Yom Kippur is a Jewish celebration which occurs on the final day of repentance (which lasts for ten days) and is the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar. It is called ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths’ by the Torah and is a marked by ‘afflicting the soul’. This is expressed through a fast which lasts for a total of 25 hours. Jews spend most of the day and all evening in the synagogue asking for forgiveness for their past wrongs to improve in the future to attempt to live a moral life. On this day, many Jews refrain from working, continue to fast and attend the synagogue services. For this one day, washing, bathing and the wearing of leather shoes and coats are also banned to those over the age of twelve. This festival is the only one of the year where the men wear their prayer shawls for evening worship. The prayer services are lengthy and involve people standing up for an hour at a time . The Kol Nidre (All vows) service the night before the festival encourages the repentance of sins such as arrogance, selfishness and gossip. The closing service (Neilah) when the period of fasting ends lasts for an hour, at which time the doors of the Ark are kept open and all must stand. The book of Jonah is then read and a common greeting ‘G’mar Chatimah Tovah’ (which means ‘may you finally be sealed for good’) is exchanged. A long blast on the shofar concludes the main proceedings. This is followed by the Shabbat in the Havdalah (separation) ceremony and finally a shared meal. This is a time for making gifts (often for charities) in accordance with the instructions of the Torah and the Talmud.
By Hannah B and Charlotte R