Friday night begins the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The words mean “Day of Atonement,” and it is the last chance to atone for the sins of the past year:
…In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and you shall not do any work … For on that day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the L-RD. -Leviticus 16:29-30
Crucially, the atonement is only for sins between man and G-d. To gain forgiveness for sins against another person, one must try to right the wrongs done and gain that person’s forgiveness.
Work is prohibited on Yom Kippur, and there is a 25-hour fast plus many other restrictions on activity.
Many Jews who rarely go to Temple do so on Yom Kippur. On the day before Yom Kippur, some go as well and, if they do, it is customary for the father to bless his children, part of the blessing goes like this:
May it be the will of our Father in Heaven to place into your heart love and fear of Him. May the fear of God be upon you always so that you never sin. May your yearnings be for Torah and mitzvot. May your eyes see straight ahead, may your mouth speak wisdom, and may your heart feel awe.
May your hands engage in mitzvot, your feet run to fulfill the will of your Father in Heaven. May He grant you sons and daughters who are righteous, who will be engaged in Torah and mitzvot throughout their lives.
May your livelihood be blessed and may your sustenance be earned in a permitted manner, with ease and bounty from His generous hand, rather than from the gifts of flesh and blood; sustenance that will leave you free for the service of G-d. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good and long life among all the righteous of Israel, Amen
The common farewell to a friend before Yom Kippur is to wish one’s friend an easy fast, and so we wish the same to our Jewish readers now.