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Yom Kippur, also known as the “Day of Atonement”, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. It is considered “The Sabbath of Sabbaths”. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. This year, Yom Kippur began at sunset Sunday, September 27, 2020 and ends at nightfall Monday, September 28, 2020.
Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora'im (“Days of Awe”) that commences with Rosh Hashanah. According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt. At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.
As one of the most culturally significant Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur is observed by many secular Jews who may not observe other holidays. Many secular Jews attend synagogue on Yom Kippur — for many secular Jews the High Holy Days are the only times of the year during which they attend synagogue — causing synagogue attendance to soar.
General observances – Yom Kippur is a strict day of rest. The traditions are as follows: no eating and drinking, no wearing of leather shoes, no bathing or washing, no anointing oneself with perfumes or lotions, and no marital relations. By refraining from these activities, the body is uncomfortable but can still survive. The soul is considered to be the life force in a body. Therefore, by making one’s body uncomfortable, one’s soul is uncomfortable. By feeling pain one can feel how others feel when they are in pain. This is the purpose of the prohibitions.
Virtually all Jewish holidays involve meals, but since Yom Kippur involves fasting, Jewish law requires one to eat a large and festive meal on the afternoon before Yom Kippur.
The shofar (ram’s horn) is then sounded—one triumphant, long blast, signifying the end of the holy day.
The greeting for Yom Kippur is “G'mar Hatima Tova”, which means “May you be sealed in the Book of Life.”
Peace be with you,