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Yom Kippur


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Yom Kippur is also known as Day of Atonement. It is the holiest Day on the Jewish Calendar. It is a time when Jews feel closest to G-d and aligned with the essence of their soul as they are convicted with the spiritual afflictions. The Jews believe that on this day, G-d will forgive them, purify them and that they will be cleansed from all their sins. Yom Kippur is observed by allowing the soul to be afflicted for sins and wrong doings for nearly 26 hours whilst observing a strict fast. The Jews customarily do away with marital relations on Yom Kippur, food, drinks, washing and applying lotions and creams, also no leather footwear is worn. Instead, the day is spent in synagogues praying for forgiveness. Depicted in the Jewish and Christian Bible, it is written that within months of G-d delivering the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt in the year 2448 of creation (1313 B.C.E.), they fell into grave sin by carving and worshipping a golden calf. Moses ascended Mount Sinai and for forty days petitioned to G-d on their behalf for forgiveness, ultimately his prayers were answered. The day Moses descended from Mount Sinai is forever known as the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), which was 10th of Tishrei. 

The Hebrews built a tabernacle that year as a portable home for G-d. The Tabernacle was a place for prayers and sacrificial offerings. Worship and service in the Tabernacle would climax on Yom Kippur when the High Priest performed a special service for Yom Kippur. Some of the features of the service for Yom Kippur then, included offering incense in the Holy of Holies where the ark took residence, and sweepstake with two goats - one of which was brought as a sacrificial offering, whilst the other was sent out to the wilderness (Azazel). Generally, the High Priest wore ornate golden clothing, but on Yom Kippur, he would be immersed in a mikvah and wear plain white garments to perform the service. This practice continued for hundreds of years during the first Temple in Jerusalem, which was built by King Solomon, and the second Temple, which was built by Ezra. Jews from all over Israel would gather in the Temple to experience the sacred ceremony performed by the High Priest in obtaining forgiveness for all Israel. 

After the destruction of the second Temple in 3830 of creation (70 C.E), Yom Kippur service continued, but instead of a High Priest performing the sacrifices in Jerusalem, Jews individually performed the Yom Kippur service in the inner temple of their heart. Forty days before Yom Kippur, on the first of Elul, the Jews begin to blow the shofar every morning and reciting Psalm 27 after morning and afternoon prayers. In Sephardic communities, worshippers customarily begin reciting Selichot early every morning, creating an atmosphere of reverence, repentance and awe leading up to Yom Kippur. The 10 days that lead to Yom Kippur are known as 10 Days of Repentance and special inclusions are added to prayers, during time, Jews are particularly cautious with their mitzvah practice. The day before Yom Kippur is set aside for eating and preparing for the Holy Day. Kaparot is performed in the early hours of this morning, wherein, a chicken or money is waved over a person's head three times whilst reciting the appropriate text. The chicken is slaughtered in a humane way and then given to charity such as Yeshiva or an orphanage, or money given to charity. 

There is a beautiful custom to request and receive a piece of honey cake, so that if it is decreed that the Jews need to be recipients, it is fulfilled by requesting honey cake and being blessed with a sweet year. Jews traditionally eat festive meals, one in early afternoon and another just before the fast begins. Many Jews follow the custom of immersing themselves in a mikvah on Yom Kippur and extra charity is given, special charity trays are set up at the synagogues before the afternoon service, which contains the Yom Kippur Al Cheit Prayer. Just before the fast begins, after the second meal has been eaten, it is customary to bless the children with Priestly Blessing. Holiday candles are lit before the onset of the day. No work is permitted on Yom Kippur. The day is spent in the synagogue where five prayers are held, namely:

Maariv - with its solemn Kol Nidrei service on the eve of Yom Kippur

Shacharit - the morning prayer which includes a reading from Leviticus, followed by the Yizkor memorial service

Musaf - this includes a detailed account of Yom Kippur Temple service

Minchah - this includes the reading of the Book of Jonah

Neilah - the closing of the gates service at sunset, followed by the shofar blast marking the end of the fast.

After nightfall, the ceremonies closing service ends with the resounding cries of the Shema prayer: "Hear O Israel: G-d is our L-rd, G-d is one."  The attendees would then respond with joyous songs and dance, after which a single blast is blown on the shofar, followed by the proclamation, "Next year in Jerusalem." This is followed by a festive meal, turning the evening after Yom Kippur into a Yom Tov (festival). Even though, Yom Kippur is the most solemn day on Jewish Calendar, it is imbued with an undertone of joy, the joy of being submerged in the spiritual exercise of the day having confidence that G-d will accept their repentance, forgive their sins, and seal their judgement for a year of life, health, and happiness. Traditionally, Jews are known to immediately begin planning construction of the Sukkah, which they will use for the joyous holiday of Sukkot, which comes five days after Yom Kippur. 

Key Terms: Most solemn Day/Jewish Holiday/No work/No fast/No going to synagogue/Day of Atonement.


From sunset Tuesday 4th October - Wednesday 5th, October 2022 sundown. 

Dates are changeable - check events page for future dates.



Yom Kippur

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