(Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown September 15th,
Yom Kippur begins at sundown September 24th)
The Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur
While Yom Kippur is devoted to fasting, the day before is devoted to eating. According to the The Talmud the person "who eats on the ninth of Tishri (and fasts on the tenth) , it is as if he had fasted both the ninth and tenth." Prayer is also down played so that Jews can concentrate on eating and preparing for the fast.
On the eve of Yom Kippur the community joins at the synagogue. Men put on prayer shawls (not usually worn in the evenings). Then as the night falls the cantor begins the "Kol Nidre", it is repeated 3 times, each time in a louder voice. The Kol Nidre emphasizes the importance in keeping vows, as violating an oath is one of the worst sins.
An important part of the Yom Kippur service is the "Vidui" (Viduy) or confession. The confessions serve to help reflect on ones misdeeds and to confess them verbally is part of the formal repentance in asking G-d's forgiveness. Because community and unity are an important part of Jewish Life, the confessions are said in the plural (We are guilty).
As Yom Kippur ends, at the last hour a service called "Ne'ila" (Neilah) offers a final opportunity for repentance. It is the only service of the year during which the doors to the Ark (where the Torah scrolls are stored) remain open from the beginning to end of the service, signifying that the gates of Heaven are open at this time.
The service closes with the verse, said 7 times, "The L-rd is our G-d." The Shofar is sounded once and the congregation proclaim - "Next year in Jerusalem."
Yom Kippur is over.
The Shofar, a well know symbol of Rosh Hashanah, is one of the earliest instruments used in Jewish music. Usually made from a rams horn, a shofar can also be made from the horns of other animals, including those of a goat or sheep. It is the one musical instrument that has not changed in over 5,000 years. In Biblical times the shofar was blown to announce an important event, such as the alarm of war or the coming of peace. The Great shofar is said to have been sounded during the greatest event in all Jewish history, the giving of the ten commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai (Shavuot).
The blowing of the Shofar is the only specific commandment for Rosh Hashanah. Just as trumpeters announced the presence of their mortal king, the Shofar is used by Jews to proclaim the coronation of the King of King.
The rams horn is blown 100 times. It is an appropriate symbol as it reminds Jews everywhere of the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to fulfill G-d's command. At the last moment G-d ordered Abraham to exchange Isaac with a sacrificial lamb.