Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest and most somber day, begins at sundown today, with the observant fasting and seeking forgiveness for their sins.
Yom Kippur concludes at sundown Saturday, ending the 10-day period on the Jewish calendar known as Days of Teshuvah, which is variously translated as repentance, return and change. Many Jews fast on Yom Kippur and spend much of the time in synagogues.
According to Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur is the day on which Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the second set of commandment tablets and announced God’s pardon to people for worshipping a golden calf.
Observant Jews believe that God inscribes the names of the righteous in the Book of Life during the period of the High Holy Days, the 10-day period between Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur.
For that reason, the traditional greeting among Jews on Yom Kippur is Gemar Chatima Tova, which is shorthand for “May your name be written in the good book.”
Yom Kippur services begin with the Kol Nidre, an ancient prayer that literally means “all vows” or “all promises.” The last service of the day ends with the sounding of a ram’s horn called a shofar.