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Wednesday, Tishrei 5, 5781 / September 23, 2020


Yom Kippur, also called, Yom HakadoshThe Holy Day, is next Monday, September 28. As with all Jewish holidays, the day begins from the night before, thus, Yom Kippur commences Sunday night, September 27.  Yom Kippur is on the tenth day of Tishrei, the day in which our sins are forgiven.


Q.  Why was this day chosen as the day when our sins are forgiven?


A. Yom Kippur was the day in which G-d forgave Israel for the sin of the Golden Calf and also the day when Moshe returned with the Second Tablets. Thus, G-d chose this day as the day of forgiveness for all generations.


Q.  Yom Kippur begins with the Kol Nidrei service.  What is the significance of this prayer? Why is it recited in Aramaic and not in Hebrew?


A.   Kol Nidrei is a prayer in which we declare our vows null and void. It was established in Aramaic, because it was the spoken language of Jews in Babylon at that time and one must understand what they are saying when nulifying a vow. The only vows which we can nullify in Kol Nidrei are those which don't involve other people. Vows and promises made to others are not nullified on Yom Kippur.


Kol Nidrei gained much significance during the Spanish Inquisition. Then, many Jews, known as "Marranos", vowed to renounce their religion under the threat of death, yet in their heart remained loyal to Judaism. They would gather on Yom Kippur in secrecy and use Kol Nidrei to renounce their vows against the religion that was forced upon them. The Kol Nidrei melody chanted today has its roots in the events of that time.


Q.   Why is the Kol Nidrei repeated three times?


A.  According to the Talmud, important announcements used to be repeated three times. The repetition of the Kol Nidrei emphasizes its importance. On a more practical level, we repeat it so that those who came late to the synagogue should not miss the Kol Nidrei.


Q.  Yom Kippur is a holiday and holidays are ususally celebrated with a meal. Why is Yom Kippur different from all holidays of the year that we are commanded to fast?


A.1) Being the day of atonement, when our sins are forgiven, we spend the time with spiritual matters and not physical appetites.


3)  Fasting humbles a person.  On Yom Kippur, when we must perform Teshuva-repentance with all our heart, we refrain from eating or drinking.


4)  On Yom Kippur, when we are forgiven for our sins, we are considered as pure as the angels, who have no sins.  We express this by acting like angels who don't eat or drink.