Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year. Yom Kippur is a period of atonement for the Jewish community. It is a solemn period of fasting, not just from food, but also bathing, physical contact and work.
The fast is believed to cleanse the body and spirit, additional restrictions on bathing, washing, using cosmetics, wearing leather shoes and sexual relations are intended to prevent worshippers from focusing on material possessions and superficial comforts.
Some Jews make donations or volunteer their time in the 10 days leading up to Yom Kippur, (a period of introspection and repentance that follows Rosh Hashanah). This is seen as a way to atone and seek God’s forgiveness. It is customary for religious Jews to dress in white—a symbol of purity—on Yom Kippur.
On the eve of Yom Kippur, families and friends gather for a bountiful feast that must be finished before sunset. The idea is to gather strength for 25 hours of fasting. After the final Yom Kippur service, many people return home for a festive meal. It traditionally consists of breakfast-like comfort foods such as blintzes, noodle pudding and baked goods.
Yom Kippur is not a particularly happy or festive holiday as it is a reminder of God’s judgment and the need for repentance and atonement. One wouldn’t usually greet another with he words ‘Happy Yom Kippur’, rather you may try “G'mar tov" or “Yom tov" or just "Have a good holy day”.
Yom Kippur begins from several minutes before sunset on 9 Tishrei (October 4) to after nightfall on 10 Tishrei (October 5).