How We Prepare

Preparation for Yom Kippur begins during the first ten days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, beginning with Rosh Hashana, when Jews focus on Teshuva, repentance, and coming closer to G-d.

Erev Yom Kippur

      • Kapparot – This is a ritual of symbolic atonement

1) Before Yom Kippur, we make every effort to rid ourselves of sin. The custom of Kapparot is recorded in the Shulchan Aruch, The Code of Jewish Law, written 500 years ago and is described there as an ancient custom.
2) Kapparot is generally performed during the night before Yom Kippur, although it may be performed earlier.
3) Traditionally, kapparot is performed by taking a live hen or rooster, depending on one’s gender, and swinging it over one’s head while reciting a passage transferring one’s sins onto the bird. The bird is then slaughtered according to Jewish Law and given to a family in need. – An alternative custom (which is widely practiced in modern times) is that, instead of a chicken, one takes the appropriate amount of money to feed a family and donates it to a charity that provides food to the needy.

        • Mincha – During Mincha, the afternoon service, the Vidui, confession, is added to the Silent Amida.
        • Eating a Festive Meal – It is a mitzvah to partake of a festive meal the day before Yom Kippur. This meal should be eaten early so that one may have the special seudah hamafseket, meal before a fast, after the afternoon service.

a) Whoever eats on erev (the eve of) Yom Kippur and fasts on Yom Kippur, it is as if (s)he fasted both days.

b) The fasts in Judaism are not about deprivation, but about reaching a more focused spiritual level. It is, however, important that one has the strength to focus on the activities of Yom Kippur day.

      • Seudah HaMafseket, The Meal Before the Fast.

1) This meal can actually be eaten any time during the day, although most people partake of it after mincha, the afternoon service. The meal must be concluded during the daytime.
2) One should only eat light foods which are not too salty in order not to make fasting difficult. (It is therefore the custom not to eat fish at this meal.)
3) No intoxicating beverages should be served.
4) It is customary to eat kreplach dumplings, (usually served in soup) before Yom Kippur. The kreplach are hidden bits of meat in dough, symbolic of our desire that G-d will hide our sins.

      • Yahrtzeit Candles-It is customary to light memorial [yahrtzeit] candles which burn for 24 hours just prior to lighting the festival candles.
      • Festival Candle Lighting: All Jewish holidays begin at sunset the evening before. On the Sabbath and Yom Tov [festival], candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset to welcome the holy day. The procedure for lighting candles for a holiday varies slightly from Sabbath candle-lighting:

a. The blessings are said before lighting the candles.
b. The end of the blessing is changed to represent Yom Kippur:
Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu l’hadlik ner shel Yom ha-Kippurim.
Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Yom Kippur.
c. An additional blessing is made to acknowledge the good fortune of being able to experience the holiday:
Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, she’he’che’yanu v’kee’manu v’hee’gee’anu la’zman ha’zeh.
Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d ruler of the world, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

High Holidays

Participate in one of our renowned, interactive High Holiday Beginners Service programs or workshops this holiday season.  We’ll help you host a program with our comprehensive materials and videos or find one to attend.

Learn more

Rosh Hoshana

The Jewish New Year starts with a celebration of the very creation of the world and a recognition of humankind’s relationship to the Creator.

Learn more

Yom Kippur

The High Holidays culminate with The Day of Atonement.
There is a mysticism in that almost all Jews recognize the holiness of the day.

Learn more


Browse our collection of High Holiday Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about Jewish histories and traditions.

Read more