What Do You Do on Yom Kippur?

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Why Write About Yom Kippur on a Blog About Cooking?

I have several close friends who aren't Jewish, and who asked me about how Yom Kippur was for us this past weekend. And one friend in particular suggested that I write about it. I thought it would be a potentially ironic post written by the lady whose life revolves around cooking and eating, to write a post about a holiday in which fasting is the main ingredient!


However, we are more than just cooking here at Cooking with Kids! We are also about sharing the richness of the cultures of the world and educating ourselves about the traditions of our fellow humans!

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Day of Atonement

Yom Kippur is thought to be the holiest day of the year for Jewish people. Why? It's on this day that we reflect upon our actions from the previous year (remember, Rosh Hashanah marks the new year), and we ask to be forgiven for those things we didn't do so well on. 

Examples of the sins we ask to be forgiven for are mistreatment of other people, or things that we said that we shouldn't have said. We also ask to be forgiven for the transgressions we committed that we didn't realize we made. 

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High Holy Days

Yom Kippur is one of the "High Holy Days" when many Jewish people go to synagogue. In fact, many Jewish families only go to temple during the High Holy Days, like ours! 


The service on the night before Yom Kippur is called Kol Nidre and it's a beautiful service with lots of prayers and singing and responsive reading. We went to a temple here in Westchester County, NY, and it was a lovely and unifying experience to sing together and read prayers aloud together. 


The High Holy Days services of my childhood were held outside in a large tent because the sanctuary couldn't hold the swell of attendance. I remember the smell of the wet grass and the chilly Fall weather. Due to the short days and early sunsets, it's always dark during services which only adds to the seriousness of the holiday. 

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What's the Fasting About?

Let's talk about fasting. Does everyone have to fast? There are a few rules about who doesn't have to fast. For example, children under 9 are not allowed to fast, and pregnant and nursing mothers are also free from this requirement. The general rule, too, is that if fasting would pose a risk to your health, then you should not fast. When children reach age 13, they are able to fast according to Jewish law. 


The reason we fast is to experience a bit of discomfort while we are reflecting on our misdeeds. Another reason is so we can have empathy for those of us who fast out of necessity rather than choice. 


What's it like to fast? It's different for everyone, of course. It's generally easier to fast if you don't have a huge meal the night before. 


For me, I had some leftover Chinese food with rice before we went to services. Sadly, I was hungry by 8 pm though! In the morning, I didn't feel hungry so much as just tired. My physical energy was low and I felt like I needed to rest.


The interesting part is that I felt greater mental clarity from not having eaten, and I felt like my words and thoughts flowed better. During the afternoon Children's Service we went to, being surrounded by other adults who were fasting helped, as did the singing!

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Break Fast, Not Breakfast


So after the fasting, comes the break fast, at sundown. Usually, to break our fast we have a meal that resembles brunch. Typically, a spread of bagels, smoked salmon, salads and the like. You can see that we had some good eats at my sister's house. There was some gefilte fish (it's not my favorite dish!) and we brought the kugel (sweet noodle casserole) that everyone loves!  


Do you have any Fall rituals? Whether or not you celebrate the High Holy Days, autumn is the perfect time for introspection and preparing for the colder months.

Thanks for reading, all! Do you have any questions that I didn't address? Drop them below!