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Why is Yom Kippur never on a Sunday?

by Rabbi Yosef Loschak

  

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Question:

Why doesn't Yom Kippur ever fall on a Sunday?

Happy New Year, Jeremy L.

Answer:

Since our calendar has been fixed, Yom Kippur can never be on a Friday, Sunday or Tuesday.  

The reason for Friday and Sunday is that Yom Kippur is like Shabbat and having back to back Shabbat's could prove challenging in numerous ways.1

For example, Jewish law requires someone to be buried as soon as possible, preferrably the day they pass away or at the latest the next day. On Shabbat we do not bury someone; we wait till Sunday. Similarly, if someone passed away on Yom Kippur we do not bury them that day. If Yom Kippur was Friday and someone passed away on Yom Kippur, or if you Yom Kippur was Sunday and someone passed away on Shabbat, we would not be able to burry that person for two days.

(By the way, if someone died on a holiday, such as Sukkot and it was not Shabbat, we would theoretically bury them on the holiday. Today, with cemeteries far away from Jewish communities we are unable to drive in order to do the funeral, so we must wait). 

If Yom Kippur was on a Tuesday, then Hoshanah Rabbah would be on Shabbat, and we could not beat the willow branches.

Footnotes

  • 1. Talmud tractate Rosh Hashanah 20a

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Holidays » Yom Kippur » About

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Sukkot
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.