Yom Kippur 101

Yom Kippur is approaching and I am absolutely petrified.

The High Holy Days have been daunting for this convert.  During Rosh Hashanah services I almost freaked out as not all Hebrew text was transliterated. Listening to me read Hebrew is similar to listening to a 1st grader who is just learning how to read…you need an exceptional amount of time and patience. Yom Kippur will undoubtedly have more unfamiliar prayers & rituals and not everything will be transliterated, so my game plan is to “pre-game”. Why so much anxiety? Look at how Wikipedia describes this particular day.

“According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jewish person tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt (Vidui). At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God”. (Wikipedia)

As the above passage indicates, there is a tremendous amount of pressure and as I wish to NOT spend my time at services feeling ashamed of my  Jew”ish”ness,  I need a “YK 101”.  Thanks to the almighty power of Google, I have come up with a little Days of Awe/Yom Kippur cheat sheet.  I cannot wait to figure out if what I’ve learned is found in the Reform service setting…or if it is even true.  So….read at your own risk.

Days of Awe Prep work

Google sources have indicated that my “to-do list” this week includes; self reflection,  karparot, apologies, festive meals, mikveh and honey cake…oh and find a service to attend.

Self Reflection

Who am I? Where am I going? How can I make this world a better place with my presence?


As I don’t know of anybody who partakes in the  tradition of “Kaparot”  (which  apparently entails killing a chicken and waving it above my head) I feel ok about skipping it.


YK is all about atonement and it is apparently not enough to just think about being sorry.  I need to apologize to those I may have wronged this past year.  The person that first comes to my mind is my ex.  There may be a few things I need to address. Sigh.

Festive Meals

I will be sure to eat drink and be merry pre- fasting. Apparently I need to have several meals and be extra exuberant. Done.


I don’t know if the ritual bathing applies to me… yet.


I’m sure Whole Foods will have it. They must have it. Right? I must have honey cake!!!!!!!!


As many Jews only come to shul for the High Holidays be sure to reserve your shul spot NOW.


A rabbi from my shul suggested I spend the week focusing on “grace”.  In his Erev Rosh Hashanah sermon he defined grace as; The act of God loving us unconditionally simply because we exist, not because we have earned God’s love (thanks Rabbi Katz!).


Yom Kippur has 5 services –  Maariv, Shacharis, Mussaf, Minchah and Neilah.

The Prayers

1. Kol Nidre

2. The Shema

3. Avinu Malkeinu 

4. Viduy

5. Neilah

YK Do’s, Don’ts & Suggestions

  1. No eating and drinking
  2. No wearing of leather shoes
  3. No bathing
  4. No perfumes or lotions
  5. No sex
  6. Don’t leave early. Last night there was a NPR special about YK and the host likened leaving early to only hearing part of a song.
  7. Wear white clothing…purity.


I think this may be a good head start.

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