Laws of Ten Days of Teshuvah and Yom Kippur

The Ten Days of Teshuvah

  1. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is our annual time of judgment before G-d, and in that timeframe it is important for us to reflect on our spiritual well being and to renew our resolutions for a better tomorrow. The ten-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is known as “Aseret Yimay Teshuvah,” the ten days of repentance. During that time, we have some minor changes in our prayers, as you will see in your prayer book. The most important one to note is that instead of saying “Hakel Hakadosh,” we say “Hamelech Hakadosh,” and if we forget to do so, we must repeat the entire prayer of Shemoneh Esrai.
  2. We have many different customs during this period designed to awaken ourselves to do teshuvah, repentance on our sins. It is imperative that we recognize these customs as secondary and the actual teshuvah as the main objective.
  3. During this time, people are usually more serious with their prayers. It is important to remember that the proper way to pray is to stand still, concentrate, and read the words properly. Wild shaking, loud noises, or other ridiculous expressions and movements will have a negative effect on your prayers and on everyone else’s.

Yom Kippur

On Erev Yom Kippur, the day before Yom Kippur, there is a Mitzvah to eat and we have a full sit down meal.
We are required to add to Yom Kippur by starting a little bit before sunset.

The following things aren’t permitted on Yom Kippur:

  1. Eating and drinking
  2. Bathing
  3. Putting oil on one’s skin
  4. Wearing leather shoes
  5. Having marital relations
  • On Yom Kippur, we follow the same restrictions as Shabbat.
  • A person who has a problem fasting, someone who is sick, a pregnant woman, and the like, should all seek direction from a qualified Rabbi.
  • The prohibition of bathing even includes washing one’s hands. However, areas that are dirty may be washed. Similarly, if one uses the bathroom, they may wash their hands.
  • Children are only restricted from wearing leather shoes. From nine years old until thirteen for boys, or until twelve for girls, we train them to fast starting with an hour or so. By eleven, they should already be fasting the whole day, unless a child is sickly or physically incapable. Children younger than nine should not fast at all.
  • By “Havdalah,” we only make a blessing on the fire, if it was lit prior to Yom Kippur, and if it was lit for it’s light, not a Yohrtzeit candle and the like.
  • Yom Kippur ends at a time when you can see large and small stars in the sky. In the USA, at 45 minutes after sunset, it is certainly over.