן גָדוֹל (kohen gadol), the high priest, performed the complicated rituals and sacrifices that purified the Temple from the sins of the Israelite people.  

There also was another aspect to the day: atonement, the spiritual cleansing of the people themselves. All the people would wait outside the Temple, awaiting the hoped-for successful outcome of the high priest’s service. Their role, according to the תּוֹרָה (Torah), was to abstain from work and to practice “self-denial.” Today we practice “self-denial” by fasting and refraining from certain other activities.

After the Temple was destroyed, the second aspect of יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) - atonement, became the most important focus of the holiday.


And ADONAI spoke to Moses, saying, 'The tenth day of the seventh month will be the Day of Atonement. There will be a holy gathering and you should afflict your souls and bring an offering to ADONAI. Don't do any work on that day, for it is a Day of Atonement to make atonement for you before ADONAI, your God.' (ויקרא כג:כו-כח)


יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) is "the tenth day of [the] seventh month" (תִשְׁרֵי - Tishrei) and is regarded as the שַׁבָּת שַׁבָּתוֹן‎ ‎"the Sabbath of Sabbaths". רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah) is the first day of that month according to the Hebrew calendar. On this day we also ask God to forgive our past mistakes. 

יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or יָמִים נוֹרָאִים (Yamim Nora'im) ("Days of Awe") that begins with רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה (Rosh Hashanah).

Key Words

forgiveness - סְלִיחָה
fast - צוֹם
have an easy fast - צוֹם קָל
Day of Atonement - יוֹם כִּפּוּר

day - יוֹם
atonement - כַפָרָה
ram's horn - שוֹפָר


We begin יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) by lighting the festival candles with a special בְּרָכָה‎  (blessing).

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר  קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל יוֹם טוֹב.

Baruch Ata ADONAI Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav,

v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Yom Tov.

Blessed are You, ADONAI, our God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through the commandments and commands us to kindle the festival lights.

The יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) prayer service includes several unique aspects. One is the actual number of prayer services. 

A regular day has three prayer services (מַעֲריב (Ma'ariv), the evening prayer; שַחֲרִית (Shacharit), the morning prayer; and מִנחַה (Mincha), the afternoon prayer).

שַׁבָּת‎ (Shabbat) and יוֹם טוֹב (Yom Tov) have four prayer services (the three above plus an additional service called מוּסף (Musaf)). But יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) has five prayer services (all of the above 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 יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) avodah (service) of the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.


There are a number of traditions associated with יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) each focusing us on the spiritual nature of this day.

  1. No eating and drinking

  2. No wearing of leather shoes

  3. No bathing or washing

  4. No using perfumes or lotions


Before יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) we usually have a special meal right after the afternoon service. We end יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur) with a break-fast.


Wearing white clothing (or a 'kittel' for Ashkenazi Jews), is traditional to symbolize purity on this day. Many people immerse themselves in a מִקְוֶה (mikveh - a ritual bath) on the day before יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur).


Learn more about the customs and traditions of יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur).

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