The Ten Days of Repentance


The Ten Days of Repentance

a.       Shabbat, 3 Tishrei, (Parshat Ha’azeenu) is called “Shabbat Shuva” and the haftara “Shuva Yisrael” (Hosea 14) is read. It is customary for the rabbi of the congregation to give a sermon, encouraging repentance.

b.      Sunday, 4 Tishrei, is a public fast day (Tzom Gedaliah nidheh). The fast commences at dawn (4:55) and ends at nightfall (18:54 – according to Rav Tokachinsky, Tzom Gedaliah concludes 17 minutes after sunset). One may eat before dawn only if one had noted the intention to do so before retiring the night before. According to the Rema one may drink even if one hadn’t noted the intention beforehand. The ill (even those not dangerously so) are exempt from the fast. Pregnant women and nursing mothers are completely exempt from the fast according to the Shulhan Arukh, though according to the Rema, only if “it causes them great suffering.” In effect, leniency is practiced. Young girls and boys before bar/bat mitzvah age are exempt from the fast and may eat normally. This year, because the fast is nidheh (postponed), brides and bridegrooms in the week after their wedding as well as the father of a newborn boy on the day of his brit as well as the mohel and the sandek are exempt from the fast.

c.       Selihot continue up until Erev Yom Kippur.

d.      There are slight changes to the amida prayer: “ha-melekh ha-kadosh” and “ha-melekh ha-mishpat; and we add “zokhrenu le-hayim” and “mi khamokha”. If one unthinkingly says, “ha-el ha-kadosh” and does not immediately correct himself to say, “ha-melekh ha-kadosh”, he must start the amida over again. If any of the other additions are mistakenly left out it is not necessary to repeat the amida. (According to Rav Ovadia Yosef, if one forgot to end the blessing “hashiva shoftenu” with the words “ha-melekh ha-mishpat”, he goes back to the beginning of this blessing; if he remembered only after completing the amida, he should recite again from "torat nidava".

e.       After the amida, we add Avinu Malkenu.


Erev Yom Kippur

  1. It is a mitzva to eat and to drink on Erev Yom Kippur; it is forbidden to fast.
  2. Selihot are curtailed. Tahanun is not recited either at shaharit or at minha. Since Yom Kippur falls on Shabat,we say Avinu Malkenu.
  3. Although the Beit Yosef opposed the custom of kapparot, Ashkenazim (and many Sefardim) follow the opinion of the Rema and perform kapparot. Practices differ in this regard: some slaughter a rooster (or chicken) for this purpose; others give money to charity instead.
  4. Yom Kippur does not bring atonement for wrongs that a person commits against his neighbor unless he first approaches his neighbor to apologize. It is therefore obligatory for every person to placate any person whom he has wronged by Yom Kippur (at the latest. Obviously, it is always preferable to do so immediately, and thereby prevent ongoing animosity.) It is also proper for every person in his own thoughts to grant completely forgiveness to any Jew who may have wronged him, even if the person has not apologized and asked for forgiveness.
  5. Men must immerse in a mikveh before Yom Kippur, even if they also did so on Erev Rosh ha-Shana.
  6. At minha on Erev Yom Kippur, prior to the final meal before the fast (se’uda mafseket), the vidui (confession) is recited.
  7. Although it is permissible to eat until sunset, it is preferable to finish eating by candle-lighting time (18:11), since it is a mitzva to extend slightly the period of time that is defined as holy.
  8. If a person finishes his meal early, he may still eat again afterwards, as long as he intended to do so before reciting Grace After Meals.
  9. The blessing recited over candle-lighting is, “le-hadlik ner shel shabat veshel yom ha-kippurim”, followed by “shehehiyanu”. Ashkenazi women light before reciting the blessing, as on Shabbat (unlike festivals, when one first recites the blessing and then lights with a match already lit). Having recited shehehiyanu over candle-lighting, a woman does not repeat the blessing with the congregation in the synagogue.
  10. It is customary to light a yahrzeit candle along with the candles for Yom Kippur.
  11. The table should be covered with a white tablecloth, and it is also customary to wear white clothes. Some men wear a kittel. Parents bless their children before leaving for the synagogue. Men don a tallit (with the appropriate blessing) before sunset (18:31).


Yom Kippur

  1. The night of Yom Kippur has the same status as the day for all intents and purposes.
  2. The prohibitions of melakha (labor) are like Shabbat, not like festivals.
  3. The prohibitions that apply to Yom Kippur are eating, drinking, washing, applying oils or perfume, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. People who are ill, along with women who are pregnant, recovering from childbirth, or nursing, are required, in principle, to fast on Yom Kippur, with the exception of one who is dangerously ill or a woman within three days of childbirth (or seven days, if she is feeling particularly weak). If any question arises in this regard, a doctor and a rabbi should be consulted. Children from the age of 9 upwards should begin fasting, for as much of the day as they are able to, and should also refrain from washing. Children of any age should not wear leather shoes. One is permitted to wash (only!) one’s fingers upon awaking in the morning and after visiting the toilet, or for medical reasons, or to remove actual dirt (not sweat). A kohen washes his hands in the usual manner before birkat kohanim. The application of oil or ointment is permissible for medical reasons only. The prohibition against leather shoes includes shoes made of some other material with only a small piece of leather. It is preferable to wear slippers or other such thin-soled footwear that does not protect the foot as well as regular shoes. Throughout the night and the day of Yom Kippur a husband and wife must maintain all the physical bounds that are observed when she is nidda.
  4. Timetable for the end of Yom Kippur:

·         Sunset (last possible time for birkat kohanim during the Ne’ila service) – 18:29.According to Rav Ovadia the time is 18:42.

·         Sounding of the shofar: 18:50.

·         End of the fast: 19:01. According to Rav Ovadia the time is 18:49.

  1. On Motzei Yom Kippur it is customary to recite Kiddush Levana. In some communities havdala is recited first and the congregants have something small to eat, so that Kiddush Levana can be recited joyfully.
  2. Havdala is the same as on Motzei Shabbat. The blessing over the flame (borei me’orei ha-esh) is recited over a flame that has remained lit since candle-lighting (hence the yahrzeit candle), or that was lit from such a flame.
  3. It is praiseworthy to start building the sukka on Motzei Yom Kippur. However, construction should not continue late into the night, since neighbors may be trying to sleep.
  4. The days in between Yom Kippur and Sukkot are defined as a period of communal joy; one should not fast, nor is Tahanun recited.
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