Known as the Day of Atonement, what's considered the most solemn holiday in the Jewish faith?
And the answer: Yom Kippur.
Observed in September or October each year, Yom Kippur is the holiest of the Jewish holidays. Occurring 10 days after the Jewish New Year, known as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur is a day of atonement, during which observers abstain from eating, drinking, working, and other activities so they're not distracted by superficial comforts.
According to the Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur began with Moses. After the people of Israel made their exodus from Egypt and arrived at Mount Sinai, Moses was given the Ten Commandments by God. When Moses came down the mountain, he found the people worshipping a golden calf. Moses destroyed the tablets in anger, but the people atoned for their sin, so God forgave them.
The tradition states that God judges all creatures during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, deciding their fates for the coming year. Jewish law teaches that God inscribes the names of the righteous in the “book of life” and condemns the wicked to death on Rosh Hashanah. Those who fall between the two categories have until Yom Kippur to perform “teshuvah,” or repentance. As a result, observant Jews consider Yom Kippur and the days leading up to it a time for prayer, good deeds, reflecting on past mistakes and making amends with others.
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