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What are the laws and customs pertaining to the day before Yom Kippur?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Holidays » Yom Kippur » The Day Beforehand | Subscribe | What is RSS?


1) It is customary to perform the rite of kaparot (symbolic “atonement”) on the day preceding Yom Kippur. (See What is Kaparot?)

2) It is a special Mitzvah to eat lots of food on the day before Yom Kippur. During all the day's meals, the Hamotzie -- Challah is traditionally eaten on this day -- is dipped in honey. Many have a custom to eat Kreplach1 on this day.

3) It is customary to request lekach (honey-cake) on this day. The shamash (beadle) or rabbi of the synagogue traditionally distributes the honey cake after the morning services.

Besides the blessing for a sweet year represented by the cake's sweetness, there is another symbolism behind this custom. In the event that it was decreed that we depend on the kindness of others during the upcoming year, we pray that we need ask for nothing more than the honey cake we are receiving.

4) All men are required to immerse in the Mikvah (ritualarium) on the day before Yom Kippur. In Chassidic circles, men immerse three times on this day -- once before Shacharit, once before Minchah, and again before Kol Nidrei. In certain communities, women, too, immerse in the mikvah on this day.

5) Before the minchah prayer it is customary for all men to receive "lashes." Using a leather strap or belt, one person lightly "whips" (taps) the back of another 39 times. The recipient faces north and kneels while the lashes are being administered, and both the administrator and the recipient recite the following verse three times: "But He is merciful, He atones iniquity and does not destroy; many times He takes back His wrath and does not arouse all His anger."

6) Towards the end of the Minchah Amidah we add the Yom Kippur confession (a.k.a. Al Chet). Minchah is prayed relatively early to allow everyone to return home to eat the "separation meal." At this final meal neither fish nor beef are eaten, but chicken is allowed.

6) It is customary to bless one’s children after the meal, immediately before the fast. There is no required formula for this blessing, but it is customary to say: "The Lord spoke to Moses saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: This is how you shall bless the children of Israel, saying to them: 'May the Lord bless you and watch over you. May the Lord cause His countenance to shine to you and favor you. May the Lord raise His countenance toward you and grant you peace.'They shall bestow My Name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them."

[For a son:] May G-d make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.

[For a daughter:] May G-d make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.

7) We usher in this holy day with added light. Just before sunset on the eve of Yom Kippur people who have experienced the loss of a parent light yahrtzeit candles; everyone lights a Neshamah (Soul) Candle2; andwomen light Holiday candles (with a special blessing).


  • 1.,2157759/Why-do-we-eat-Kreplach.html
  • 2. The soul is known as the candle of G-d as King Solomon writes (Proverbs 20:27) "The candle of G-d is the soul of man". On this holy day when our souls are accentuated, we light a candle. One lights a 24 hour "Yahrtzeit candle" although it is not for the purpose of a Yahrtzeit.


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Posted by: Ari on Sep 29, 2005

It is also to eat KRePlach not just on Erev Yom *K*ippur but also on Hoshana *R*aba and *P*urim. These 3 holidays are related because they all have a hidden holiness. You can do anything just like a regular weekday so that is the hidden aspect. And the meat in kreplach is also hidden in the dough.
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
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.
A ritual bath where one immerses to become spiritually pure. After her menstrual cycle, a woman must immerse in the Mikvah before resuming marital relations.
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
The blessing recited over bread, Challah, or Matzah.
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
Morning prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
First Jewess, first of the four Jewish Matriarchs, wife of Abraham--the first Jew. Lived in Mesopotamia, and then Canaan, in the 19th century BCE.
A loaf of bread. Usually refers to: 1) The section of dough separated and given to the priest (today that section is burnt). 2) The sweetened, soft bread customarily consumed at the Sabbath meals.
Second of the Jewish Matriarchs. Wife of the Patriarch Isaac, and father of Jacob. b. 1675 BCE, d. 1553 BCE.
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
Third of the four Jewish matriarchs. Daughter of Laban, favorite wife of Patriarch Jacob, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. Died while giving birth to Benjamin in 1557 BCE.
Fourth of the four Jewish matriarchs. Elder daughter of Laban, wife of Patriarch Jacob, and mother of six of the Tribes, including Levi and Judah.
Afternoon prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
The soul of a Jew. This soul belongs to anyone who was born to a Jewish mother or converted according to the dictates of Jewish Law. The soul is a spark of G-d Himself.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
The (Jewish calendar) anniversary of a person's death.
Kol Nidrei
A solemn prayer stating the annulment of vows recited at the start of Yom Kippur.