Yom Kippur – The Day of Repentance

Click here to find out when Yom Kippur starts and ends in your location.

Fasting is very much a part of the Jewish religion. Yom Kippur is the ultimate Jewish fast.  This day, we fast from sunset to the following day after three stars appear. This year Yom Kippur coincides with Shabbat.  We know Shabbat is the most important holiday and fasting is prohibited.  However, when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat we fast.  Yom Kippur is also referred as “Shabbat Shabatot” (the Shabbat of Shabbats). Hence, it precedes Shabbat and fasting is commanded. Some people, like my husband, also observe a “fast of words.”  Keeping silent for a long period of time is a great exercise that makes one appreciate the gift of speech.

This is my son making an angry face…”Mami, do I really have to fast when I grow up?” How can I live without green apples (his favorite) for a whole day?!

But why should we fast? What is the purpose? After all, fasting is painful and difficult. Well, let me explain. Putting a child in a time-out or reprimanding that child for negative behavior can be difficult for the child and the parent as well. However, if you are a mother, you know that the purpose of a time-out (for the most part!) is to have the child isolated in a quiet place to think about his/her actions and rectify the negative behavior. If the rectification and the repentance are not there, the time-out is worthless. Similarly, Hashem is our Father and sometimes we know we need a time-out. However, while the time-out (in this case, fasting) is not easy, the real purpose is for rectification and repentance of our behavior. Fasting gives us that certain amount of physical pain needed to get in touch with our spiritual self and get back on track. At the end of a fast, we should focus on how much we learned about our potential in life and have a plan of action on how to achieve it.  But, like with everything in Judaism, there is so much more to it. On Yom Kippur we are guaranteed to be forgiven for our sins as long as we repent.  Hence, we are like angels (angels do not sin).  Since we are like angles – beings with no physical needs – we also abstain from our regular physical needs (eating, drinking, etc.)  There are some people that even wear a white outfit on Yom Kippur because it is said that angels wear this color.

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I love this picture.  It is just so genuine.  I hope we all have this clarity and  authenticity this Yom Kippur. This photo is curtsy of Hebrew Discovery Center, Woodland Hills CA.

Besides abstaining from food and drink, there are also other prohibitions that apply on Yom Kippur. One is not to wear leather shoes, bathe, apply ointments (like creams or lotions) or have intimacy. Since Yom Kippur is the “Shabbat of Shabbats” we also abstain from all the activities forbidden over Shabbat (like driving, cooking etc.)  If you would like tips on making your fast easier please click here.

The meal preceding Yom Kippur is supposed to be quite the feast!  Indulging before Yom Kippur is even considered to be a mitzvah (commandment). Some Persian families choose to consume Ab Goosht (Persian chicken soup) before the Yom Kippur fast.  At our home, we indulge in many Persian dishes.  In my husband’s family people tend to break every fast with a warm cup of sweetened water with a drizzle of rose water. Some other families break their fasts with Persian Halvah, while others break their fasts with a mixture of chilled grated apples with a drizzle of rose water and sugar.  After breaking the fast, everyone joins is a joyous meal!  Yom Kippur is actually the day of joy! We have repented for our misdeeds and have been forgiven.  Nothing can bring more joy than a new beginning, and Yom Kippur is the day to start fresh and anew!


Ab Goosh (Persian Chicken Soup) is traditional eaten by Persians before the fast of Yom Kippur. I share the recipe is my cookbook!

If you are fasting, may you have an easy and meaningful fast! Sukkot is around the corner…I can’t wait to post some pics of our Sukka!

G’mar Chatima Tova!

Reyna Simnegar

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