Yom Kippur – The Holiest Day of the Jewish Year
Yom Kippur, the holiest day for the Jewish people, begins at sunset on Wednesday, September 15. But what is it?
“Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement” and refers to the annual Jewish observance of fasting, prayer, and repentance. Part of the High Holidays, which also includes Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
Yom Kippur is the moment in Jewish time when we dedicate our mind, body, and soul to reconciliation with our fellow human beings, ourselves, and God. As the New Year begins, we commit to self-reflection and inner change. As both seekers and givers of pardon, we turn first to those whom we have wronged, acknowledging our sins and the pain we have caused them. We are also commanded to forgive, to be willing to let go of any resentment we feel towards those who have committed offenses against us. Only then can we turn to God and ask for forgiveness. As we read in the Yom Kippur liturgy, “And for all these, God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, and grant us atonement.”(reformjudaism.org)
Fasting, wearing white, and visiting cemeteries to remember loved ones, may also be part of this day.
According to Jewish tradition, one’s fate is decided on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur. “G’mar chatima tova” is the customary greeting on Yom Kippur. In English, it means “May you be sealed in the Book of Life.” Non-Jewish folks may use this phrase to acknowledge and honor Jewish friends’ and co-workers’ traditions.
To learn more about Yom Kippur or other Jewish holidays, visit https://reformjudaism.org/jewish-holidays.
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