Top 10 Yom Kippur Customs!

5 years ago Archive 0

Yom Kippur is rapidly approaching, and if we think about our customs on this holiday, some might seem pretty obscure if you don’t know their purposes. So here’s top 10 Yom Kippur customs, unmasked!

1. Uh, Yom Kippur is way past Labor Day, why are people at synagogue still wearing white?
Many Jews have the custom of wearing white on Yom Kippur to emulate the holy angels we strive to be more like in the coming year. The color white is a symbol of purity, and reminds us of the promise that our “sins will be made as white as snow”.

2. Why do people wear such nice clothes on Yom Kippur, yet wear sneakers as footwear?
Shoes are considered signs of luxury, comfort, and pleasure. Shoes were so important thousands of years ago, and Rabbi Akiva instructed his son Joshua not to go barefoot. The Talmud even states, “A person should sell the roof beams of his house to buy shoes for his feet.” Due to our association with shoes (particularly beautiful leather shoes), it is prohibited to wear leather shoes on a day of mourning, in order to show penance and remorse.

3. Why do people give, and receive honey cakes before the start of Yom Kippur?
It is a custom to request and receive honey cake before Yom Kippur in acknowledgement that we are all recipients in G-d’s world, and to hope for a sweet new year!

4. Is the only purpose of fasting to make us feel miserable?
Just as we wear white to liken ourselves to angles, we fast to do the same. Angels have no physical needs, and on this day neither do we. We cannot eat or drink anything (including water), for in order to entirely and completely focus on our spiritual needs, and our repentance we must forget our physical needs (eating, drinking etc.).

5. What’s with that weird horn blown in synagogue?
At the very end of Yom Kippur (right before we can finally eat the bagels and lox waiting for us at home) we blow the shofar. While there are many reasons for this here are a few: At the end of this day, Hashem begins to make his way back “up” to the higher realms. The sounding of one shofar blast is the signal of his divine departure. The shofar blast is also a sign that we can now enjoy our wonderful feast after a day of fasting.

6. Why should every Jew visit a mikvah before Yom Kippur?
It is a requirement that every Jew immerse him or herself in a mikvah the day before Yom Kippur in respect for the sanctity and holiness of this day, as well as to repent and be purified of sin.

7. Why do some people leave synagogue during Yizkor?
Yizkor is a memorial service for one’s deceased parents recited 4 times a year (one of which being Yom Kippur). Many people whose parents are alive leave the synagogue when Yizkor is recited, out of respect for their living parents. Others, leave from fear of the “ayin hara” (evil eye), and so not to tempt fate.

8. Why is it so especially important to give tzedakah the day before Yom Kippur?
It is customary to give generous amounts of tzedakah on the days of repentance, however on the day directly preceding Yom Kippur it is especially important. Tzedakah is a great source of merit, and serves a protection against a harsh decree.

9. Why do we light about a million candles on Yom Kippur?

On Yom Kippur we light one candle in honor of the holiday, others in honor of one’s deceased parents, and others in synagogue. Since we cannot honor this holiday through food, or drink we honor it by lighting extra candles. In addition, we a light candles in memory of deceased parents on every holiday which yizkor is recited. This candle, the “ner neshama” (soul candle) should be lit in one’s home, and throughout the entirety of Yom Kippur.

10. Why do some men wear white robes on Yom Kippur?
These white robes are called kittles, and are the traditional garments which men are buried in. These are worn inmKippur.jpg order to arouse the solemn feeling necessary for proper prayer on this day.
Wishing you an easy, and meaningful fast as you partake in these customs!