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Dates for assembly

October 13 Yom Kippur. The most solemn date in the Jewish calendar brings the annual 10 Days of Atonement or Repentance to an end.

Outline script

Imagine going 25 hours without wearing perfume or leather shoes. Easy.

What about 25 hours without washing? Without sex or thinking about it? And what about 25 hours without food or drink?

Around the world, Jews will be marking the most holy day of their year by giving up these things. They will also spend much of the day in synagogues and many will go to all five services held that day. Many Jews for whom religion isn't all that important still mark Yom Kippur.

The 10 Days of Atonement begin at the Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah, which fell on October 4 this year. Each day has its own traditions but, on the day before Yom Kippur, people are expected to eat well to prepare for the coming day's fast. They should also ask forgiveness from anyone they may have wronged. It is said that the purpose of fasting is to help people feel more like the angels, who have no need to eat or drink or wash.

Yom Kippur itself begins (like all Jewish days) at dusk. A synagogue service is held, at which a prayer called the Kol Nidrei is said or sung three times. The prayer asks God to cancel any personal promises made to him which can't be kept, ready for a new start in the year which is beginning.

During the services on the day itself, people confess their sins to God and pray for forgiveness. The fifth and last service includes a final prayer for forgiveness and the single sound of the shofar (ram's horn) marks the end of the holy day.

Unlike many Jewish festivals, the Days of Atonement do not commemorate an event in Jewish history but fulfil instructions given in the Book of Leviticus (chapter 23, verses 26-28).


List things done in the past year that would have been better undone (at a personal, group or even international level). Discuss how true repentance could be shown. Pete Seeger's song "Turn, Turn, Turn" (based on Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verses 1-8) is appropriate to the season. The BBC Schools website suggests other appropriate classroom activities and weblinks to both BBC and non-BBC sites:

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