The Jewish people place the most importance on Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. Timed to coincide with the completion of the ten days of reflection and atonement that follow the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah, it occurs in the Hebrew month of Tishrei (September/October in the Gregorian calendar). Jews are urged to repent and seek forgiveness for their wrongdoings throughout the past year on Yom Kippur because it is on this day that God is said to decide each person’s fate. A 25-hour fast and a solemn religious ceremony are performed in honor of the event. Judaism’s “High Holy Days” are Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur, in the year 2022, will begin on Tuesday, October 4th and last until Wednesday, October 5th at sunset.
After the Israelites left Egypt and arrived at Mount Sinai, where God handed Moses the Ten Commandments, the first Yom Kippur is said to have occurred, at least in tradition. As he descended from the mountain, Moses saw his people sacrificing to a golden calf and lost his temper, smashing the tablets. After the Israelites made amends for their idolatry, God released them from their punishment and handed Moses another set of tablets.
Jewish traditions explain that the high priest was only allowed into the holiest part of the Jerusalem Temple on Yom Kippur. It was there that he would perform rituals and anoint the Ark of the Covenant, which held the Ten Commandments, with blood from animals that had been sacrificed. He sought God’s pardon on behalf of the Israelites through this elaborate ritual. It is believed that the practice persisted until the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 A.D., after which it was transformed into a synagogue service led by rabbis and attended by their congregations