Yom Kippur (Hebrew: יוֹם כִּפּר‎): Known as the Day of Atonement, this is the holiest day of the year for Jews.  Yom Kippur is the tenth day of the month of Tishrei.  It is a day set aside to “afflict the soul”.  It starts with a lavish meal at home before tosefet Yom Kippur, the fast of Yom Kippur (no eating or drinking for about 26 hours). During the afternoon prayers on the day before Yom Kippur, a public confession of sins (vidui) is said and is continued during Yom Kippur.  The evening service begins with the Kol Nidre (all vows), where we ask G-d to annul all personal vows we may make, to G-d, in the next year.  Most of the next day is spent in the synagogue, in prayer. On Yom Kippur there are five prayers services: Ma’ariv, the evening prayer; Shacharit, the morning prayer; Musaf, the additional prayer; Mincha, the afternoon prayer; and the Ne’ilah, the closing prayer.  During the Ne’ilah, the ark (a cabinet where the scrolls of the Torah are kept) is left open throughout this service, thus one must stand until the end of the service (which is usually about a hour). The service is sometimes referred to as the closing of the gates.  The service ends with a very long blast of the shofar, the tekiah gedolah.  Also a part of the Yom Kippur service is a unique prayer dedicated to the special Yom Kippur avodah (service) of the Kohen Gadol (“great Cohen”, the priests) in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  This ceremonial service was performed in ancient times by the High Priest in the Holy Temple.  This ritual included the sacrifice of two goats. One that was sacrificed to G-d in the Temple and another that became a scapegoat, symbolically carrying all of the Israelites’ sins out to the desert till he tumbled to his death off a rocky cliff.  It is customary to wear white on the holiday, which symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that our sins shall be made as white as snow. Some people wear a kittel, the white robe in which the dead are buried.

From the beginning of Rosh HaShanah until the start of Yom Kippur, one must atone for any wrong doings or sins that one has committed throughout the past year.  In the Days of Awe, G-d will inscribe all of our names in the “Book of the living”.  On Yom Kippur, the judgement entered in this book is sealed.  This day is your last chance to change the judgment and to demonstrate your repentance and make amends.  To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible. At the end of Yom Kippur, one considers one’s self absolved by G-d.

Yom Kippur is a complete Shabbat; no work can be performed on that day as well as fasting (unless a threat to life or health is involved). The Talmud also specifies additional restrictions: no washing or bathing, anointing one’s body (with cosmetics, deodorants, oils, etc.), no wearing leather shoes, and no engaging in marital relations.