What to know about the Jewish holiday and how Jewish people observe it.

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Selichot prayer at the Western Wall, between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur 2018. (photo: טיומקין)

Honoring Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, otherwise known as the Day of Atonement, is often considered the holiest day of the Jewish year: “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you can be cleansed from all your sins before G-d.”

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Renanim Synagogue, Heichal Shlomo, Jerusalem, Israel in 2017. (photo: Deror Avi)


The first observation is Maariv, with its solemn Kol Nidrei service, on the eve of Yom Kippur.


The second service is Shacharit, the morning prayer beginning with introductory hymns to G-d, followed by Shema, which includes the angelic proclamation of “Baruch shem.”


The third service is Musaf, which includes a detailed account of the Yom Kippur Temple service.


The fourth service for Yom Kippur is Minchah, the afternoon service broken up into a Torah reading, Haftorah and Amidah. The Torah reading includes the fundamental laws of the Torah and is followed by a reading from the Haftorah: The Book of Jonah. The Amidah, or silent prayer, follows the two.


The final service of Yom Kippur is Neilah, the “closing of the gates” service at sunset, which contains the fifth and final Amidah with a confession. It is followed by a cry of devotion and an eruption of joyous song and dance.

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Break-the-Fast Event at Chabad at Texas A&M University after Yom Kippur in 2019. (photo: AriH972)

The Origins and Meaning of Yom Kippur

As written in the Torah, the first Yom Kippur occurred after God gave Moses the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.

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