What to Wear on Yom Kippur

What to Wear on Yom Kippur: Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and repentance, one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. It is a time for reflecting on your life, asking for forgiveness from others, and making amends. Yom Kippur is observed by not eating or drinking from sundown to sundown. Read on about what to wear on yom kippur chabad and what shoes to wear on yom kippur.

The Jewish tradition of dressing up for Yom Kippur has its roots in the ancient practice of wearing white as a sign of purity. Today, there are many different styles of dress appropriate for this holy day: some people choose to wear their best dress clothes or suits, while others opt for more informal clothing such as jeans and t-shirts.

If you’re unsure what to wear on Yom Kippur, here are some ideas:

What to wear on yom kippur

Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and repentance, which means that you should probably avoid wearing clothes that are too tight, too loud, or too colorful.

It’s easy to forget what to wear when you’re not fasting on Yom Kippur (after all, it’s not like there are any rules about what to wear during regular days). But if you’re planning on fasting this year, here are some tips for dressing appropriately:

1) Wear clothes that fit well and don’t expose too much skin. You don’t want to be uncomfortable or ashamed of your body during the day—it’s supposed to be about reflection and awareness!

2) Choose muted colors like black and gray over bright colors like red or yellow (unless you’re in Israel). If possible, stick with neutral colors like white or gray—they won’t distract from your thoughts while you’re fasting.

3) Don’t wear anything made with polyester or other synthetic materials—these fabrics will hold heat close to your body and make it harder for you to feel hunger pangs as clearly as possible during the fast.

The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur is approaching. It’s a day of fasting and atonement, but it’s also a day to celebrate the closeness of family, friends, and community.

In order to truly experience the holiday’s power and meaning, you need to be comfortable! Here are some tips for how to dress for this special day.

Yom Kippur is one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar. It’s a time to reflect on your year and offer up a day of fasting and repentance.

What to wear on yom kippur chabad

As you prepare to fast from sundown today until sundown tomorrow, it’s important to dress appropriately for this special occasion.

Yom Kippur is one of the most important Jewish holidays, and it’s also a great opportunity to try out new styles. Whether you’re going to temple or just spending the day at home, there are lots of ways to make your look special for this holiday.

Try to wear white.This is the clearest and most visible nod toward the idea of purity. By wearing white on Yom Kippur, you’re trying to appear truly “angelic,” Rabbi Hain says — simple (and transcendent) as that.

6 Little-Known Rules For Observing Yom Kippur

PHOTO: NATHAN BENN/CORBIS/GETTY IMAGES.
This year Yom Kippur, the day of atonement in the Jewish calendar, begins at sunset on Sunday, September 27. Jewish people are encouraged to spend the following day reflecting on their actions of the past year and repenting for any wrongs they may have committed.
Since Yom Kippur takes place 10 days after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, it’s often viewed as an opportunity to start the year on a centered and renewed note. This pursuit of spiritual purity in the new year is seen most clearly in the customary fasting associated with Yom Kippur, says Rabbi Yonah Hain of Columbia/Barnard Hillel.
The specific rules to the fast cover a wide range, he says, but all of them point toward a common goal: to emulate a kind of morality in the hopes of transcending your earthly form (at least for a day). Ahead, we detail the specific customs of this day.

What to Wear on Yom Kippur
On Yom Kippur, there are many customs surrounding clothing.
On Yom Kippur, focusing on the spiritual above the physical is one of the core tenets of the day. That said, there are a few dress traditions on the holiday.

Not wearing leather, especially leather shoes, is a long-held Yom Kippur tradition. Leather once symbolized luxury and high status, so not wearing it signifies that all people are humbled and equal. The Jewish mystical tradition also suggests that wearing leather shows our dominance — not God’s — over the world.

Many synagogue-goers choose to wear canvas sneakers instead. Some may even be in flip-flops or Crocs. Synthetic materials are also fine — many shoes appear to be made of animal skins but are not.

Wearing white clothing is another widespread Yom Kippur custom. White symbolizes purity and hearkens back to the biblical High Priest who dressed in white linen on Yom Kippur. In Judaism, white is also a color which represents death, and by wearing white we are reminded of our mortality, motivating us to repent further.

In some communities, adults (usually men, but not exclusively!) wear a kittel on Yom Kippur. A Kittel is a long white robe, and those who own them reserve them exclusively for special holidays. Synagogue attendees will also commonly wear a tallit, prayer shawl. In fact, Yom Kippur evening services are the only time a tallit is customarily worn at night.

Most synagogue attendees dress in formal clothing on Yom Kippur (except for their shoes!) but the exact parameters of this vary from congregation to congregation. If you’re worried about the tone of an outfit, it is advisable to ask a friend.

What to Wear on Yom Kippur?
Image: Air Force Captain Rabbi Gary Davidson is wearing a kittel and puts on a tallit to lead Yom Kippur services for Air Force personnel stationed in South East Asia. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Central Command)

(If it’s not Yom Kippur, see my other article What to Wear to Synagogue?)

I noticed that the third most popular article on this blog on Rosh Hashanah was What to Wear to Synagogue. I suspect there may also be folks who wonder what to wear on Yom Kippur – or who get to synagogue and worry that they have worn the wrong thing.

Yom Kippur is a complicated day for clothing choices for Jews, because there is a wide variation of practice. For a visitor to an unfamiliar synagogue, you are unlikely to go far wrong with clean, tidy business attire.

However, what you will see upon arrival at the synagogue may cover quite a range. Here are some choices you may encounter at a Yom Kippur service:

Many people will wear “nice” business attire.
Some may choose to wear canvas or plastic shoes, since traditionally there is a prohibition of wearing leather shoes on Yom Kippur.
Some may choose to wear a white garment that looks a bit like a modest lightweight bathrobe or a lab coat. It’s called a kittel, and it has multiple connotations. Bridegrooms may wear a kittel for weddings. A kittel is part of the tachrichim, the traditional burial shroud. It conveys a sense of both purity and mourning.
Some may choose to observe the prohibition against “anointing” on Yom Kippur. Interpretations of this practice vary: women may refrain from wearing cosmetics, men may forgo scented products. Some individuals interpret it as including deodorant.
Washing for pleasure is forbidden during Yom Kippur, but washing for hygiene is permitted. Individuals decide on precisely where to draw those lines themselves. You may see someone who appears to be having a “bad hair day” because they still have “bed head.”
Why would civilized people show up for a major religious observance with such grooming? This has to do with the five “afflictions” of Yom Kippur. Traditionally, on Yom Kippur Jews abstain from:

Food and drink
sex
washing for pleasure
anointing
wearing leather shoes
In my own experience as an American Reform Jew, I’ve seen a few people groom themselves differently for Yom Kippur, and some people wear canvas shoes. A much smaller number wear a kittel. Most people wear tidy, clean clothing but nothing unusual.

The last thing that’s different about clothing for Yom Kippur is that you will see a number of people in synagogue wearing a tallit, or prayer shawl, at the evening Kol Nidre service. At no other time does the Jew in the pew wear a tallit at night.

In most Orthodox synagogues, the tallit and kittel are seen as males-only attire. I say “most” because even in Orthodoxy, customs vary from shul to shul. Women dress as they do for any other service at that synagogue. How dressy they will be depends on the culture of that particular community. In general, women at an Orthodox shul wear skirts, not slacks.

For a visitor in any synagogue, the same rule applies as for other services: you are likely to fit right in wearing business attire. The important thing is that one be clean, tidy and modest. You want to dress in a way that will allow you and those around you to pay attention to prayer and the service, because after all, that’s the point!

What to Wear on Yom Kippur?
Image: Air Force Captain Rabbi Gary Davidson is wearing a kittel and puts on a tallit to lead Yom Kippur services for Air Force personnel stationed in South East Asia. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Central Command)

(If it’s not Yom Kippur, see my other article What to Wear to Synagogue?)

I noticed that the third most popular article on this blog on Rosh Hashanah was What to Wear to Synagogue. I suspect there may also be folks who wonder what to wear on Yom Kippur – or who get to synagogue and worry that they have worn the wrong thing.

Yom Kippur is a complicated day for clothing choices for Jews, because there is a wide variation of practice. For a visitor to an unfamiliar synagogue, you are unlikely to go far wrong with clean, tidy business attire.

However, what you will see upon arrival at the synagogue may cover quite a range. Here are some choices you may encounter at a Yom Kippur service:

Many people will wear “nice” business attire.
Some may choose to wear canvas or plastic shoes, since traditionally there is a prohibition of wearing leather shoes on Yom Kippur.
Some may choose to wear a white garment that looks a bit like a modest lightweight bathrobe or a lab coat. It’s called a kittel, and it has multiple connotations. Bridegrooms may wear a kittel for weddings. A kittel is part of the tachrichim, the traditional burial shroud. It conveys a sense of both purity and mourning.
Some may choose to observe the prohibition against “anointing” on Yom Kippur. Interpretations of this practice vary: women may refrain from wearing cosmetics, men may forgo scented products. Some individuals interpret it as including deodorant.
Washing for pleasure is forbidden during Yom Kippur, but washing for hygiene is permitted. Individuals decide on precisely where to draw those lines themselves. You may see someone who appears to be having a “bad hair day” because they still have “bed head.”
Why would civilized people show up for a major religious observance with such grooming? This has to do with the five “afflictions” of Yom Kippur. Traditionally, on Yom Kippur Jews abstain from:

Food and drink
sex
washing for pleasure
anointing
wearing leather shoes
In my own experience as an American Reform Jew, I’ve seen a few people groom themselves differently for Yom Kippur, and some people wear canvas shoes. A much smaller number wear a kittel. Most people wear tidy, clean clothing but nothing unusual.

The last thing that’s different about clothing for Yom Kippur is that you will see a number of people in synagogue wearing a tallit, or prayer shawl, at the evening Kol Nidre service. At no other time does the Jew in the pew wear a tallit at night.

In most Orthodox synagogues, the tallit and kittel are seen as males-only attire. I say “most” because even in Orthodoxy, customs vary from shul to shul. Women dress as they do for any other service at that synagogue. How dressy they will be depends on the culture of that particular community. In general, women at an Orthodox shul wear skirts, not slacks.

What to Wear on Yom Kippur?
Image: Air Force Captain Rabbi Gary Davidson is wearing a kittel and puts on a tallit to lead Yom Kippur services for Air Force personnel stationed in South East Asia. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Central Command)

(If it’s not Yom Kippur, see my other article What to Wear to Synagogue?)

I noticed that the third most popular article on this blog on Rosh Hashanah was What to Wear to Synagogue. I suspect there may also be folks who wonder what to wear on Yom Kippur – or who get to synagogue and worry that they have worn the wrong thing.

Yom Kippur is a complicated day for clothing choices for Jews, because there is a wide variation of practice. For a visitor to an unfamiliar synagogue, you are unlikely to go far wrong with clean, tidy business attire.

However, what you will see upon arrival at the synagogue may cover quite a range. Here are some choices you may encounter at a Yom Kippur service:

Many people will wear “nice” business attire.
Some may choose to wear canvas or plastic shoes, since traditionally there is a prohibition of wearing leather shoes on Yom Kippur.
Some may choose to wear a white garment that looks a bit like a modest lightweight bathrobe or a lab coat. It’s called a kittel, and it has multiple connotations. Bridegrooms may wear a kittel for weddings. A kittel is part of the tachrichim, the traditional burial shroud. It conveys a sense of both purity and mourning.
Some may choose to observe the prohibition against “anointing” on Yom Kippur. Interpretations of this practice vary: women may refrain from wearing cosmetics, men may forgo scented products. Some individuals interpret it as including deodorant.
Washing for pleasure is forbidden during Yom Kippur, but washing for hygiene is permitted. Individuals decide on precisely where to draw those lines themselves. You may see someone who appears to be having a “bad hair day” because they still have “bed head.”
Why would civilized people show up for a major religious observance with such grooming? This has to do with the five “afflictions” of Yom Kippur. Traditionally, on Yom Kippur Jews abstain from:

Food and drink
sex
washing for pleasure
anointing
wearing leather shoes
In my own experience as an American Reform Jew, I’ve seen a few people groom themselves differently for Yom Kippur, and some people wear canvas shoes. A much smaller number wear a kittel. Most people wear tidy, clean clothing but nothing unusual.

The last thing that’s different about clothing for Yom Kippur is that you will see a number of people in synagogue wearing a tallit, or prayer shawl, at the evening Kol Nidre service. At no other time does the Jew in the pew wear a tallit at night.

In most Orthodox synagogues, the tallit and kittel are seen as males-only attire. I say “most” because even in Orthodoxy, customs vary from shul to shul. Women dress as they do for any other service at that synagogue. How dressy they will be depends on the culture of that particular community. In general, women at an Orthodox shul wear skirts, not slacks.

What to Wear on Yom Kippur?
Image: Air Force Captain Rabbi Gary Davidson is wearing a kittel and puts on a tallit to lead Yom Kippur services for Air Force personnel stationed in South East Asia. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Central Command)

(If it’s not Yom Kippur, see my other article What to Wear to Synagogue?)

I noticed that the third most popular article on this blog on Rosh Hashanah was What to Wear to Synagogue. I suspect there may also be folks who wonder what to wear on Yom Kippur – or who get to synagogue and worry that they have worn the wrong thing.

Yom Kippur is a complicated day for clothing choices for Jews, because there is a wide variation of practice. For a visitor to an unfamiliar synagogue, you are unlikely to go far wrong with clean, tidy business attire.

However, what you will see upon arrival at the synagogue may cover quite a range. Here are some choices you may encounter at a Yom Kippur service:

Many people will wear “nice” business attire.
Some may choose to wear canvas or plastic shoes, since traditionally there is a prohibition of wearing leather shoes on Yom Kippur.
Some may choose to wear a white garment that looks a bit like a modest lightweight bathrobe or a lab coat. It’s called a kittel, and it has multiple connotations. Bridegrooms may wear a kittel for weddings. A kittel is part of the tachrichim, the traditional burial shroud. It conveys a sense of both purity and mourning.
Some may choose to observe the prohibition against “anointing” on Yom Kippur. Interpretations of this practice vary: women may refrain from wearing cosmetics, men may forgo scented products. Some individuals interpret it as including deodorant.
Washing for pleasure is forbidden during Yom Kippur, but washing for hygiene is permitted. Individuals decide on precisely where to draw those lines themselves. You may see someone who appears to be having a “bad hair day” because they still have “bed head.”
Why would civilized people show up for a major religious observance with such grooming? This has to do with the five “afflictions” of Yom Kippur. Traditionally, on Yom Kippur Jews abstain from:

Food and drink
sex
washing for pleasure
anointing
wearing leather shoes
In my own experience as an American Reform Jew, I’ve seen a few people groom themselves differently for Yom Kippur, and some people wear canvas shoes. A much smaller number wear a kittel. Most people wear tidy, clean clothing but nothing unusual.

The last thing that’s different about clothing for Yom Kippur is that you will see a number of people in synagogue wearing a tallit, or prayer shawl, at the evening Kol Nidre service. At no other time does the Jew in the pew wear a tallit at night.

In most Orthodox synagogues, the tallit and kittel are seen as males-only attire. I say “most” because even in Orthodoxy, customs vary from shul to shul. Women dress as they do for any other service at that synagogue. How dressy they will be depends on the culture of that particular community. In general, women at an Orthodox shul wear skirts, not slacks.

What to Wear on Yom Kippur?
Image: Air Force Captain Rabbi Gary Davidson is wearing a kittel and puts on a tallit to lead Yom Kippur services for Air Force personnel stationed in South East Asia. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Central Command)

(If it’s not Yom Kippur, see my other article What to Wear to Synagogue?)

I noticed that the third most popular article on this blog on Rosh Hashanah was What to Wear to Synagogue. I suspect there may also be folks who wonder what to wear on Yom Kippur – or who get to synagogue and worry that they have worn the wrong thing.

Yom Kippur is a complicated day for clothing choices for Jews, because there is a wide variation of practice. For a visitor to an unfamiliar synagogue, you are unlikely to go far wrong with clean, tidy business attire.

However, what you will see upon arrival at the synagogue may cover quite a range. Here are some choices you may encounter at a Yom Kippur service:

Many people will wear “nice” business attire.
Some may choose to wear canvas or plastic shoes, since traditionally there is a prohibition of wearing leather shoes on Yom Kippur.
Some may choose to wear a white garment that looks a bit like a modest lightweight bathrobe or a lab coat. It’s called a kittel, and it has multiple connotations. Bridegrooms may wear a kittel for weddings. A kittel is part of the tachrichim, the traditional burial shroud. It conveys a sense of both purity and mourning.
Some may choose to observe the prohibition against “anointing” on Yom Kippur. Interpretations of this practice vary: women may refrain from wearing cosmetics, men may forgo scented products. Some individuals interpret it as including deodorant.
Washing for pleasure is forbidden during Yom Kippur, but washing for hygiene is permitted. Individuals decide on precisely where to draw those lines themselves. You may see someone who appears to be having a “bad hair day” because they still have “bed head.”
Why would civilized people show up for a major religious observance with such grooming? This has to do with the five “afflictions” of Yom Kippur. Traditionally, on Yom Kippur Jews abstain from:

Food and drink
sex
washing for pleasure
anointing
wearing leather shoes
In my own experience as an American Reform Jew, I’ve seen a few people groom themselves differently for Yom Kippur, and some people wear canvas shoes. A much smaller number wear a kittel. Most people wear tidy, clean clothing but nothing unusual.

The last thing that’s different about clothing for Yom Kippur is that you will see a number of people in synagogue wearing a tallit, or prayer shawl, at the evening Kol Nidre service. At no other time does the Jew in the pew wear a tallit at night.

In most Orthodox synagogues, the tallit and kittel are seen as males-only attire. I say “most” because even in Orthodoxy, customs vary from shul to shul. Women dress as they do for any other service at that synagogue. How dressy they will be depends on the culture of that particular community. In general, women at an Orthodox shul wear skirts, not slacks.

For a visitor in any synagogue, the same rule applies as for other services: you are likely to fit right in wearing business attire. The important thing is that one be clean, tidy and modest. You want to dress in a way that will allow you and those around you to pay attention to prayer and the service, because after all, that’s the point!

For a visitor in any synagogue, the same rule applies as for other services: you are likely to fit right in wearing business attire. The important thing is that one be clean, tidy and modest. You want to dress in a way that will allow you and those around you to pay attention to prayer and the service, because after all, that’s the point!

For a visitor in any synagogue, the same rule applies as for other services: you are likely to fit right in wearing business attire. The important thing is that one be clean, tidy and modest. You want to dress in a way that will allow you and those around you to pay attention to prayer and the service, because after all, that’s the point!

For a visitor in any synagogue, the same rule applies as for other services: you are likely to fit right in wearing business attire. The important thing is that one be clean, tidy and modest. You want to dress in a way that will allow you and those around you to pay attention to prayer and the service, because after all, that’s the point!

what shoes to wear on yom kippur

Yom Kippur is a time to reflect on your life and make amends for the wrongs you have committed. It’s a day of fasting and praying, in keeping with the Jewish tradition. The most important part of this holiday is wearing white clothes and abstaining from eating or drinking anything while in services.

Your shoes are an important part of your outfit, but they shouldn’t be flashy or expensive. They should also be comfortable because you’ll be doing a lot of walking around during services and in between them as well.

If you’re not sure what type of shoes are appropriate for this holiday, look for shoes with rubber soles and no heels, which will keep you safe from accidents if you need to run for something quickly.

Symbols for yom kippur

This is the root of the shofar, a hollowed-out ram’s horn, as a symbol for these holidays, both of which touch upon how each Jewish person individually practices and commits themselves to their faith.

What The Shofar Represents During Yom Kippur
SARA COUGHLIN
SEPTEMBER 17, 2018, 8:25 PM

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.
Last week, in honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg uploaded a video of him blowing a ram’s horn known as a shofar on Facebook (where else?), along with the message, “Shana tova and a sweet new year!” Not every Jewish family keeps a shofar around the house, but everyone who’s planning to attend a service for Yom Kippur, the religious bookend to Rosh Hashanah this week, will certainly hear its unmistakable sound.
And that sound is integral to understanding the overall significance and role of the shofar in these holiday celebrations. Rabbi Yonah Hain, of Columbia/Barnard Hillel, describes the shofar as a “wordless ritual,” and adds that it represents both “a profound call of pride” and a “wailing cry of nervousness.”
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“It can represent two diametrically opposite things simultaneously,” he explains, to the point that the symbolic purpose it serves during Rosh Hashanah is very different to its purpose during Yom Kippur.
On one hand, the triumphant sound of the shofar makes frequent appearances during Rosh Hashanah services and applies to the joyous celebrations that are associated with this holiday. “We’re hoping that we’ve been blessed with goodness for the year to come,” Rabbi Hain says. “We have confidence in the hope for justice in the world.” The use of the shofar heightens this sense of excitement and optimism for the new year.
Meanwhile, when the shofar is blown at the end of Yom Kippur services (Rabbi Hain says this is the one time it’s used during Yom Kippur), it adds to the already solemn tone of the holiday, in which observers may fast or abstain from indulgences for the day. Here, “it represents an anxiety and trepidation about the uncertainty [of the new year],” Rabbi Hain explains. It might not sound completely despairing to all, but it can serve as a reminder that nervousness is natural when new things (like the Jewish new year) begin.
There’s a section of the Torah that’s read during Rosh Hashanah that tells the story of Abraham’s decision to ultimately sacrifice a ram instead of his son, Isaac, for God. This is the root of the shofar, a hollowed-out ram’s horn, as a symbol for these holidays, both of which touch upon how each Jewish person individually practices and commits themselves to their faith. That’s why, outside of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it’s unlikely that you’ll hear the sound of a shofar during another Jewish holiday or a regular service, Rabbi Hain says. But, at this time of year, it’s a deeply evocative sound and symbol that permeates the observances of these two Jewish holidays.
Here’s to hoping that Zuckerberg makes his shofar video an annual thing.

Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—is considered the most important holiday in the Jewish faith. Falling in the month of Tishrei (September or October in the Gregorian calendar), it marks the culmination of the 10 Days of Awe, a period of introspection and repentance that follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. According to tradition, it is on Yom Kippur that God decides each person’s fate, so Jews are encouraged to make amends and ask forgiveness for sins committed during the past year. The holiday is observed with a 25-hour fast and a special religious service. Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are known as Judaism’s “High Holy Days.” Yom Kippur 2021 begins on the evening of Wednesday, September 15 and ends on the evening of Thursday, September 16.

History and Significance of Yom Kippur
According to tradition, the first Yom Kippur took place after the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and arrival at Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Descending from the mountain, Moses caught his people worshipping a golden calf and shattered the sacred tablets in anger. Because the Israelites atoned for their idolatry, God forgave their sins and offered Moses a second set of tablets.

Did you know? Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, one of the most famous Jewish athletes in American sports, made national headlines when he refused to pitch in the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. When Koufax’s replacement Don Drysdale was pulled from the game for poor performance, he told the Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager Walter Alston, “I bet you wish I was Jewish, too.”

Jewish texts recount that during biblical times Yom Kippur was the only day on which the high priest could enter the inner sanctum of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. There, he would perform a series of rituals and sprinkle blood from sacrificed animals on the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments. Through this complex ceremony he made atonement and asked for God’s forgiveness on behalf of all the people of Israel. The tradition is said to have continued until the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D; it was then adapted into a service for rabbis and their congregations in individual synagogues.

According to tradition, God judges all creatures during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, deciding whether they will live or die in the coming year. Jewish law teaches that God inscribes the names of the righteous in the “book of life” and condemns the wicked to death on Rosh Hashanah; people who fall between the two categories have until Yom Kippur to perform “teshuvah,” or repentance. As a result, observant Jews consider Yom Kippur and the days leading up to it a time for prayer, good deeds, reflecting on past mistakes and making amends with others.

Observing Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur is Judaism’s most sacred day of the year; it is sometimes referred to as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths.” For this reason, even Jews who do not observe other traditions refrain from work, which is forbidden during the holiday, and participate in religious services on Yom Kippur, causing synagogue attendance to soar. Some congregations rent out additional space to accommodate large numbers of worshippers.

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The Torah commands all Jewish adults (apart from the sick, the elderly and women who have just given birth) to abstain from eating and drinking between sundown on the evening before Yom Kippur and nightfall the next day. The fast is believed to cleanse the body and spirit, not to serve as a punishment. Religious Jews heed additional restrictions on bathing, washing, using cosmetics, wearing leather shoes and sexual relations. These prohibitions are intended to prevent worshippers from focusing on material possessions and superficial comforts.

Because the High Holy Day prayer services include special liturgical texts, songs and customs, rabbis and their congregations read from a special prayer book known as the machzor during both Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Five distinct prayer services take place on Yom Kippur, the first on the eve of the holiday and the last before sunset on the following day. One of the most important prayers specific to Yom Kippur describes the atonement ritual performed by high priests during ancient times. The blowing of the shofar—a trumpet made from a ram’s horn—is an essential and emblematic part of both High Holy Days. On Yom Kippur, a single long blast is sounded at the end of the final service to mark the conclusion of the fast.

Traditions and Symbols of Yom Kippur
Pre-Yom Kippur feast: On the eve of Yom Kippur, families and friends gather for a bountiful feast that must be finished before sunset. The idea is to gather strength for 25 hours of fasting.

Breaking of the fast: After the final Yom Kippur service, many people return home for a festive meal. It traditionally consists of breakfast-like comfort foods such as blintzes, noodle pudding and baked goods.

Wearing white: It is customary for religious Jews to dress in white—a symbol of purity—on Yom Kippur. Some married men wear kittels, which are white burial shrouds, to signify repentance.

Charity: Some Jews make donations or volunteer their time in the days leading up to Yom Kippur. This is seen as a way to atone and seek God’s forgiveness. One ancient custom known as kapparot involves swinging a live chicken or bundle of coins over one’s head while reciting a prayer. The chicken or money is then given to the poor.

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