Yom Kippur begins today – what is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar about?

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THEMES of atonement and repentance are central to the the Jewish celebration of Yom Kippur – but what exactly is it all about?

Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or Days of Awe that commence with the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah – and here is a guide to the Jewish holiday.

 Themes of atonement and repentance are central to the the Jewish celebration of Yom Kippur

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Themes of atonement and repentance are central to the the Jewish celebration of Yom Kippur

What is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur is held on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishri and is seen to be the holiest day of the year for Jews.

To mark the ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths’, Jewish people fast for 25 hours and pray devoutly for most of the day, with five different sessions called Maariv, Shacharit, Musaf, Minchah and Neilah.

When is Yom Kippur?

There are a number of observances that take place in the lead up to Yom Kippur.

The day before the festivity, Jews are encouraged to give to charity, carry out the kapparot ritual and additional prayers.

This year, the one-day celebration begins in the evening of Friday September 29 and ends in the evening of Saturday September 30.

 Challah bread is also eaten in a round loaf to symbolise a circle of life and the new year

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Challah bread is also eaten in a round loaf to symbolise a circle of life and the new year

How is it celebrated?

There are a number of customs which are linked to Yom Kippur.

This includes blowing the shofar, which is a hollowed-out ram’s horn, and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a ‘sweet new year’.

Dates, pomegranates, black-eyed peas and a whole fish with the head intact may also appear on dining tables.

Feasts and synagogue services will also be held across the Jewish community.

Challah bread is also eaten in a round loaf to symbolise a circle of life and the new year.

 Jews believe God balances a person's good deeds over year against their wrongdoings

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Jews believe God balances a person’s good deeds over year against their wrongdoings

What is the history of Yom Kippur?

In the Torah, Yom Kippur is translated as the Feast of Trumpets, or the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar.

It’s a traditional anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, and is believed to be a ‘day of judgement’.

Jews believe God balances a person’s good deeds over the past year against their wrongdoings, so the day marks a time of reflection and penitence, and worshippers ask God for forgiveness.

It’s also the start of the agricultural cycle of sowing, growth, and harvest.

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