The Yom Kippur HolidayYom Kippur may be the most reverently observed holiday in Judaism. The day is marked with fasting and abject prayer for forgiveness. In Jerusalem, the epicenter of Judaism, the atmosphere is at once hushed and expectant: at this moment in time, all the events of the year will be determined
In Jerusalem, the observance of Yom Kippur transcends the religious world. All stores are closed, and driving is prohibited. The ensuing quiet lends itself to prayer and contemplation.
In contrast, those who do not observe Yom Kippur take advantage of the car-free streets by bicycling everywhere. For secular residents, taking out a bicycle on Yom Kippur is a longstanding tradition.
The holiday begins with today’s afternoon meal, named the “seudah hamafseket.” This is the final meal before the end of the 25 hour fast.
After the meal is concluded, Jews go to synagogue for Kol Nidrei, a prayer that is celebrated for its poetry and significance. Legend has it that the composer of the prayer met a tragic end, which lends Kol Nidrei special poignancy.
The next day, prayers continue from morning until nightfall, with only a short break at midday.
Before and during Yom Kippur, Jews wish one another a “gmar chatima tova”—which is a way of wishing one another a good destiny for the coming year. This stems from the belief that on Yom Kippur, God seals the destinies of all people and nations in the world.
The intensity of prayer on Yom Kippur is therefore viewed as a gift to the people: it’s a valuable opportunity to change their fates for the good.
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