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    it starts this wednesday … its secrets


    Yom Kippur 2021: it starts this Wednesday ... its secrets

    Jewish holiday of the “great Pardon”, Yom Kippur runs this year from Wednesday September 15 in the evening to Thursday September 16 in the evening. The secrets of its date, its origin and its meaning!

    [Mis à jour le 15 septembre 2021 à 9h56] Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot … Many Jewish holidays punctuate the month of September. For those who are not of the Jewish faith, it is not always easy to see clearly and not to confuse them. Yom Kippur takes place from Wednesday September 15 evening to Thursday September 16 evening this year (more details on schedules here). Regarding the category of celebration, Yom Kippur is a so-called “Torah” festival. As such, it commemorates an event in the Bible, the “Forgiveness of God” to the Jewish people (see here). Like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur is also an austere holiday.

    Along with Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur is nothing less than the most important holiday in the Hebrew calendar. The event takes place every year, from the 10th day of the month Tishrei (September or October, depending on the year), as soon as the sun goes down. The celebration does not give rise to a public holiday, but a non-working day. Yom Kippur takes place ten days after Rosh Hashanah, commonly known as “Shana tova”, the Jewish New Year. It is at nightfall, the next day, that this celebration ends. Regarding the date and times, they change every year, depending on the geographical area. You just need to check with the synagogue attached to your home to find out about them.

    What does Yom Kippur mean in summary?

    Day of “Atonement” and atonement for sins, Yom Kippur marks for believers the conclusion of a 40-day phase of repentance, which recalls for them the following event: the penance of the children of Israel, when Moses received the Tablets of the Law. The faithful ask for forgiveness from God as they implored it after their forbidden worship of the Golden Calf. Yom Kippur is squarely the holiest day in the Hebrew calendar. Called “the Shabbat of Shabbats”, it combines total fasting and meditation. A series of prayers also punctuate the day to invoke the forgiveness of God; day that ends with an XXL fast-breaking meal.

    In 2021, Yom Kippur is set for 15 September. The celebration begins on the evening of Wednesday, September 15, at 7:47 p.m. (Paris time). Yom Kippur and its privations must then end on Thursday, September 16 at 8:48 p.m. sharp. The religious celebration therefore takes place partly outside the weekend this year, while Saturday and Sunday are a “more practical” time for working believers in Judaism. Yom Kippur takes place more than two months before Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish winter “festival of lights”. And about two months after Eid el-Kebir, a highlight of the Muslim calendar this time.

    The dates and times of the fast actually change every year. If Yom Kippur is not celebrated on the same date from one year to the next, it is because this one depends on the Hebrew calendar, which refers to the Genesis of the Bible. It is made up of 12 months or 13 lunar months depending on the year, and seven-day weeks starting on Sunday and ending on the day of shabbat, ie Saturday. The lunar months are shorter than the months of the Gregorian calendar (alternatively 29 or 30 days): it is for this reason that the 10th of the month of Tishrei is a fluctuating date if we refer to the schedule of use. In 2014, Yom Kippur and Eid el-Kebir, two most important festivals in Judaism and Islam, took place at the same time, for the first time in 33 years.

    The feast of Yom Kippur is actually celebrated just before or shortly after Rosh Hashanah (aka Shana Tova), the feast marking a new calendar year in the Hebrew calendar: the day of Atonement takes place 10 days after (see why here) and starts the night before. It is a non-working day, but not a holiday, seen by believers as the holiest celebration of the year.

    There are many ways to wish Yom Kippur. We can say “Gmar H’atima tova” (pronouncing the “H” in the Spanish “j” way), or even, and it is much easier to remember, “Good Kippur”. If you want to assure a loved one of the Jewish faith of your best wishes after Yom Kippur, that is to say after the ringing of the Shoffar, an ancestral wind instrument which is sounded to break the fast, then you can also say “Hag Samea’h”. This formula, which the Jewish faithful also exchange with each other, designates a feast called Sukkot, which is celebrated a few days later. A Hebrew term, “Sukkot” refers to a pilgrimage feast, the prescription of which appears in the Torah, the sacred book for the Jews. It is on Sukkot that what believers consider divine support during the “Exodus of the Children of Israel” is celebrated. Sukkot takes place over seven days, punctuated by commemorative rites.


    Sunset over the Western Wall in Jerusalem. © Maria Dubova_123RF

    Yom Kippur means “day of atonement”. During this day of fervor, the Jews abstain from working and fasting themselves. The deprivation of food and drink begins on the eve of Yom Kippur, half an hour before sunset (“tossefet Yom Kippur”) and ends after sunset the next day. The fast lasts a total of 25 hours, and it is compulsory for all Jews, for men from the age of 13 and for women from the age of 12. However, fasting is not allowed for people who may suffer from it, such as sick people, people with diabetes or women who have given birth in the last three days. More generally, five prohibitions must be observed in order to detach from the material world:

    • the ban on eating and drinking
    • the prohibition to have marital relations
    • the ban on washing
    • the ban on anointing the body with oils and lotions (which symbolize superficial pleasures)
    • the ban on wearing leather shoes (which symbolize material goods and comfort)

    It is also forbidden to work, the Jews having to go at length to the synagogue to pray there and ask forgiveness from God for their faults and those of the community. Believers individually ask for forgiveness from anyone they may have hurt and apologize for offenses committed against them. Yom Kippur requires five obligatory prayers throughout the day. The celebration of Yom Kippur varies among communities. The Sephardim, for example, dress in white in order to assert their will to free themselves from their sins.

    The end of the fast is signified in synagogues by the ringing of the shofar, a musical wind instrument made from a ram’s horn. The believers meet then in family or within their community to “break the fast”. The dishes prepared to celebrate the end of the festival differ according to the traditions: the Sephardim usually eat dry cakes accompanied by lemonade, while the Ashkenazim generally prefer a hot drink and cheese or smoked fish. After a light meal, we serve a chicken dish or broth.

    “The day of great forgiveness” is a religious holiday. It commemorates the day when God forgave the Jewish people for the fault of the Golden Calf, recounted in the biblical book of Exodus. According to these writings, when Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Tables of the Law, the Hebrews created an idol in the shape of a calf from the molten jewelry of women and children. The prophet, discovering the worship of the idol, which the Third Commandment forbids, would then have broken the Tables of the Law with anger. Moses then spent twice 40 days at the top of the mountain to obtain the forgiveness of his people from God. On the tenth day of the month of Tishrei it was granted.

    Yom Kippur is for Jews the tenth day of the ten days of penance. This period from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, “Teshuvah”, is devoted to ill-treatment and repentance. During these ten days, it is recommended to do everything possible to rectify the wrongs committed against others.

    Ashura is a fast performed by many Muslims. They thus follow, recalls the specialized site Saphir News, a prophetic tradition enjoining the believers to abstain from eating and drinking during the 9th and 10th days of the lunar month of Muharram (first month of the Moslem calendar). “Ashura” (“ten” in Arabic) is an Islamic holiday commemorating various prophetic episodes that would have taken place on that day, according to the hadits to which we refer, specifies Kamel Meziti, historian: “the atonement of Adam and Eve , after their ‘fall’ on Earth, (…) the landing of Noah’s ark (Nûh); the salvation of Abraham (Ibrahim) saved from the fire of Nimrod or that of Jonah (Yûnus) saved from guts of the whale … ”

    Why talk about Ashura in a page on Yom Kippur? Because this celebration is a link between Judaism and Islam. According to the Sunnah (prophetic tradition), in 622, the prophet Muhammad thus went to meet the Jews of Medina on the day of Yom Kippur, as a reminder of the feast of the atonement during which they fasted. Muhammad asks them why they do it and they answer that they commemorate “the day when God gave victory to Moses and the sons of Israel over Pharaoh and his men”. Muhammad then retorts that he is linked to the ancient biblical prophets, and that he is therefore “more entitled” to fast on that day. From there, the Prophet will order the Muslim believers to fast on that day, considering Moses as “closer” to them, and thereby incorporating Ashura into Islam.

    In Islamic tradition, a hadith refers to the recommendation of the Ashura fast: “As for the fast of the day of ‘Ashura’, I hope that Allah will accept it as an atonement for the year which has it. preceded. “(Sahih Muslim)


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