September 24, 2023
“This evening at sundown, members of the Jewish community across New York City will begin to observe Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of Atonement and one of the holiest days of the year. Families will come together to repent, reflect, and commit to approaching the year ahead with renewed hope, purpose, and resolve. I hope all Jewish New Yorkers have an easy and meaningful fast. May we all be sealed in the book of life. G’mar Chatima Tova.”
Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in Judaism. It falls on the 10th day of Tishrei in the Jewish lunar calendar, which typically corresponds to September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. Yom Kippur is observed with solemnity and reverence by Jewish communities around the world.
The primary focus of Yom Kippur is on atonement and repentance for one’s sins. It is a day for individuals to seek forgiveness from God for any wrongdoings committed during the past year. The belief is that through sincere repentance, prayer, and acts of charity, one’s sins can be forgiven, and a fresh start can be made for the coming year.
Key observances and customs associated with Yom Kippur include:
- Fasting: Jewish adults are required to observe a complete fast on Yom Kippur, refraining from eating or drinking for approximately 25 hours. The fast is seen as a way to focus on spiritual matters and seek forgiveness.
- Prayer: Extended synagogue services are held on Yom Kippur, including the recitation of special prayers, such as the “Kol Nidre” prayer, which asks for the annulment of vows made in the coming year.
- Confession of Sins: Individuals take time during Yom Kippur to reflect on their actions and seek forgiveness for their sins. This process includes confessing sins both individually and collectively as a community.
- Charity and Acts of Kindness: Performing acts of charity and kindness, known as “tzedakah,” is encouraged during Yom Kippur as a way to demonstrate a commitment to improving oneself and helping others.
- White Clothing: Many people wear white clothing on Yom Kippur as a symbol of purity and renewal.
Yom Kippur is considered a day of spiritual introspection and a time for individuals to make amends with both God and fellow human beings. It is the culmination of the Ten Days of Repentance that begin with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and it marks the conclusion of the High Holy Days in Judaism.
Yom Kippur is observed for a 25-hour period, beginning at sundown, by refraining from work that is prohibited on Shabbat, plus five additional prohibitions: 1) eating or drinking; 2) bathing; 3) anointing the body with oil; 4) wearing leather shoes; and 5) sexual relations.
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