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Yom Kippur

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Heidenheim's festival prayer book for the day of Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur (יוֹם כִּפּוּר, yom kippur or יום הכיפורים, yom ha kippurim), also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.[1] This day marks the end of ten days of penitence. At the time of the first and second Temples was the only day that the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and a goat was sent to Azazel in the wilderness.[1] (Leviticus 16:10 ) It is a "Shabat Shabaton", a day of complete abstention of mundane work. Rabbinic tradition states that each Jew must focus on his personal avodah, the service to the LORD.[2]

Biblical description

God establishes this holy day on the 10th of the 7th month, the Hebrew month of Tishri, as the day of atonement for sins. As it can be read in Leviticus:

"And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD." - Leviticus 16:29-30

God also established that this day is a day of rest:

"Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings." - Leviticus 23:27-31

Observance after the destruction of the Temple

After the destruction of the Temple, Gamaliel III and his sucessors revolutionized the religious pratice by transferring to the sinagogue the rites once practiced in the Temple. The Day of Atonement would become a fast day for individual repentence, replacing the act of atonement carried by the High Priest.[3] Presently the day of atonement is a day of fasting and mourning on which the Jew accounts for his deeds. On this day, in accordance with Judaism, the man´s fate is determined by the balance between his good and evil actions.[4]


The traditions, according to Talmud, are as follows (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 73b.) :

  • It is forbidden to eating and drinking
  • It is forbidden to bathing or washing
  • It is forbidden to put on sandals or to wear leather shoes
  • It is forbidden to anointing oneself with perfumes or lotions
  • It is forbidden to have marital intercourse


  1. 1.0 1.1 Unterman, Alan (1997). Dictionary of Jewish Lore & Legend. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 978-0500279847. 
  2. "Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement". Retrieved June, 15, 2012. 
  3. Gilbert, Martin, ed. (1990). The Ilustrated Atlas of the Jewish Civilization. New York: MacMillan. p. 51. ISBN 0-02-543415-2. 
  4. Barnavi, Eli, ed. (1992). A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People. New York: Schocken Books. p. 72-73. ISBN 0-8052-4127-2.