A little about Yom Kippur: Wishing you an easy fast.

Kol Nidrei prayer of Yom Kippur
Kol Nidrei prayer of Yom Kippur.

If you are observing Yom Kippur, I wish you an easy fast, and if you are seeing this after the day has finished, then may you be inscribed in the book of life for another year.

Note:  This is a scheduled post done before the day… I’m probably still in synagogue starting to get hungry while asking for forgiveness.

So what does this all mean???

Let’s start with the traditional greeting for Yom Kippur;

gamar hatimah tovah” — “A good completion to your inscription (in the book of life).”

gamar tov,” – “A good completion.”

shanah tovah” – “A good year.”

tzom kal” – ” Have an easy fast.”

Yom Kippur is probably the most important holiday of the Jewish year, and not a happy one, so saying Happy Yom Kippur is not applicable.

A little more about Yom Kippur:  This holiday is observed by the most amount of Jewish people, even those who do not observe the other customs or holidays and during this day, we refrain from work, we fast and attend synagogue services for the day.

The name “Yom Kippur” means “Day of Atonement,” and on this holiday we atone for the sins of the past year.  On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year which arrives just before this holiday, G-d inscribes all of our names in the book of life and on Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in these books is sealed.  Yom Kippur is, essentially, the last appeal, or last chance to change G-d’s judgment, and to demonstrate repentance and make amends with those you have knowingly or unknowingly hurt or offended during the year.

Yom Kippur is a complete 25-hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur – called Kol Nidre – and ending after the sun goes down on the day of Yom Kippur. There are some lesser known restrictions on this day aside from work and eating / drinking, such as wearing cosmetics or deodorants, wearing leather shoes – canvas sneakers are very common – and engaging in sexual relations are all prohibited on Yom Kippur.

As always, any of these restrictions can be lifted where a threat to life or health is involved. In fact, children under the age of 13 and women who are in childbirth or are breastfeeding are not permitted to fast, even if they want to. Older children are permitted to fast, but are permitted to break the fast if they feel the need to do so.

Most of the holiday is spent in the synagogue, in prayer.  Services begin early in the morning and continue until about 3pm. People then usually go home for an afternoon nap and return around 5pm for the afternoon and evening services, which continue until sundown.  After sundown families and friends get together to break the fast and enjoy a meal together.


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