An Introduction To Yom Kippur, The Jewish Day Of Atonement

Dates, prayers, history and more.
Many Jews consider Yom Kippur to be the most important day of the Jewish year.
Many Jews consider Yom Kippur to be the most important day of the Jewish year.

/"}}">Yom Kippur begins on October 11 in 2016. Known as the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur falls on 10 Tishrei 5777 on the /"}}">Hebrew calendar, which is from sundown on October 11 and nightfall on October 12, 2016.

The /"}}">Day of Atonement is considered the most important day of the Jewish year, as evidenced by the /"}}">synagogue attendance rate: More people go to temple on Yom Kippur than any other holiday.

/"}}">Yom Kippur marks the end of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of /"}}">teshuvah (Jewish reflection, repentance and return) that begins with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

During the Days of Awe, Jews seeks forgiveness from friends, family and co-workers, a process that begins with Tashlich, the symbolic casting off of sins that is traditionally observed on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah by throwing bread into a body of water.

On Yom Kippur, Jews attempt to mend their relationships with God. This is done, in part, by reciting the Vidui, a public confession of sins. The holiday has the most extensive prayer schedule of the Hebrew calendar and arduous abstinence from food, drink, sexual intimacy, bathing and other physical desires such as leather shoes and cosmetics.

All major Jewish holidays, including Yom Kippur, consist of four main prayer services: Ma’ariv, Shacharit, Musaf and Mincha. Yom Kippur, though, is unique. It begins with Kol Nidre, a legal document that is hauntingly chanted and emotionally charged. The Book of Jonah is read during the afternoon prayer service on Yom Kippur day.

The Day of Atonement is the only Jewish holiday that includes a fifth prayer service, called Ne’ilah, which is a final plea of repentance before the gates of heaven are said to close. The Ne’ilah service precedes the shofar blowing and the end of the fast.

While Yom Kippur is characterized by solemn fasting and marathon prayers of repentance, it is actually considered the most joyous day of the Jewish year because it commemorates God’s forgiveness of the sin of the Golden Calf, the Israelites’ slip into idolatry after the giving of the Ten Commandments, and is considered a time to spiritually start anew.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that no “animal-based clothing” may be worn on Yom Kippur. It is leather shoes specifically that are prohibited. 



Religious Calendar 2016