The Obscure Origins of Yom Kippur -Haaretz

Written by Swiss America

shofar"It is a solemn day. The synagogues are packed with men and, usually in a separate section, women - often dressed in white, all praying that their sins be forgiven.


Many of the worshipers wear Crocs, as leather shoes are not permitted. Yom Kippur in Israel is a special day indeed, but it is a far cry from the Day of Atonement of old....The three biblical mentions of the Day of Atonement (Numbers 29:7-11, Leviticus 16:1-34, and Leviticus 23:26-32) were inserted by priests during the Second Temple period to validate new rites added to purify the Temple in advance of the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar at the time, Sukkot. The priests of the Jerusalem Temple who inaugurated Yom Kippur seem to have had the 12-day Babylonian festival marking the new year, Akitu, in mind...Kippur meant 'to uncover' or 'to remove impurity,' which means a better translation of Yom Kippur to English would be 'Day of Purification.'....The practice of transferring the disfavor of a deity to an animal that is then removed from the community, what we call a 'scapegoat' based on the biblical passage....Then the goat would be led into the wilderness by a specially appointed man, usually a priest, accompanied by the city's dignitaries....Yoma ends with a discussion on whether all transgressions are remitted on Yom Kippur. It says that those transgressions carried out against other person's are not, while those against God are. This is the origin of the tradition of asking your fellow man for forgiveness on the days leading up to Yom Kippur. Naturally, once the Temple was destroyed by Titus in 70 CE, the main function of Yom Kippur, purifying the Temple in preparation for Sukkot, could not continue. Instead a new form of Yom Kippur formed over the centuries, centered on acknowledgement of wrongs, atonement - and praying for forgiveness in synagogues."

*Swiss America's offices will be closed Wednesday in observance of Yom Kippur*