Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement” in Hebrew. It is a time of fasting, prayer and repentance marking the end of the annual 10-day high holy days period beginning with Rosh Hashanah, the start of a new year.
Kol Nidre, or “all vows,” is the name of the opening prayer. In many congregations, the prayer is accompanied by performance of a plaintive melody, usually played on a cello.
Yom Kippur prayers atone for sins against God, but not for sins against people. For those sins, according to Jewish law, one has to ask the individuals who were hurt for forgiveness.
Many Jews fast over the 24-hour period of Yom Kippur and then attend a celebratory feast.
Yom Kippur ends with a single, long blast of the shofar, an ancient musical instrument made from a ram’s horn.