Yom Kippur is the most important holidays for the Jewish. It is a time for people to seek forgiveness from others. Yom Kippur is important because it comes just before the Jewish New Year so that people can have a fresh start for the New Year. Yom Kippur also gives people a chance to look back on the past year and plan for the upcoming year.
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Yom Kippur dates back to biblical times when animals were used to transfer sins to. The first animal that was used was a goat, but soon roosters for males and hens for females were used. The sins were transferred from people to the animals by tying a rope to the fowl’s legs and then spinning around the head of the person who was transferring their sins. While the fowl was being spun the person who was transferring their sins would begin chanting. When the ceremony was finished the animal would be sent away into the dessert. Yom Kippur is practiced very differently today. Instead of transferring their sins to animals people donate money to charities and throw stones into ponds.
On the night before Yom Kippur, people prepare for the following day’s fast by eating an enormous meal. Following the meal candles are lit and the Shehecheyanu is recited to bless the candles. The following day is spent at the synagogue where services are conducted all day long. The most important part of the services is when the rabbi asks everyone to take time to seek forgiveness of anyone whom they may have hurt in some way in the past year. People must seek forgiveness because the Jewish feel that forgiveness is not something that may be given, it is something that must be sought after. Not wanting to start the New Year with any grudges, the entire congregation gets up and begins seeking forgiveness.
At sundown the fast is over. The congregation leaves the synagogue and goes home. When they get home the break the fast by eating a huge meal. This meal marks the end of Yom Kippur.