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Yom Kippur ( , ), also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for religious Jews. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days.

Yom Kippur is the tenth day of the month of Tishrei. According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into a "book" on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God (bein adam leMakom) and against other human beings (bein adam lechavero). The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt (Vidui). At the end of Yom Kippur, one considers one's self absolved by God.

The Yom Kippur prayer service includes several unique aspects. One is the actual number of prayer services. Unlike a regular day, which has three prayer services (Ma'ariv, the evening prayer; Shacharit, the morning prayer; and Mincha, the afternoon prayer), or a Shabbat or Yom Tov, which have four prayer services (Ma'ariv; Shacharit; Musaf, the additional prayer; and Mincha), Yom Kippur has five prayer services (Ma'ariv; Shacharit; Musaf; Mincha; and Ne'ilah, the closing prayer). The prayer services also include a public confession of sins (Vidui) and a unique prayer dedicated to the special Yom Kippur avodah (service) of the Kohen Gadol in the Holy Temple in Jerusalemmarker.

Yom Kippur is considered one of the holiest of Jewish holidays and it is observed by many secular Jews who may not observe other holidays. Many secular Jews fast and attend synagogue on Yom Kippur, where the number of worshippers attending is often double or triple the normal attendance. Many other Jews choose not to fast.

Observances

 mandates establishment of this holy day on the 10th day of the 7th month as the day of atonement for sins. It calls it the Sabbath of Sabbaths and a day upon which one must afflict one's soul.


 decrees that Yom Kippur is a strict day of rest.


Six additional prohibitions are traditionally observed, as detailed in the Jewish oral tradition (Mishnah tractate Yoma 8:1):

  1. No eating and drinking
  2. No wearing of leather shoes
  3. No bathing or washing
  4. No anointing oneself with perfumes or lotions
  5. No marital relations
  6. No dealing with money [with an exception of games which use play money]
Total abstention from food and drink usually begins 30 minutes before sundown (called tosefet Yom Kippur, lit. "Addition to Yom Kippur"), and ends after nightfall the following day. Although the fast is required of all healthy adults, it is waived in the case of certain medical conditions.

Virtually all Jewish holidays involve a ritual feast, but since Yom Kippur involves fasting, Jewish law requires one to eat a large and festive meal on the afternoon before Yom Kippur, after the Mincha afternoon prayer.

Wearing white clothing, for men a Kittel, is traditional to symbolize one’s purity on this day. Many Orthodox men immerse themselves in a mikvah on the day before Yom Kippur.

Eve

Erev Yom Kippur (lit. "eve [of] day [of] atonement") is the day preceding Yom Kippur, corresponding to the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. This day is commemorated with two festive meals, the giving of charity, and asking others for forgiveness.

Before sunset on Yom Kippur eve, worshippers gather in the synagogue. The Ark is opened and two people take from it two Sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls). Then they take their places, one on each side of the cantor, and the three recite:

In the tribunal of Heaven and the tribunal of earth, by the permission of God—praised be He—and by the permission of this holy congregation, we hold it lawful to pray with transgressors."


The cantor then chants the Kol Nidre prayer (Hebrew: כל נדרי) in Aramaic, not Hebrew. Its name is taken from the opening words, meaning “All vows”:

All personal vows we are likely to make, all personal oaths and pledges we are likely to take between this Yom Kippur and the next Yom Kippur, we publicly renounce.
Let them all be relinquished and abandoned, null and void, neither firm nor established.
Let our personal vows, pledges and oaths be considered neither vows nor pledges nor oaths.


The leader and the congregation then say together three times “May all the people of Israel be forgiven, including all the strangers who live in their midst, for all the people are in fault.” The Torah scrolls are then replaced, and the customary evening service begins.

Prayer services

Many married men wear a kittel, a white robe-like garment for evening prayers on Yom Kippur otherwise used by some Orthodox males on their wedding day. They also wear a tallit, as they may also do on Shabbat and on other holidays. Prayer services begin with the prayer known as “Kol Nidre,” which must be recited before sunset, and continue with the evening prayers (Ma'ariv or Arvith), which includes an extended Selichot service.

The morning prayer service is preceded by litanies and petitions of forgiveness called selichot; on Yom Kippur, many selichot are woven into the liturgy of the mahzor (prayer book). The morning prayers are followed by an added prayer (Musaf) as on all other holidays. This is followed by Mincha (the afternoon prayer) which includes a reading (Haftarah) of the entire Book of Jonah, which has as its theme the story of God's willingness to forgive those who repent.

The service concludes with the Ne'ila ("closing") prayer, which begins shortly before sunset, when the "gates of prayer" will be closed. Yom Kippur comes to an end with a recitation of Shema Yisrael and the blowing of the shofar, which marks the conclusion of the fast.

Avodah: remembering the Temple service

A recitation of the sacrificial service of the Temple in Jerusalemmarker traditionally features prominently in both the liturgy and the religious thought of the holiday. Specifically, the Avodah (“service”) in the musaf prayer recounts in great detail the sacrificial ceremonies of the Yom Kippur Korbananot (sacrificial offerings) that are recited in the prayers but have not been performed for 2,000 years, since the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans.

This traditional prominence is rooted in the Babylonian Talmud’s description of how to attain atonement following the destruction of the Temple. According to Talmud tractate Yoma, in the absence of a Temple, Jews are obligated to study the High Priest’s ritual on Yom Kippur, and this study helps achieve atonement for those who are unable to benefit from its actual performance. In Orthodox Judaism, accordingly, studying the Temple ritual on Yom Kippur represents a positive rabbinically ordained obligation which Jews seeking atonement are required to fulfill.

In Orthodox synagogues, most Conservative, and some progressive a detailed description of the Temple ritual is recited on the day. In most Orthodox and some Conservative synagogues, the entire congregation prostrates themselves at each point in the recitation where the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) would pronounce the Tetragrammaton (God’s holiest name, according to Judaism).

The main section of the Avodah is a threefold recitation of the High Priest’s actions regarding expiation in the Holy of Holies. Performing the sacrificial acts and reciting , (“Your upright children”). (These three times, plus in some congregations the Aleinu prayer during the Musaf Amidah on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, are the only times in Jewish services when Jews engage in prostration, with the exception of some Yemenite Jews and talmedhei haRambam (disciples of Maimonides) who may prostrate themselves on other occasions during the year). A variety of liturgical poems are added, including a poem recounting the radiance of the countenance of the Kohen Gadol after exiting the Holy of Holies, traditionally believed to emit palpable light in a manner echoing the Torah's account of the countenance of Moses after descending from Mount Sinaimarker, as well as prayers for the speedy rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of sacrificial worship. There are a variety of other customs, such as hand gestures to mime the sprinkling of blood (one sprinkling upwards and seven downwards per set of eight).

Orthodox liturgies include prayers lamenting the inability to perform the Temple service and petitioning for its restoration, which Conservative synagogues generally omit. In some Conservative synagogues, only the Hazzan (cantor) engages in full prostration. Some Conservative synagogues abridge the recitation of the Avodah service to varying degrees, and some omit it entirely. Many Reform and Reconstructionist services omit the entire service as inconsistent with modern sensibilities.

In the Torah

The Torah calls the day Yom HaKippurim (יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים) and in it decrees a strict prohibition of work and affliction of the soul upon the tenth day of the seventh month, later known as Tishrei. The rites for Yom Kippur are set forth in (cf. ; , ; .)

Midrashic interpretation

The midrashim described in this section need sources cited from Midrashic literature

Traditionally, Yom Kippur is considered the date on which Moses received the second set of Ten Commandments. It occurred following the completion of the second 40 days of instructions from God. At this same time, the Israelites were granted atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf; hence, its designation as the Day of Atonement.

Mishnaic and Talmudic literature

Temple service

The following summary of the Temple service is based on the traditional Jewish religious account described in Mishnah tractate Yoma, appearing in contemporary traditional Jewish prayerbooks for Yom Kippur, and studied as part of a traditional Jewish Yom Kippur worship service.

While the Temple in Jerusalemmarker was standing (from Biblical times through 70 C.E.), the Kohen Gadol (High Priest), the Torah mandated that he perform a complex set of special services and sacrifices for Yom Kippur to attain Divine atonement, the word "kippur" meaning "atone" in Hebrew. These services were considered to be the most important parts of Yom Kippur because through them the Kohen Gadol made atonement for all Jews and the world. During the service, the Kohen Gadol entered the Holy of Holies in the center of the Temple, the only time of the year that anyone went inside. Doing so required special purification and preparation, including five immersions in a mikvah (ritual bath), and four changes of clothing.

Seven days prior to Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol was sequestered in the Palhedrin chamber in the Temple, where he reviewed (studied) the service with the sages familiar with the Temple, and was sprinkled with spring water containing ashes of the Red Heifer as purification. The Talmud (Tractate Yoma) also reports that he practiced the incense offering ritual in the Avitnas chamber.

On the day of Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol had to follow a precise order of services, sacrifices, and purifications:

  • Morning (Tamid) Offering The Kohen Gadol first performed the regular daily (Tamid) offering — usually performed by ordinary priests — in special golden garments, after immersing in a mikvah and washing his hands and feet.
  • Garment Change 1 The Kohen Gadol immersed in a special mikvah in the Temple courtyard and changed into special linen garments, and washed his hands and feet twice, once after removing the golden garments and once before putting on the linen garments.
  • Bull as Personal Sin-Offering The Kohen Gadol leaned (performed Semikha) and made a confession over the bull on behalf of himself and his household, pronouncing the Tetragrammaton. The people prostrated themselves when they heard. He then slaughtered the bull as a chatat (sin-offering) and received its blood in a bowl.
  • Lottery of the goats At the Eastern (Nikanor) gate, the Kohen Gadol drew lots from a lottery box over two goats. One was selected “for the Lord,” and one “for Azazel.” The Kohen Gadol tied a red band around the horns of the goat “for Azazel.”
  • Incense Preparation The Kohen Gadol ascended the mizbeach (altar) and took a shovel full of embers with a special shovel. He was brought incense. He filled his hands and placed it in a vessel. (The Talmud considered this the most physically difficult part of the service, as the Kohen Gadol had to keep the shovelful of glowing coals balanced and prevent its contents from dropping, using his armpit or teeth, while filling his hands with the incense).
  • Incense Offering Holding the shovel and the vessel, he entered the Kadosh Hakadashim, the Temple’s Holy of Holies. In the days of the First Templemarker, he placed the shovel between the poles of the Ark of the Covenant. In the days of the Second Temple, he put the shovel where the Ark would have been. He waited until the chamber filled with smoke and left.
  • Sprinkling of Blood in the Holy of Holies The Kohen Gadol took the bowl with the bull’s blood and entered the Most Holy Place again. He sprinkled the bull’s blood with his finger eight times, before the Ark in the days of the First Temple, where it would have been in the days of the Second. The Kohen Gadol then left the Holy of Holies, putting the bowl on a stand in front of the Parochet (curtain separating the Holy from the Holy of Holies).
  • Goat for the Lord as Sin-Offering for Kohanim The Kohen Gadol went to the eastern end of the Israelite courtyard near the Nikanor Gate, laid his hands (semikha) on the goat “for the Lord,” and pronounced confession on behalf of the Kohanim (priests). The people prostrated themselves when he pronounced the Tetragrammaton. He then slaughtered the goat, and received its blood in another bowl.
  • Sprinkling of blood in the Holy Standing in the Hekhal (Holy), on the other side of the Parochet from the Holy of Holies, the Kohen Gadol took the bull's blood from the stand and sprinkled it with his finger eight times in the direction of the Parochet. He then took the bowl with the goat's blood and sprinkled it eight times in the same manner, putting it back on the stand.
  • Smearing of blood on the Golden (Incense) Altar The Kohen Gadol removed the goat’s blood from the stand and mixed it with the bull's blood. Starting at the northeast corner, he then smeared the mixture of blood on each of the four corners of the Golden (Incense) altar in the Haichal. He then sprinkled the blood eight times on the altar.
  • Goat for Azazel The Kohen Gadol left the Haichal and walked to the east side of the Azarah (Israelite courtyard). Near the Nikanor Gate, he leaned his hands (Semikha) on the goat “for Azazel” and confessed the sins of the entire people of Israel. The people prostrated themselves when he pronounced the Tetragrammaton. While he made a general confession, individuals in the crowd at the Temple would confess privately. The Kohen Gadol then sent the goat off “to the wilderness.” In practice, to prevent its return to human habitation, the goat was led to a cliff outside Jerusalem and pushed off its edge.
  • Preparation of sacrificial animals While the goat “for Azazel” was being led to the cliff, the Kohen Gadol removed the insides of the bull, and intertwined the bodies of the bull and goat. Other people took the bodies to the Beit HaDeshen (place of the ashes). They were burned there after it was confirmed that the goat “for Azazel” had reached the wilderness.
  • Reading the Torah After it was confirmed that the goat “for Azazzel” had been pushed off the cliff, the Kohen Gadol passed through the Nikanor Gate into the Ezrat Nashim (Women’s Courtyard) and read sections of the Torah describing Yom Kippur and its sacrifice.
  • Garment change 2 The Kohen Gadol removed his linen garments, immersed in the mikvah in the Temple courtyard, and changed into a second set of special golden garments. He washed his hands and feet both before removing the linen garments and after putting on the golden ones.
  • Offering of Rams The Kohen Gadol offered two rams as an olah offering, slaughtering them on the north side of the mizbeach (outer altar), receiving their blood in a bowl, carrying the bowl to the outer altar, and dashing the blood on the northeast and southwest corners of the Outer Altar. He dismembered the rams and burned the parts entirely on the outer altar. He then offered the accompanying mincha (grain) offerings and nesachim (wine-libations).
  • Musaf Offering The Kohen Gadol then offered the Musaf offering.
  • Burning of Innards The Kohen Gadol placed the insides of the bull and goat on the outer altar and burned them entirely.
  • *Garment change 3 The Kohen Gadol removed his golden garments, immersed in the mikvah, and changed to a new set of linen garments, again washing his hands and feet twice.
  • Removal of Incense from the Holy of Holies The Kohen Gadol returned to the Holy of Holies and removed the bowl of incense and the shovel.
  • Garment Change 4 The Kohen Gadol removed his linen garments, immersed in the mikvah, and changed into a third set of golden garments, again washing his hands and feet twice.
  • Evening (Tamid) Offering The Kohen Gadol completed the afternoon portion of the regular (tamid) daily offering in the special golden garments. He washed his hands and feet a tenth time.


The Kohen Gadol wore five sets of garments (three golden and two white linen), immersed in the mikvah five times, and washed his hands and feet ten times. Sacrifices included two (daily) lambs, one bull, two goats, and two rams, with accompanying mincha (meal) offerings, wine libations, and three incense offerings (the regular two daily and an additional one for Yom Kippur). The Kohen Gadol entered the Holy of Holies three times. The Tetragrammaton was pronounced three times, once for each confession.

Observance in Israel



Yom Kippur is a legal holiday in the modern state of Israel. There are no radio or television broadcasts, airports are shut down, there is no public transportation, and all shops and businesses are closed. In 1973, an air raid siren was sounded on the afternoon of Yom Kippur and radio broadcasts were resumed to alert the public to the surprise attack on Israel by Egypt and Syria that launched the Yom Kippur War.

In 2008, 63% percent of the Jewish people of Israelmarker said that they were intending to fast on Yom Kippur. This may be the reason that it is very common in Israelmarker to wish "Tsom Kal" ([an] easy fast) or "Tsom Mo'iil" ([an] efficient fast) to everyone before Yom Kippur, even if one does not know whether they will fast or not.

It is considered impolite to eat in public on Yom Kippur or to drive a motor vehicle. There is no legal prohibition on driving or eating in public but in practice such actions are frowned upon, excepting emergency services.

Over the last few decades, bicycle-riding and inline skating on the empty streets has become a new “tradition” among secular Israeli youngsters, especially on the eve of Yom Kippur.

Contemporary scholarship

According to textual scholars, the biblical regulations covering Yom Kippur are spliced together from multiple source texts, as indicated by evidence such as with the duplication of the confession over the bullock, and the incongruity in one verse stating that the high priest should not enter the Holy of Holies (with the inference that there are exceptions for certain explicitly identified festivals), and the next verse indicating that they can enter whenever they wish (as long as a specific ritual is carried out first). Although Rashi tried to find a harmonistic explanation for this incongruity, the Leviticus Rabbah maintains that it was indeed the case that the high priest could enter at any time if these rituals were carried out. Textual scholars argue that the ritual is composed from three sources, and a couple of redactional additions:
  • prerequisite rituals before the high priest can enter the Holy of Holies (on any occasion), namely a sin offering and a whole offering, followed by the filling of the Holy of Holies with a cloud of incense while wearing linen garments
  • regulations which establish an annual day of fasting and rest, during which the sanctuary and people are purified, without stating the ritual for doing so; this regulation is very similar to the one in the Holiness Code
  • later elaborations of the ceremony, which include the sprinkling of the blood on the mercy seat, and the use of a scapegoat sent to Azazel; the same source also being responsible for small alterations to related regulations
  • the redactional additions


On the basis of their assumptions, these liberal scholars believe that the original ceremony was simply the ritual purification of the sanctuary from any accidental ritual impurity, at the start of each new year, as seen in the Book of Ezekiel, which textual scholars date to before the priestly source, but after JE. According to the Book of Ezekiel, the sanctuary was to be cleansed by the sprinkling of bullock's blood, on the first day of the first and of the seventh months — near the start of the Civil year and of the Ecclesiastical year, respectively; although the masoretic text of the Book of Ezekiel has the second of these cleansings on the seventh of the first month, biblical scholars regard the Septuagint, which has the second cleaning as being the first of the seventh month, as being more accurate here. It appears that during the period that the Holiness Code and the Book of Ezekiel were written, the new year began on the tenth day of the seventh month, and thus liberal biblical scholars believe that by the time the Priestly Code was compiled, the date of the new year and of the day of atonement had swapped around.

See also



References

  1. http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3606861,00.html
  2. http://www.divreinavon.com/pdf/ErevYomKippur.pdf Erev Yom Kippur - The purpose of the day as seen through Talmudic anecdotes (PDF)
  3. Translation of Philip Birnbaum, from High Holyday Prayer Book, Hebrew Publishing Company, NY, 1951
  4. The significance of shofar to Yom Kippur is discussed at http://hearingshofar.com/Book1.htm#_PART_FOUR_%E2%80%93
  5. An abbreviated version of the Seder Avodah is used in Yom Kippur services at the Hebrew Union College Jerusalem campus
  6. Spiro, Rabbi Ken. Crash Course in Jewish History Part 12 — The Golden Calf. Aish HaTorah. accessed April 29, 2007
  7. Arnold Lustiger, Michael Taubes, Menachem Genack, and Hershel Schacter, Kasirer Edition Yom Kippur Machzor With Commentary Adapted from the Teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. New York: K'hal Publishing, 2006. pp. 588–589 (summary); 590–618.
  8. "Sounds of The City", article from Israel Insider, October 14, 2005
  9. Jewish Encyclopedia
  10. Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  11. and
  12. Leviticus Rabbah 21
  13. , , , (b)
  14. (a)
  15. , ,
  16. ,
  17. , ,
  18. Jewish Encyclopedia, Day of Atonement
  19. Jewish Encyclopedia, Priestly Source
  20. Richard Elliott Friedman, Who wrote the Bible


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