Yom Kippur: Jewish Day of Atonement

By Kiran Munir
Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is one of the most important Jewish holidays of the year. It is intended to bring about forgiveness between people and God.

Jews believe that it is the day when God decides the fate of each human being. The Day of Atonement consists of three components: Teshuvah, which is the process of repentance, prayer and fasting.

Every year many Jews reconcile with family, friends, colleagues and enemies. Yom Kippur is the time to forgive and move on. During this period, Jews are supposed to make amends with people they may have offended and ask for forgiveness.

“Yom Kippur is a time of seeking forgiveness and a time reflection too. You find ways to be a better person and a better family member,” commented junior Jeff Bernstein.

Yom Kippur is celebrated 10 days after Rosh Hashanah. The synagogues held services before sundown last Friday that continued until after sundown on Saturday.

The fast started an hour before the holiday began and ended after nightfall on Saturday. Along with eating, Jews were not allowed to engage in sexual activities, or to bathe.

Yom Kippur concluded when the ram’s horn was blown. “The ram’s horn is blown and the fast is broken usually with a meatless meal,” shared Dr. Alan Gorr, Dean of the College of Education.

The horn is associated with holiness since it was also used to announce many festivities in Biblical times.

Yom Kippur occurred in the middle of several Jewish holidays.  Sukkot (the fall holiday) also known as the Feast of Tabernacles and Fall Harvest is celebrated four days after Yom Kippur begins.

Sukkot is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles and Fall Harvest ends with Simhat Torah. Simhat Torah marks the day of rejoicing.

During these Jewish holidays, numerous prayers are offered. By stating all the possible sins committed during the prior year and asking for forgiveness from God, the soul is refreshed.

“Yom Kippur is a time of introspection. A time when the gates close and we think about the past year and ask for forgiveness not only from God, but also the people whom we have wronged,” according to Barbara Bernstein, Education Director of the Congregation of Bath Shalom. “It’s a time to reflect on past mistakes and a time to improve for the future.”

After these holidays, each person starts off with lighter soul and a clean slate for the next year.