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Tuesday, Tishrei 8, 5782 / September 14, 2021


Wednesday evening, September 15, begins the holiest day of the year – Yom Kippur. Although the secular date for Yom Kippur changes from year to year, the Hebrew date is always the same – the 10th day in the month Tishrei.


All other Holy Days are celebrated through eating and drinking. Fasting is prohibited on other holidays. Yom Kippur is the only holiday when we celebrate by fasting.  


Q. Why was Yom KippurDay of Forgivness established on the 10th of Tishrei?


A. The 10th of Tishrei was the day in which G-d forgave the people for the sin of the Golden Calf. It was on that day that Moshe returned with the Second Tablets– a sign that their sin was forgiven. G-d proclaimed it a Day of Forgivness for all generations.  


Q.  Yom Kippur services begin with the Kol Nidrei prayer. What is the significance of this prayer?


A.  Kol Nidrei is a prayer in which we declare our vows null and void. It was written in Aramaic, rather than Hebrew, because it was the spoken language of the Jews in Babylon at the time. The only vows which we can nullify in Kol Nidrei are those which don't involve other people. Vows and promises made to others do not become nullified on Yom Kippur.


Kol Nidrei gained much significance during the Spanish Inquisition. 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 do we fast on Yom Kippur?


A.  1) Being the day of atonement we spend the time with spiritual matters and not physical appetites.


2)  The Torah tells us that at the time of the Giving of the Torah, the people of Israel, "Beheld G-d while they were eating and drinking.  This excessive feasting showed a lack of respect to G-d and eventually led to worshipping the Golden Calf which resulted in the breaking of the Tablets.  Yom Kippur was the day in which G-d forgave Israel for the sin of the Golden Calf. Since their excessive eating and drinking was a factor in the breaking of the First Tablets, we correct this sin by avoiding food and drink on Yom Kippur, the day when Moshe descended with the Second Tablets.


3)  Fasting humbles a person.  Thus, 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.  We express this by acting like angels who don't eat or drink.