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How to Understand the Different Yom Kippur Services

Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Here are some tips to help you understand the different services that take place during this holiday.


  • Step 1: Consider the second Torah reading, which happens during _Mincha_, the afternoon service, and details which marriages are forbidden in Jewish tradition. The accompanying _Haftarah_ is the entire Book of Jonah, which centers on repentance.
  • Step 2: Finish the day with _Ne'ilah_. Jewish tradition says that this is the last chance to repent before heaven's gates are closed and every soul's fate is sealed for the coming year. At the end of _Ne'ilah_, a ram's horn known as a _shofar_ is blown to mark the end of Yom Kippur.
  • FACT: Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax sat out the first game of the 1965 World Service in observance of Yom Kippur.
  • Step 3: Learn more about Yom Kippur during _Musaf_, which includes 2 sections: the Martyrology, a medieval poem that recounts those who died for their Jewish beliefs, and the _Avodah_, which details how people in Jerusalem celebrated Yom Kippur during ancient times.
  • Step 4: Use _Yizkor_, a special memorial service, to remember and pray for forgiveness for the dead. _Yizkor_ also adds to Yom Kippur's solemn and meaningful tone.
  • Step 5: Understand Yom Kippur's central themes: asking God for forgiveness, and repentance, known in Hebrew as _teshuvah_. For this reason, _Ma'ariv_, which immediately follows _Kol Nidre_, _Shacharit_, the next morning's prayers, and other services throughout the day include confessional prayers known as _vidui_.
  • TIP: Some Jews hit their left breast when confessing to symbolize their penance.
  • Step 6: Reflect on the morning Torah portion, which details the Yom Kippur rituals. The _Haftarah_, an additional reading, is from the Book of Isaiah and chastises people who perform religious rituals without adding moral and charitable acts.
  • Step 7: Jewish holidays, including Yom Kippur, begin in the evening. As the sun sets, go to synagogue and listen to _Kol Nidre_. This legal formula, which is chanted 3 times, asks God to forgive any religious vows that were made but not kept.

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