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Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, falls on the eve of the tenth day of Tishrei. Thatís when the fast begins too. Itís a big oneÖ twenty-five+ hours!. This year (2022), Yom Kippur starts at sundown, Tuesday, October 4, and ends Wednesday evening, October 5, with the sound of the Shofar.

It is the holiest and most solemn day of the year, a day of fasting and prayers, and is only celebrated one day everywhere. (Could you imagine having to fast two days in a row?).


Kapporot A Minhag (custom) observed on the morning before Yom Kippur is Kapparot (Atonement). (Kapporot may also be observed on any weekday of the Aseret Yimay Tshuva.)

You purchase a live chicken, (a white rooster for a male and a white hen for a female), and you revolve the chicken around your head reciting a prayer asking that the chicken be considered atonement for your sins. The chicken is then slaughtered and given to the poor (or its value is given). Kapparot may also be done with money instead of a chicken.


While Yom Kippur itself is devoted to fasting, the day before is devoted to eating. The Talmud states that the person "who eats on the ninth of Tishrei (and fasts on the tenth) , it is as if he had fasted both the ninth and tenth." The day is used to concentrate on eating and preparing for the fast.


Jews all over the world, even those who do not observe any other Jewish custom will (hopefully) refrain from work, fast and go to shul (synagogue) on Yom Kippur.

The holiday is mentioned in Vayikra Ch. 23:26 (et seq). It is a day set aside to "afflict the soul," to atone for the sins of the past year. In The Story of Rosh Hashana, we mention the "Books" in which Hashem inscribes all of our names. On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in these "books" is sealed. This day is, essentially, your last appeal, your last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate your repentance and make amends.

As noted in The Story of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur can only atone for sins between man and Hashem, not for sins against another person. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek to reconcile with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible. That must all be done before Yom Kippur.


Even when Yom Kippur falls on a weekday, Yom Kippur is a Shabbat, no work can be performed on Yom Kippur. It is well-known that you are supposed to refrain from eating and drinking (even water) on Yom Kippur. It is a complete, 25+ hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur. The Talmud also specifies additional restrictions: washing and bathing, anointing one's body (with cosmetics, perfumes, etc.), marital relations and wearing leather shoes. Canvas sneakers or slippers are routinely seen with dress clothes on Yom Kippur.

As always, any of these restrictions may be lifted where a threat to life or health is involved. In fact, children under the age of nine and women in childbirth (from the time labor begins until three days after birth) are not permitted to fast, even if they want to. Older children and women from the third to the seventh day after childbirth are permitted to fast, but are permitted to break the fast if they feel the need to do so. People with other illnesses should consult a Rabbi for advice.

A good part of Yom Kippur is spent in shul (synagogue), in prayer. Services begin early in the morning (anywhere from 7 to 9 AM) and continue until the late afternoon. There usually is a small break after which the afternoon and evening services continue until nightfall. The services end at nightfall, with the blowing of the Tekia Gedolah, a long blast of the shofar. See The Story of Rosh Hashana for more about the shofar and its characteristic blasts.

It is customary to wear white on Yom Kippur, which symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that our sins shall be made as white as snow (Is. 1:18). Some men wear a kittel, the white robe with no pockets, in which jewish dead are buried. Many wear a white yarmulke.




click here to hear


Men put on a Tallit (prayer shawl), not usually worn in the evenings, for the evening service that begins Yom Kippur. This service is commonly known as Kol Nidre, named for the prayer that begins the service. "Kol Nidre" means "all vows," and in this prayer, we ask Hashem to annul all personal vows we may make in the next year. It refers only to vows between the person making them and Hashem, such as "If I pass this test, I'll listen to whatever my parents tell me all the time!"

The Kol Nidre emphasizes the importance in keeping vows, as violating an oath is one of the worst sins. We take vows so seriously that we consider ourselves bound even if we make the vows under duress or in times of stress when we are not thinking straight.

Kol Nidre is repeated by the Chazzan (cantor) 3 times, each time in a louder voice. This, explain our sages, is compared to a person who approaches the king in his chamber. In the beginning, he enters with fear and awe and speaks in a soft voice. Later, as he gains more confidence he makes his plea louder. The third time the cantor recites Kol Nidrei very loud for he has become accustomed to standing in the presence of the king.

For an inspiring story about one of the most stirring prayers of the entire Yomim Noraim, - The Unesaneh Tokef CLICK HERE.


There are many additions to the regular prayers (there would have to be, to get such a long service). Perhaps the most important addition is the Al Chet, or Vidui, the confession of the sins, which is inserted into each of the five Shemoneh Esrei (Amida) prayers. Note that all sins are confessed in the plural (we are guilty, we have done this, we have done that), emphasizing communal responsibility for sins. Even if we didn't do the sin we mention, we are praying to Hashem that He forgive others who may have. We also say Yizkor, the prayer for the souls of the departed.



Another important addition to the Yom Kippur service is the poetic rendition of the Yom Kippur Avodah (service) during the Chazzan's repetition of the Mussaf Shemoneh Esrei.

Here are the details:

To begin, in the Bait Hamikdash, the Kohain Gadol runs the Korbanot show on Yom Kippur - the most important Avodah of the year must be performed by the holiest of the Kohanim. The Kohain Gadol was the only one who can enter the Kodesh Hakodoshim - but ONLY on Yom Kippur, and ONLY to perform the special Avodah.


On Yom Kippur the Kohain Gadol wears eight garments.

Four contain gold and four do not.

The garments with gold are:

  • Me'il - A coat that has gold bells at the bottom.

  • Choshen - The breastplate contains gold thread and clasps.

  • Afod - An apron that's got gold thread and gold shoulder harnesses.

  • Tzitz - A headplate made completely of gold.

On Yom Kippur the Kohain Gadol takes off these four garments before he enters the Kodesh Hakodoshim. This leaves him in four white linen garments:

  • Michnasayim - white linen pants.

  • Kutonet - a long linen shirt.

  • Avnait - a belt of linen prepared specially for Yom Kippur.

  • Miznefet - a turban of linen.

On Yom Kippur the Kohain Gadol changes his clothes FIVE times, and at every change immersed himself in a Mikvah.

Before and after each change he also washes his hands and feet.



Two goats are the stars of this part of the show. The Kohain Gadol stands in the Azarah (courtyard) with an assistant kohain to his right and the leader of the kohanim on duty that week on his left.

You've got two goats, one is going to be dedicated to Hashem and the other is going to be sent to "Azazel." - But which will be which?

Lottery A box is placed before the Kohain Gadol. It's got only two wooden lots (pieces of wood) inside, one lot says "L'Hashem"(for Hashem), the other says "L'Azazel" (for Azazel). The Kohain Gadol puts both hands into the box and takes one lot in each hand. The lot in his right hand is placed on the head of the goat on the right. The lot in the left hand is placed on the head of the goat on the left.

The Kohain Gadol announces the goat marked "L'Hashem" will be used as a Korban Chatat. Later, the goat is slaughtered and its blood is sprinkled in the Kodesh Hakodoshim.

The "L'Azazel" goat is led out to the desert by a special messenger who is chosen before Yom Kippur. This messenger's job is to push the goat off a cliff where the animal will be smashed to the rocks below.

Pretty disturbing, eh? Well, it all goes to wake up Klal Yisrael (US - you and me) to do Teshuva (repent). The thought that it should really be us instead of that goat gets the Teshuva juices going!


As we said, the Kohain Gadol only enters the Kodesh Hakodoshim ONE day during the year. That is on Yom Kippur.

On Yom Kippur the Kohain Gadol enters a total of FOUR times:

  • The first time he offers a Korban Ketoret (Incense Offering). This is the highlight of the Yom Kippur Avodah.

  • The next time he sprinkles the blood of the bull he personally offers as a Chatat. The blood is sprinkled eight times before the Aron Hakodesh (Holy Ark).

  • The third time is when the blood of the "L'Hashem" goat is sprinkled eight times before the Aron Hakodesh.

  • The fourth time he enters, is to retrieve the spoon and pan he left in the Kodesh Hakodoshim after the Korban Ketoret.


Offering the incense is the highlight of the Yom Kippur Avodah.

The Kohain Gadol enters the Kodesh Hakodoshim with a spoonful of Ketoret (incense) in his left hand and a pan of hot coals in his right. He places the pan on the floor between the poles in front the Aron Hakodesh. Then, in a rehearsed feat, he transfers the Ketoret from the spoon into his two hands.

This is how it's done:

Ketoret The Kohain Gadol sticks the handle of the spoon under his right arm and bends over so that the contents spill into his cupped hands. It's a pretty neat trick but don't take it too lightly because if he spilled a drop of incense, Hashem might just zap him dead.

Next, the Kohain Gadol pours the incense from his hands onto the coals. The smoke from the pan rises straight up to the ceiling. If the smoke fills the entire Kodesh Hakodoshim then the Kohain Gadol knows that Hashem has forgiven the sins of Klal Yisroel (The Jewish People).

The Kohain Gadol then leaves the Kodesh Hakodoshim slowly, walking backwards. As he enters the Kodesh area he stops to daven (pray) for a year of plentiful food for all the Jewish People.


The next time the Kohain Gadol enters the Kodesh Hakodoshim, he stands before the Aron Hakodesh and sprinkles the blood of the bull from his own Chatat, with his finger. The Kohain Gadol counts out loud and in an interesting way.

With his finger he sprinkles toward the Aron Hakodesh once upward and seven times downward, counting loudly.

Again the Kohain Gadol leaves the Kodesh Hakodoshim backwards. Once he enters the Kodesh he sprinkles some of the bull's blood and then some of the goat's blood on the Parochet (curtain) of the Kodesh Hakodoshim, once up and seven times down, counting loudly.


The third time the Kohain Gadol enters the Kodesh Hakodoshim he stands before the Aron Hakodesh and sprinkles the blood of the "L'Hashem" goat with his finger toward the Aron Hakodesh, once upward and seven times downward, counting loudly.

Again the Kohain Gadol leaves the Kodesh Hakodoshim backwards. Once he enters the Kodesh he sprinkles some of the bull's blood and then some of the goat's blood on the Parochet of the Kodesh Hakodoshim, once up and seven times down, counting loudly.

Then he mixes the blood of the goat and the bull and puts some on the corners of the Incense Altar.

The Kohain Gadol also sprinkles some of the mixture into the center of the Altar seven times.


The fourth and final time the Kohain Gadol enters the Kodesh Hakodoshim on Yom Kippur he collects the spoon and pan used earlier for the Korban Ketoret.


Before the Kohain Gadol started with the special Yom Kippur Korbanot, he has the standard Korbanot that are offered in the Beit Hamikdash every day as well as the Mussaf Korbanot to offer.

Besides the daily korbanot, (Tamid and Minchat Chavitin among others), the Kohain Gadol also brings a Korban Mussaf for the entire Bnei Yisroel. This consists of a bull, a ram, seven sheep and a goat.

Then he brings two Korbanot that he pays for personally.

1. He offered a bull as a Korban Chatat.

The Kohain Gadol pushes his hands on the bull's head and recited Viduy, asking forgiveness for his sins, and the sins of his family, and the sins of all the Kohanim.

2. A ram is burnt completely as a Korban Olah.


Only the Kohain Gadol ever pronounces the name of Hashem. When we daven or read the Torah, we pronounce Hashem's name as A-doh-noy.

But on Yom Kippur, the Kohain Gadol says the real thing - Yud Hay Vav Hay. This name is said three times during each Viduy.

Since the Kohain Gadol says Viduy three times, once for himself, once for his family and once for all the Kohanim, that makes nine times that he says Hashem's name. Then after the Lots are picked, he announces "This goat is L'Hashem." That "L'Hashem" is also pronounced with Hashem's name, making it a tenth time.

Whenever the people in the Azara (courtyard) of the Beit Hamikdash heard the Holy name, they would fall on their faces and cry out "Baruch Shem K'vod Malchuso L'Olam Vaed - Blessed is the name [of Hashem] whose glorious Kingdom lasts forever and ever."


When the entire Avodah is finished there is a big sigh of relief.

Throughout history many a Kohain Gadol has gone into the Kodesh Hakodoshim and not come out. If a Kohain Gadol makes it through the entire Avodah in one piece, it's a sure sign that he's doing something right and that Hashem will forgive Klal Yisroel for their sins.

As the Kohain Gadol leaves the Beit Hamikdash, the crowds kiss his hand to show their gratefulness. When he gets home he invites friends and family to a feast and they share the joy of a successful day.

Now, since we don't have the Beit Hamikdash, and a Kohain Gadol to pray for us, we recite the Yom Kippur Avodah in the Mussaf prayers of Yom Kippur with the hope that next year we will be doing the Avodah in the Beit Hamikdash in Yerushalayim.


During the afternoon Mincha services, we read the entire Book of Jonah, which teaches us that you can't run away from Hashem, and that Hashem always accepts Teshuva (repentance) even from an entire city of sinners.

Jonah & the WhaleThe story is about the Navi (Prophet) Jonah, who is told by Hashem to go to Nineveh and teach the people there to do Teshuva, otherwise Hashem will destroy the city. Jonah does not want to go, and tries to run away from Hashem by boarding a boat going to Tarshish. On the way to Tarshish, a great storm arises, tossing the ship about. Jonah asks to be thrown overboard as he knows the storm is only because of him. Sure enough, as soon as he is thrown overboard, the storm stops.

When Jonah is thrown into the sea, he is swallowed by a great fish, where he prays to Hashem and is forgiven. On Hashem's orders, the fish carries Jonah to the shore, and he heads towards Nineveh. In Nineveh Jonah tells the people Hashem's message. They listen to Jonah and do Teshuva.


The concluding service of Yom Kippur, known as Ne'ilah, is one unique to the day. Ne'ilah offers a final opportunity for repentance. It usually runs an hour or longer (depending on how tired the Chazzan is). It is the only service of the year during which the doors to the Aron Hakodesh ( the Holy Ark where the Torah scrolls are stored) remain open from the beginning to end of the service, signifying that the gates of Heaven are open at this time. Because the Aron Hakodesh is open, many people stand throughout the service. There is a tone of desperation in the prayers of this service. The service is also referred to as the closing of the gates; think of it as the "last chance" to get in a good word before Yom Kippur ends. The Ne'ilah service closes with the verse, said 7 times, Hashem Hu Ho-elokim "(Hashem - only He is G-d)."

The Ne'ilah service ends with one very long blast of the shofar and the congregation proclaims - Shema Yisroel.... and L'shono Ha-ba-ah Bi-yerushalayim   -  "Next year in Yerushalayim."

After Yom Kippur, one should begin preparing for the next Yom Tov (holiday), Sukkot, which begins at sundown four days later.


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