Yom Kippur or Yom ha-Kippurim is celebrated on the 10th day of the Jewish calendar month Tishri, which can be in September or October of the Gregorian calendar. According to the Jewish calendar, it is the tenth day after the beginning of the new year and the new year of Rosh Hashanah. The days between the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur are for inner contemplation and penance. Jews confess their sins and ask God for forgiveness. At the same time, however, it is also about putting your relationships with your fellow human beings in order and resolving conflicts.
The Religious Origin of Yom Kippur
According to biblical tradition, 40 days after the Jews received the Torah on Mount Sinai, they were chosen as God’s people. During those 40 days they had violated God’s commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” by worshiping a golden calf, thereby committing idolatry.
From a religious perspective, Yom Kippur marks the day God forgave the Jewish people for the “sin of the golden calf.” Moses asked God not to destroy his people, the Jews. God forgave them on the 10th of Tishri. According to tradition, on the Day of Atonement a goat was loaded with the sins of the Jewish people and sent into the desert.
The term “scapegoat” has survived in a modified form in the German vocabulary to this day. The term represents a person who is innocent but held responsible by others for alleged wrongdoings or unpleasant events.
Yom Kippur is symbolically associated with confession of sins, purification, forgiveness and the indestructible bond with God.
Strict rules of penance and fasting
Yom Kippur is observed as a strict day of fasting, from its beginning on the evening before until the evening of the Day of Atonement itself. Yom Kippur is the only day of fasting that is also observed on a Sabbath. Eating and drinking is forbidden, as are bathing, washing and putting on make-up, as are sex and any other form of pleasure.
Strictly religious Jews also adhere to the rule of not wearing leather shoes or leather boots and white clothing.
The Yom Kippur regulations are still observed today by a majority of Jews around the world. However, the rules are not practiced in the same strict form by everyone. However, the meaning and serious character have been preserved.
A whole day is devoted to prayer
Plentiful eating and drinking are common on the eve of Yom Kippur. There are two festive meals: one during the day, the other just before the start of the holiday in the evening. This includes, among other things, a piece of honey cake, which, like an apple dipped in honey, is associated with the wish for a good (sweet) year.
On the Day of Atonement itself, strict austerity prevails. Most of the festival is celebrated in the synagogue. Several services often extend without interruption throughout the day. At the end of the prayers, a long drawn-out note is blown with a ram’s horn, the shofar. Yom Kippur is over. The families then gather for a feast together, the so-called “bite”, and the faithful wish each other a good year.