Yom Kippur is probably the most significant holiday of the Jewish year. Many Jews
who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast and attend
synagogue services on this holy day. Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of Tishrai.
The name Yom Kippur means Day of Atonement, and that pretty much explains
what the holiday is. It is a day set aside to "afflict the soul," to atone for the sins of the past
year. One can look at it that there are books and God inscribes all of our names in them.
On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in these books is sealed. This day is, essentially,
your last appeal, your last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate your repentance
and make amends.
Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and G-d, not for sins against another
person. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with
that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible.
That must all be
done before Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath; no work can be performed on that day. It is
well-known that you are supposed to refrain from eating and drinking on Yom Kippur. It
is a complete, 25-hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and
ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur. The Talmud also specifies additional
restrictions that are less well-known: washing and bathing, anointing one's body (with
cosmetics, deodorants, etc.), wearing leather shoes (Orthodox Jews routinely wear canvas
sneakers under their dress clothes on Yom Kippur), and engaging in sexual relations are all
prohibited on Yom Kippur.
As always, any of these restrictions can be lifted where a threat to life or health is