Jewish people all over the world are getting ready to celebrate Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement.
The holiday starts tomorrow, Tuesday September 18 and will last for approximately 25 hours.
When the religious day begins at sundown tomorrow, Jews will observe the day with a 25-hour period of fasting, intensive prayer and spend most of their day in the synagogue.
In Hebrew, Yom means “day” and Kippur means “to atone” — hence why the event is called the Day of Atonement in English.
The central themes of the holy day are atonement for personal and national sins, repentance and the fate of each person is sealed for the coming year.
How do you wish someone a Happy Yom Kippur?
To greet someone for Yom Kippur you can say “G’mar Hatima Tova” which means “may you be sealed in the Book of Life.”
A shorter version of the phrase is “G’mar Tov” which translates into “a good seal.”
Those observing Yom Kippur believe the Book of Life, which determines an individuals fate for the coming year, opens on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and is sealed at the end of Yom Kippur following the period of repentance.
Before the holiday begins it is also common to say “Have a meaningful fast.”
The holy day is solemn and reflective, so wishing someone a “Happy Yom Kippur” is not customary.
The best greeting to give someone observing Yom Kippur in English is “have an easy fast.”
For Jewish people who are not fasting, but are observing Yom Kippur, say “Good Yuntif” or “Yom Tov” which is Yiddish and Hebrew for “Have a good holy day”.
How is Yom Kippur observed?
Yom Kippur is “the tenth day of the seventh month”, called Tishrei, and is regarded as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths.”
The seventh month is a period of time where Jews are required to take stock of their lives, to ask forgiveness from friends and family and to prepare to improve for the year to come.
When Yom Kippur begins Jews are prohibited from eating or drinking, bathing, anointing the body with oil, wearing leather shoes, and having any sexual relations.
During the 25-hour holiday there are also five synagogue services; Kol Nidrei, Shachrit, Musaf, Mincha and Ne’ilah.
A memorial service for those who have died this year is also customary and is called a Yizkor service.
The Yom Kippur services contain many recitations of the Vidui (confession), a list of communal transgressions for which Jews ask for forgiveness.
Traditionally, Jews believe God decides who will be sealed in the Book of Life (to live for another year) after judging their deeds over the past year.
However, others simply use the day as a time to reflect on what they want to do differently in the coming year.