Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is observed annually in September or October depending on the lunar calendar. It was set apart as a sacred day in Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:27, “The tenth day of this seventh month is Yom-Kippur; you are to have a holy convocation, you are to deny yourselves, and you are to bring an offering made of fire to Adonai.”

Yom Kippur is the most solemn holy day of the Jewish people. Yom means “day” and Kippur means “atonement” or “covering.” Atonement provides for the reconciliation of G-D and man. The ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are known as Yamim Nora’im  (the “days of awe”). Yom Kippur is the final day of judgment when G-D judges the people. It is tradition to wear white on Yom Kippur to symbolize purity and our sins being made white as snow. “‘Come now,’ says Adonai, ‘let’s talk this over together. Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow; even if they are red as crimson, they will be like wool’” (Yesha’yahu/Isaiah 1:18).

On Yom Kippur in the Temple era, the High Priest was required to slaughter animals to atone for his sin and the sins of the people. It was a solemn day of fasting and denying oneself.

When the High Priest was finished with the atonement sacrifice, a goat was released into the wilderness. This “scapegoat” carried Israel’s sins away, as Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:21-22 tells us, “Aharon is to lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the transgressions, crimes and sins of the people of Isra’el…and then send it away into the desert….The goat will bear all their transgressions away to some isolated place….”

On Yom Kippur we fast and pray for twenty-four hours, after which we recite the N’ilah (closing prayer) and blow the shofar to mark the closing of the gates at the end of the Days of Awe.