What is Yom Kippur?
Today, Jews from the whole world are celebrating Yom Kippur: the holiest day of the Jewish year. It is the Day of Atonement—“For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before God” (Leviticus 16:30).
For nearly twenty-six hours—from several minutes before sunset on 9Tishrei to after nightfall on 10 Tishrei— the Jews abstain from food and drink, do not wash or anoint our bodies, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from marital relations.
The day is the most solemn of the year, yet an undertone of joy suffuses it: a joy that revels in the spirituality of the day and expresses the confidence that God will accept our repentance, forgive our sins, and seal our verdict for a year of life, health and happiness. The closing service climaxes in the resounding cries of “Hear O Israel . . . God is one.” Then joy erupts in song and dance, followed by a single blast of the shofar, followed by the proclamation, “Next year in Jerusalem.” The Jews then partake of a festive after-fast meal, making the evening after Yom Kippur ayom tov (festival) in its own right.