CUSTOMS OF EREV YOM KIPPUR
The day before Yom Kippur is considered
to be a quasi-festival day.
- Traditionally, "all who eat on the ninth
are considered to have fasted on the ninth AND the tenth." It is thus a mitzvah to
eat and drink Erev Yom Kippur. This both gives us strength for the fast and substitutes
for the usual Yom Tov meals, which cannot be eaten on Yom Kippur because of the fast.
- It is customary to give
increased charity on Erev Yom Kippur as charity helps to repeal any evil decrees. (See
the Kaparot section below).
- Sins committed against another person cannot be atoned
for until one has first sought forgiveness from the person he/she has wronged. Even the
great day of Yom Kippur or death cannot atone for sins against fellow man.
Thus - it is customary to go visit (or at least call) friends, family, associates and any
person whom one may have somehow wronged or spoken ill of in the past year and ask
For example, any stolen objects must be returned to their rightful owners. Any person you
have spoken Loshen Hara, evil gossip, about, should be asked for their forgiveness.
- It is a mitzvah to immerse oneself in a mikvah
(ritual bath) on Erev Yom Kippur. This symbolizes a persons rebirth associated with
the doing of Teshuvah, return. Men have this custom
universally, and women have different customs concerning mikvah Erev Yom Kippur.
- Kaparot - An ancient and mystical custom designed to imbue people with
a feeling that their very lives are at stake as the holy Yom Kippur approaches.
The kaparot ceremony symbolizes our sins crying out for atonement, and as a reminder that
our good deeds, charity and repentance can save us from the penalty our many sins deserve.
In its original form, a chicken (a white rooster for a male, hen for
a female) was taken and waved over ones head while reciting
which can be found in the Yom Kippur machzor (special prayer book). It was customary to
then redeem the kaparot for money, which was given to charity.
Today though, most communities prefer to place the chosen sum of money in a white cloth
napkin and give it to charity following the ceremony.
- Viduy, confession, is recited at mincha, the
afternoon service, during the silent Amidah. In case a person should choke and die during
his pre-Yom Kippur meal, he will have least said one viduy.
- It is customary to wear white on Yom Kippur. This is
symbolic of the angels and of spiritual purity. Many married men wear a kitel, which is
also worn upon burial (and by many men at their wedding) as a reminder of the day of death
- Though not usually worn at night - the talit (prayer
shawl) is worn for Kol Nidre, is kept on for the entire evening service, and is left
unfolded at the synagogue to be adorned again the next morning.
The Prayers of Yom Kippur