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Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is considered the holiest day of the year for people who practice Judaism. The holiday technically spans two calendar days, because the Jewish calendar is lunar. Days are marked sunset to sunset. Yom Kippur concludes a 10-day period known as the “Days of Awe” that begins with the Jewish New Year, which is called Rosh Hashanah.
Jews around the world are to face their misdeeds and sins over the year through worship and prayer so that they may atone for their wrongdoings. With fear and wonder in facing God’s judgment, Jews seek forgiveness. In doing so, people are called to self-reflect on their failings and flaws.
HistoryAccording to tradition and lore, the origins of Yom Kippur can be traced to Moses’ leading the ancient Israelites out of slavery, as described in the book of Exodus. He led them to Mount Sinai, where Moses himself went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments from God. Upon returning with the tablets, he found that his people were worshiping a false idol, a Golden Calf. Moses destroyed the tablets in anger, but the people atoned for their sin, so God forgave them.