Friday, October 7, 2011


Ten days after the beginning of the new Jewish year, Jewish people experience the holiest day of the year- Yom Kippur (יוֹם כִּפּוּר, Day of Atonement). According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into the Book of Life (סֵפֶר הַחַיִּים,Sefer HaXaim), on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. During the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. On Yom Kippur, the entire day is spent fasting and praying for God’s forgiveness and for a good year to come. 

The Torah calls the intervening period Yom HaKippurim (יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים), and commands us not to work on the last day, Yom Kippur, and to afflict our souls. 

"בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי בֶּעָשׂוֹר לַחֹדֶשׁ תְּעַנּוּ אֶת נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם, וְכָל מְלָאכָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ הָאֶזְרָח וְהַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכְכֶם.כִּי בַיּוֹם הַזֶּה יְכַפֵּר עֲלֵיכֶם, לְטַהֵר אֶתְכֶם מִכֹּל חַטֹּאתֵיכֶם, לִפְנֵי ה' תִּטְהָרוּ." (ויקרא ט"ז, כ"ט-ל')
“In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and shall do no manner of work, the home-born, or the stranger that sojourneth among you. For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the LORD.” (Leviticus 16:29-30)

In order for us to "afflict our souls" Jewish people abstain from food and drink, do not wash or anoint their bodies, do not wear leather shoes, and abstain from marital relations during Yom Kippur. 

On the days preceding Yom Kippur a blessing for good inscription in the Book of Life is added to the blessing of Shana Tova (good year): 

שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּגְמַר חֲתִימָה טוֹבָה, 
Shana Tova uGmar Chatima Tova
Have a good year and may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for good. 

Source:eteacherhebrew newsletter; Photo:ILoveHebrew

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