SUNSET FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7: After a last traditional meal, observant Jews will begin the strict 25-hour fast of Yom Kippur—not even partaking of water. Families will fill synagogues to capacity tonight. Even Jews who do not usually observe Jewish holidays take heed of Yom Kippur, the most important day in the Jewish calendar and a time for reconciliation with God. (Find resources, study guides and kids’ activities for Yom Kippur at Chabad.org.)
Preparing for Yom Kippur involves reconciliation with other humans for any sins in the past year. Then, Yom Kippur is spent in a series of prayers formed into five traditional services. (Wikipedia has details. Also, Judaism 101 has more.)
Looking for fresh recipes for a Yom Kippur Eve meal? Check out a Washington Post blog for ideas. Then, from 20 minutes before sunset on Yom Kippur Eve, Jewish men and women give up food and drink—and more. Jews also refrain from the wearing of leather; bathing; anointing with perfumes, lotions and cosmetics; and marital relations. By doing so, Jews hope to return to the state of human purity that was present at the Garden of Eden—before Eve and Adam sinned.
Sins are confessed generally, specifically, communally and even abstractly; the closing prayer on Yom Kippur is when the “gates of prayer” are closed, implying that each person’s judgment is entered into “God’s book” and sealed for the next year. The shofar’s blast signals the end of Yom Kippur and the conclusion of the fast.
Following the Day of Atonement, Jews prepare for Sukkot, the harvest festival of booths—a time when Jewish families construct festive outdoor shelters.