Yom Kippur

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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”) 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 2,000 years, since the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans.

This traditional prominence is rooted in the Babylonian Talmud’s description of how to attain atonement following the destruction of the Temple. According to Talmud tractate Yoma, in the absence of a Temple, Jews are obligated to study the High Priest’s ritual on Yom Kippur, and this study helps achieve atonement for those who are unable to benefit from its actual performance. In Orthodox Judaism, accordingly, studying the Temple ritual on Yom Kippur represents a positive rabbinically ordained obligation which Jews seeking atonement are required to fulfill.

In Orthodox synagogues, most Conservative, and some progressive[11] a detailed description of the Temple ritual is recited on the day. In most Orthodox and some Conservative synagogues, the entire congregation prostrates themselves at each point in the recitation where the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) would pronounce the Tetragrammaton (God’s holiest name, according to Judaism).

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”). (These three times, plus in some congregations the Aleinu prayer during the Musaf Amidah on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, are the only times in Jewish services when Jews engage in prostration, with the exception of some Yemenite Jews and talmedhei haRambam (disciples of Maimonides) who may prostrate themselves on other occasions during the year). 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, as well as prayers for the speedy rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of sacrificial worship. There are a variety of other customs, such as hand gestures to mime the sprinkling of blood (one sprinkling upwards and seven downwards per set of eight).

Orthodox liturgies include prayers lamenting the inability to perform the Temple service and petitioning for its restoration, which Conservative synagogues generally omit. In some Conservative synagogues, only the Hazzan (cantor) engages in full prostration. Some Conservative synagogues abridge the recitation of the Avodah service to varying degrees, and some omit it entirely. Many Reform and Reconstructionist services omit the entire service as inconsistent with modern sensibilities.

Date of Yom Kippur

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