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Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur

Tishrei 10, September/October

The 10 days from Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur are designated for repentance. It is customary to ask friends and family to forgive us for any offenses and to continue self-reflection in preparation for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Yom Kippur involves a complete fast of both food and water. Children, women who are pregnant or nursing, the ill, and the elderly are not required to fast.

The day is spent in the synagogue or temple attending services, from the beginning service (Kol Nidrei) at sunset to the concluding service (Neilah) the following night.

The Kol Nidrei service acknowledges that even with the best intentions, we will fail to reach some of our goals and promises. The rest of the day’s services focus on whether we as individuals have done enough good to be written in the “Book of Life” for another year.

The Neilah service emphasizes that the gates of heaven are closing (Yom Kippur is ending), and worshippers make a final plea to God to “remember us” and to “seal us” in the Book of Life. Again, the shofar is sounded, evoking the passage from sin to repentance to atonement.

In some congregations, it is customary to wear white to Yom Kippur services as a symbol and reminder of our atonement. Some even wear a kittel, a white garment used to clothe a dead person, to remind them of our equality in death.

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