- Litanies and petitions of forgiveness
- The conclusion when the Gates of Prayer will be closed
- The Return to Adonai (Teshuvah)
- Viduy (Confession)
- The Confessional consists of two parts
- Avodah: remembering the Temple service
- The only times When prostration is practiced
- The radiance of the High Priest
- Prayers for the Rebuilding of the Temple
- The Custom of illustrating the Sprinkling
- The three passages that communicate the laws of Yom Kippurim
Litanies and petitions of forgiveness:
The morning prayer service is preceded by litanies and petitions of forgiveness called selichot (סליחות); on Yom Kippur, many selichot are woven into the liturgy of the mahzor (prayer book). As already stated the morning prayers are followed by an added prayer (Mussaf) as on all other holidays. This is followed by Mincha (the afternoon prayer) which includes a reading (Haftarah– אַפְטָרָה – a selection from the prophets) of the entire Book of Jonah, which has as its theme the story of Adonai’s willingness to forgive those who repent (in this case Gentiles).
The conclusion when the Gates of Prayer will be closed:
The service concludes with the Ne’ila (“closing”) prayer, which begins shortly before sunset, when the “Gates of Prayer” will be closed. Yom Kippur comes to an end with a recitation of Shema Yisrael and the blowing of the shofar, which marks the conclusion of the fast.
The Return to the Adonai (Teshuvah):
The Talmud rightfully states:
“Yom Kippur atones for those who repent and does not atone for those who do not repent.”
Repentance is done through a process called Teshuvah, which in its most basic form consists of regretting having committed the sin, resolving not to commit that sin in the future and to confess that sin before Adonai, the Almighty One (יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים).
Confession in Judaism is called Viduy. Accordingly Yom Kippur is unique for the confessional, or Viduy, that is part of the prayer services. In keeping with the requirement to repent on Yom Kippur, we recite the full Viduy a total of Ten times:
1. Twice during Mincha on Yom Kippur eve (2 times);
2. Eight times on Yom Kippur itself during:
a. Ma’ariv (2 times);
b. Shacharit (2 times);
c. Musaf (2 times); and
d. Mincha (2 times);
The first time the Viduy (וידוי) is recited in each service takes place during the personal recitation of the Amidah (עמידה-the standing, silent prayer), and the second time during the cantor’s repetition of the Amidah, in a public recitation.
*At Ne’ilah (the closing service), only a short confessional is said.
The Confessional consists of two parts:
The Yom Kippur confessional consists of two parts:
Part #1. This is a short confession beginning with the word Ashamnu (“we have sinned” – from אָשַׁם- to offend, be guilty, trespass), which is a series of words describing sin arranged according to the aleph-bet (22 letter alphabet). It is notable that during the public recitation of Ashamnu together with the cantor, the entire congregation sings these words to a tune, representing the joy of being cleansed from one’s sins.
Part #2. This is a long confession, beginning with the words Al Cheyt (“for the sin” – לְחַטָּֽאת), which is a set of 26 double acrostics, also arranged according to the aleph-bet, enumerating a range of sins.
Avodah: remembering the Temple service:
A recitation of the sacrificial service of the Temple in Jerusalem traditionally features prominently in both the liturgy and the religious thought of the holiday. Specifically, the Avodah (“service” – עבודה) in the Musaf prayer recounts in great detail the sacrificial ceremonies of the Yom Kippur Korbanot (sacrificial offerings) that are recited in the prayers but have not been performed for almost 2,000 years, since the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans. In the absence of a Temple, Jews are obligated to study the High Priest’s ritual on Yom Kippur.
This requirement to study the ritual helps us search out and understand further what is the Divinely intended meaning of the atonement. Therefore, studying the Temple ritual on Yom Kippur is considered an obligation. In synagogue a detailed description of the Temple ritual is recited on the day of Yom Kippur. In most cases the entire congregation prostrates themselves at each point in the recitation where the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) would pronounce the Name of the Eternal One.
The only times When prostration is practiced:
The main section of the Avodah is a threefold recitation of the High Priest’s actions regarding expiation in the Holy of Holies. Performing the sacrificial acts and reciting Leviticus 16:30, (“Your upright children”). The threefold recitation, plus in some congregations the Aleinu (עלינו) prayer during the Musaf Amidah on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, are the only times in Jewish services when Jews engage in prostration.
The radiance of the High Priest:
A variety of liturgical poems are added, including a poem recounting the radiance of the countenance of the Kohen Gadol after exiting the Holy of Holies, traditionally believed to emit palpable light in a manner echoing the Torah’s account of the countenance of Moses after descending from Mount Sinai.
Prayers for the Rebuilding of the Temple:
Prayers are offered for the speedy rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of sacrificial worship.
The Custom of illustrating the Sprinkling:
Another significant custom is the use of hand gestures to mime the sprinkling of blood (one sprinkling upwards and seven downwards per set of eight).
The three passages that communicate the laws of Yom Kippurim:
The Torah calls the day Yom HaKippurim and in it Leviticus 23:27 decrees a strict prohibition of work and affliction of the appetite (means soul or appetite) upon the tenth day of the seventh month, later known as Tishri. The laws of Yom Kippur are mentioned in three passages in the Torah:
Passage #1. Leviticus 16:1–34: “Adonai told Moses to tell Aaron that he can only enter the sanctuary in front of the cover that is on the ark when the Eternal One is present on the cover in a cloud. If Aaron is to enter otherwise, he will die . On the tenth day of the seventh month, Adonai said that the people must not work in order to cleanse and atone for their sins. The Kohen will lead in the atonement of all the people.”
Passage #2. Leviticus 23:26–32: “The Holy One said to Moses that the tenth day of the month is the day of atonement and will be holy. The people must give a fire-offering to Adonai and must not work. The Holy One told Moses that whoever does work, He will rid of the soul from its people. This is a day of complete rest from the evening of the ninth day of the month to the following evening.”
Passage #3. Numbers 29:7–11: “The tenth day of the seventh month is a holy day and one must not work. For an elevation offering, one must sacrifice a young bull, a ram and seven lambs who are a year old. As well, for a sin offering, one must sacrifice a male goat.”