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Yom Kippur

Home > Holidays > Yom Kippur's Guide to Yom Kippur
Erev Yom Kippur

Erev Yom Kippur

Erev Yom Kippur, the day before Yom Kippur, is the ninth day of the ten days of repentance. It is a time of feasting and final preparations. Jewish tradition teaches that it is a mitzvah to eat on this day, but everyone knows that's the calm before the storm.

A widely observed custom performed on this day is kaparot. A live chicken, or money used as a substitute, is put in a cloth or bag and swung around the head as a prayer is recited, asking God to accept the animal or money in place of the person performing the ritual. The chicken is then slaughtered and given away as charity; similarly, any money used is donated to charity. This ancient, mystical custom was apparently designed to make people feel that their lives were indeed on the line as Yom Kippur arrived.

On Erev Yom Kippur some men have the custom to go to a mikvah, the ritual bath usually reserved for women observing the laws of family purity. At mincha, the afternoon service, the special Yom Kippur confessional prayer, viddui, is said, and more charity is given.

Because Yom Kippur is a fast day, a seuda mafseket, or final meal, is eaten. This meal does not start off as most holiday meals do, with kiddush being recited, since it is not a holiday. The blessing for eating the bread begins the meal; the challah is dipped in honey, hopefully sealing everyone's fate in sweetness. Often this meal consists of chicken soup with matzah balls, and turkey or chicken, avoiding spicy foods, since even a sip of water is prohibited once the fast begins.

Yahrtzheit candles are lit in memory of family members who have passed away. Candles regularly used for Shabbat and holidays are then lit and the day of God's decision-making, Yom Kippur, has arrived.

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