What is Yom Kippur?

It's Yom Kippur — the holiest day of the Jewish year. Here's why. 🕍

Fate of each person is sealed for the upcoming year

In the Jewish faith, Yom Kippur, which means “day of atonement” or “day of forgiveness,” is the conclusion of the 10 Days of Repentance, starting with Rosh Hashanah, which celebrates the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur is a day to atone for one’s sins before God and your neighbor. According to the Old Testament, Moses discovered that some Jews were worshipping the golden calf, a symbol of idolatry, prohibited by the 3rd Commandment. Out of anger, he breaks the Tablets of the Law and returns to Mount Sinai to ask God’s forgiveness on behalf of the Jewish people, which was obtained on the day of Yom Kippur, 80 days later.

Several restrictions must be observed during Yom Kippur and notably: forbidden to work, forbidden to eat or drink, forbidden to have sexual relations, forbidden to bathe, forbidden to use cosmetics, forbidden to wear leather shoes. Any boy over 13 years of age is expected to fast, as is any girl over 12 years of age. Exceptions are made if fasting would put an individual’s health at risk. On the day of Yom Kippur, people are encouraged to attend synagogue services, and there are 5 required prayers, including a prayer for the departed.

It can certainly be a bit stressful especially for very observant people of faith, because they don’t know whether they’ll survive or not in the coming year. It is precisely when faced with death that people reflect on the true meaning of life, because it reminds those to what priorities people of the faith should have in their lives. The conclusion of the fast is signaled by the sounding of the shofar, a wind instrument. This is marked by a festive meal enjoyed with one’s family or community.