Relating to the Bible’s Old Testament Yom Kippur is the day when God handed to Moses the second set of the Ten Commandments. This occurred after the completion of the second 40 days of guidance from God. This is the same day the Israelites were granted atonement by God for the sin of the Golden Calf, hence, its designation as the “Day of Atonement”.
Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement. It is one of the two holiest days of the year religiously observed by the Jewish people. The other one is Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). Yom Kippur is celebrated early fall on Tishrei 10 of the Jewish calendar, 10 days after Rosh Hashanah. It also regarded as the Sabbath of Sabbaths. Under Jewish tradition, it is a day of reconciliation, of repentance, of prayer, of confessions, of fasting and of refraining from work.
Traditionally, Yom Kippur is the only day of the year when the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) can enter the inner sanctuary of the Holy Temple to offer animal blood sacrifice to remove the sins of the people. Several ritual services performed by the Kohen Gadol in the Holy Temple are considered an important part of Yom Kippur because the Kohen Gadol asked forgiveness for the sins of the Jews and the world.
Yom Kippur provides some prophetic insights such as the second coming of Jesus Christ; the national restoration of Israel after the period of Great Tribulation; and the final judgment of the world.
Although Yom Kippur is a very solemn day, it is nevertheless seen by the Jewish community as a joyful day because they believe that God will accept their repentance, forgive their sins, and bring them a year of happiness, health and life.
Yom Kippur observance is marked by three important Jewish traditional practices:
- THE REPENTANCE (Teshuvah). This is the ten days of repentance leading up to Yom Kippur. During this period, the Jewish people must pray to seek forgiveness for sins or for broken promises made to God and they must seek reconciliation and forgiveness for any offense or wrong-doings committed against individuals or the community as a whole. This process of repentance is called teshuvah. Under Jewish tradition, it is very important that they have to complete this process of repentance by exerting their effort to amend with other people before they can participate in Yom Kippur services since only offenses committed against God are forgiven in Yom Kippur.
- THE PRAYER AND CONFESSION. During this holy day, the Jewish people spent most of their time praying and listening to chants in the synagogue. The people are usually dressed in white clothing or white robe (kittel) to symbolize purity of their intentions to cleanse the sins they have committed in the past year. Yom Kippur has five prayer services: Ma’ariv, the evening prayer with its solemn chanting of Kol Nidrei (all vows); Shacharit, the morning prayer which includes Torah readings about Temple service; Musaf, the detailed reading of the Biblical account about the Day of Atonement (Avodah) ; Mincha, the reading of the entire Book of Jonah; and Ne’ilah, the closing prayer. Included in the evening prayer (Ma’ariv) service is another important Yom Kippur service, the “Viddui”, or confession of the sins of the community. The Viddui prayers contains two basic parts: the Ashamnu, a shorter, more general list of sins and the Al Chet, a longer, alphabetically arranged and more particular list of sins. Viddui is being recited ten times by striking the breast lightly in the five prayer services of Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is concluded with the Nei’lah (“closing”) prayer which includes the recitation of Shema Yisrael and the blowing of shofar, which marks the end of fasting.
- FASTING. Yom Kippur is marked by 25 hours of fasting which starts an hour before the Yom Kippur begins and ends after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur, the Jews will stop to work and must undertake the observance of the five abstentions on the day of fasting: Abstain from eating food and drinking (even water); Abstain from washing or taking a bath; Abstain from anointing with perfumes or lotions on their bodies; Abstain from wearing leather shoes; and Abstain from sexual or marital relations. While fasting is the rule on the observance of Yom Kippur, there are several exceptions: pregnant women or those who have recently gave birth, ill or sick people and children under the age of nine, because these people need food and drink to sustain their strength. Judaism values life above the observance of Jewish law or tradition.
Today, the modern state of Israel celebrates Yom Kippur as a legal holiday. Every year, in the observance of Yom Kippur, the government of Israel suspends the operations of airports and public transportation, broadcasting networks-radio and television, and all shops and businesses, except in one instance. In 1973 during the Israeli-Egyptian-Syrian War, otherwise known as the Yom Kippur War, Israel sounded the air raid siren in the afternoon of Yom Kippur and radio broadcasts were resumed to alert the public of the surprise attack against Israel by the Egyptian and Syrian armies. As earlier stated, Judaism puts more emphasis on the value of life that in tradition.
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