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Holiday Central > Yom Kippur > Prayers
Yom Kippur - Prayers
By: Rivka C. Berman, Contributor
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Special Prayers for Yom Kippur

The major themes of the day are repentance and forgiveness.
There are five services during Yom Kippur. In addition to Selichot(penitential prayers) and Piyutim (liturgical poems) throughout the special prayer book, the Machzor, main highlights include:

Kol Nidrei:
The evening service is preceded by the chanting of Kol Nidrei (lit. 'All the Vows'). This is a formal abrogation of all vows made during the past year. Before embarking on a day of prayer, Kol Nidrei stresses the importance of the words emanating from our mouths. It is an impassioned plea to God to annul "vows' taken in innocence, or otherwise.

Confession (Vidui):
The ritual of Yom Kippur is replete with petitions for the forgiveness for sins. These are listed as a series of misdeeds and are recited by both the individual and the community. The sins are listed in the plural implying that Jews are responsible for one another. As each of the wrong-doings is recited, members of the congregation beat their hearts to emphasize the more "subjective" side of the sin.

"Recalling the Temple Service." This is part of the additional service (Mussaf) and is a record of the impressive ritual of Temple days when the High Priest alone entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. The descriptions of this elaborate ceremony and of the subsequent exaltation of the people offer a rare insight into the poignant spirit of the day. At certain points in this recitation, the congregation prostrate themselves in total submission to God.

The Book of Jonah:
The Book of Jonah is read during the Minchah (afternoon) service on Yom Kippur. It tells the story of the prophet Jonah who lived c. 750 BCE.

Jonah attempted to escape the divine command to prophesy about the destruction of the evil people of Nineveh by sailing from the Land of Israel. During a storm, Jonah is thrown overboard, delivered miraculously from a whale, and commanded to continue his mission. God spared the city when he saw the repentance of its people.

Among other lessons, the story demonstrates the power of atonement and how God's compassion extends to all His creatures.

The afternoon service is followed by Ne'ilah (lit. Closure). This is a collection of prayers which are invested with special significance as the Gates of Heaven symbolically close and an air of relief and optimism descends upon the weary worshippers who have been outpouring their souls throughout the day.

The service and the fast conclude with the blast of the shofar, a call for the unity of all Jews in the holy city of Jerusalem, and a proclamation of God's kingship over Israel in the famous call: "Shema Yisra'el Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad"!

On returning home, the Havdalah ceremony is recited for Yom Kippur.

Mazor Guide for Yom Kippur brings you much more about the holiday, its meaning and its traditions... See the links below.



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