Yom Kippur - observed September - October
Of the holidays celebrated by the followers of Judaism, Yom Kippur is said to be the most sacred. Known today as Yom Kippur, in the original Hebrew texts the day is called "Yom Hakippurim" which literally means "Day of Atonement". This holiday is celebrated on the 10th day of Tishrei in the Hebrew calendar, which falls in mid September to October in the Gregorian calendar.
This Day of Atonement marks the culmination of a 10-day period of repentance, rejoicing and celebration called the High Holidays, beginning with Rosh Hashanah. It is believed that on Rosh Hashanah God opens the "Book of Life", which holds the names and deeds of all men. The names of the righteous ones are then written in, and the names of the unrighteous are removed. The Book then remains open for the duration of the High Holidays, allowing people to seek forgiveness for any wrongdoing. Then on Yom Kippur, the final judgment is made and the "Book of Life" is sealed. Those who have sought forgiveness then celebrate a new year, having been given a "clean slate", as it were.
Those who observe this holiday believe this day to be a Sabbath, a day of rest. While other religions also recognize Sabbath as a holy day, in Judaism it is also a day in which no work is to be done and the focus of the day is on self-reflection and spending time with family. Yom Kippur is considered "the Sabbath of Sabbaths", meaning it is the holiest of holy days. While a typical Sabbath includes large family gatherings for meals, Yom Kippur is the exception.
Most of the day is spent in a synagogue reciting scriptures and ancient prayers. Confession of sins is also a large component to the observance of this day, and it is customary to confess sins in the plural, referring to one's self as "we". This is because community is extremely important in the Jewish faith, so when someone confesses a sin they confess that sin for the entire community so that all will be forgiven, emphasizing a communal responsibility for sins.
Additionally, on Yom Kippur, as instructed in the Hebrew Bible, followers symbolically remove themselves from the secular world by refraining from eating and drinking (even water), using scented oils or perfumes, engaging in marital relations, bathing, or wearing leather shoes. Following the Hebrew calendar, Yom Kippur is a 25-hour period of complete fasting, as it technically begins at sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur.
The ancient Hebrew scriptures describe special ceremonies that the priests would perform, including symbolically placing the sins of the people onto an animal, typically a goat, which is then driven out into the wilderness. This rite is not typically preformed today, although the passages that describe this ritual are often read aloud in the synagogue service. This ancient custom from biblical times is said to be the origin of the term "scapegoat", which is commonly used today.
Click here to read some great quotes such as:
"Good for the body is the work of the body, and good for the soul is the work of the soul, and good for either is the work of the other."
~Henry David Thoreau
"Give thanks for what you are now, and keep fighting for what you want to be tomorrow."
"The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice that which we are for what we could become."