Wednesday and Thursday is Yom Kippur, but not everyone knows the meaning of this Jewish holiday. These are the three most frequently asked questions in a row.

What is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur is the Hebrew name for Day of Atonement. It is the holiest holiday of the Jewish year. The name is derived from the Hebrew word kapara , which means “remission of sin”.

Yom Kippur is all about fasting and prayer. The intent is to physically and morally cleanse yourself of sins so that God can forgive them.

The rituals always begin on the eve of the tenth day of the Tishri month of the Jewish year. The party ends at nightfall the following day. Then the new year begins.

Yom Kippur always takes place on two different days. While the Christian era is based on the 365.25 day solar calendar, the Jewish (and Islamic) calendar is a lunar calendar.

Such a lunar calendar may consist of twelve months, but each month coincides with the phases of the moon. A lunar cycle lasts a total of 29 or 30 days. That is why a lunar calendar keeps shifting and is ten days shorter than the Christian calendar.

How is Yom Kippur Celebrated?

Ten days before the start of Yom Kippur, Jews ask God’s forgiveness for the mistakes they have made towards others. Those are the ‘ten days of repentance’.

Yom Kippur is celebrated in the synagogue. Jews then light a candle that is not extinguished during the feast. There is 25 hours of prayer and fasting. This means that Jews refrain from working, eating, drinking, bathing, sexual intercourse and wearing jewelry and leather shoes.

But fasting is above all a moment of contemplation and reflection. For reconciliation with God, there is a special prayer service on the night of Yom Kippur. The purpose is to come to terms with God.

There are men who walk in a white robe, which symbolizes the sheets in which Jews are wrapped when they are dead and placed in the grave. The wish is to appear before God just like in the hereafter and ask him for forgiveness.

After the closing prayer in the synagogue, the shofar is blown. That is a horn that is used in Jewish worship.

On Thursday evening, the fast is broken at home with family and friends with a sumptuous feast. Then the new year can begin.

What about the Yom Kippur War? What does that have to do with it?

In Israel, Yom Kippur also commemorates the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Because most Israeli soldiers were on leave with Yom Kippur at the time, the Egyptian and Syrian armies tried those days to recapture the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights from Israel.

But after three weeks, Israel won the war. According to the UN, the territories were occupied by Israel in 1967 during the Six-Day War.