Halacha Guide: Yom Kippur

The following is a Halach guide for Yom Kippur compiled by Rabbi Shmuel Lesches, Rov of Young Yeshivah Shul in Melbourne, Australia. Click here to download a PDF version.

 KAPPAROS

Kapparos is performed during the last third of the night. If this is not possible, one may perform Kapparos any time during Aseres Y’mei Teshuvah, as close to Erev Yom Kippur as possible.

Kapparos is performed with white chickens. [Nevertheless, one should not noticeably go out of his way to obtain specifically white chickens.]

Kapparos should not be shared unless there is no other alternative. A male uses a male chicken and a female uses a female chicken. A pregnant woman uses one male and two female chickens.

It is preferable that one is present when his chicken is shechted. If the chicken was not shechted properly, Kapparos is performed again. If it was shechted properly but the chicken was a Treifah, Kapparos need not be repeated.

One should cover the blood, but only with the Shoichet’s consent. The Brocho ends “Al Kissui Dom BeOfor”. The blood should be fully covered.

One should not think that the Kapparos itself atones for one’s sins. Rather, one’s intention should be that a sinner deserves what is being done to the chicken. These thoughts arouse one to Teshuvah.

The Kapparos chickens or their value should be donated to a Tzedakah cause.

Ma’aser money may not be used for one’s own (or dependent’s) Kapparos.

 EREV YOM KIPPUR MORNING

One goes to Mikvah three times throughout the day; once before Shacharis, once before Mincha, and once after the Seudah Hamafsekes. 

Tachnun is not said from the morning of Erev Yom Kippur until after Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan.

Shacharis is not davened at length. Mizmor Lesodah is not recited during Shacharis.

Avinu Malkeinu is not recited during Shacharis and Mincha.

Yom Kippur does not atone for wrongs committed against others unless their forgiveness is obtained. Therefore, Erev Yom Kippur is an appropriate time for one to resolutely forgive all who wronged him in the past. 

One should ask another person for lekach and eat it.

It is a Mitzvah to eat and drink on Erev Yom Kippur. Ideally, one eats an amount equivalent to two days. [Needless to say, it is forbidden to fast.] This applies even to one exempt from fasting on Yom Kippur.

A Bris should be conducted earlier in the morning, so that the Seudah will not interfere with the two meals that are eaten later in the day.

For both meals, it is customary to set the table and serve a meal on par with Shabbos and Yom Tov. The meals begin with round Challos (dipped in honey), but there is no need for Lechem Mishneh. 

The first meal takes place sometime before Mincha. One only eats foods that are easily digested, such as chicken and fish, as opposed to meat. Garlic, eggs and sesame seeds are not eaten.  

It is customary to eat Kreplach today.

 MIKVAH AND MINCHA

Malkus is administered with a leather belt (preferably of the hide of a calf). The one receiving Malkus leans in a kneeling position to the north. Thirty-nine lashes are administered lightly, one on the right shoulder, one on the left shoulder, and one a bit lower between the shoulders, after which the sequence is repeated. Both the one giving and receiving Malkus say “Vehu Rachum” three times, one word per lash.

After Malkus, one goes to Mikvah. One should dip (at least) three times. 

It is our custom to drop many coins into Tzedakah boxes as we make our way to Mincha. The Baal Shem Tov says that the clanging coins scatter the Kelippos.

Mincha is davened at length and with feelings of Teshuvah. It is scheduled early enough to leave sufficient time for the Seudah Hamafsekes.

The full Vidui is recited right after the first Yihyu L’ratzon at the end of Shmoneh Esrei. Vidui is not recited in the Chazzan’s repetition of Mincha.

 HALACHOS OF VIDUI

During Vidui, one stands without leaning on anything and bows forward slightly (similar to Modim). 

One beats his chest with his fist when he says each word of Ashamnu, at each Al Cheit (and Al Chatoim), and at the words Slach Lonu, Mechol Lonu, Kapper Lonu. [The word אלוה is enunciated with the ה’ sounded after the last vowel, i.e. Eloi-ah.]

When reciting Vidui in the quiet Shmoneh Esrei, one responds as he normally would in Elokai Netzor. [I.e. If the Chazzan recites Kedushah, one responds Kodosh, Boruch and Yimloch. When the Chazzan says Hamelech Hakodosh and Shomea Tefillah, one answers Omein. When the Chazzan says Modim, one answers the three words Modim Anachnu Loch. When the Chazzan recites Kaddish, one answers Omein Y’hei Shmei etc, and Omein to d’amiran b’olmo. One also answers Omein when the Brochos are recited before and after an Aliyah or Haftorah.]

If one forgot Vidui in Shmoneh Esrei, he should recite it afterwards. 

One who is not davening with a Minyan, or at all (due to illness), should still recite Vidui throughout Yom Kippur the same number of times as it is recited in Shule. This applies to women as well.

One may not speak when the congregation recites Vidui during Chazaras Hashatz.

 SEUDAH HAMAFSEKES

The meal begins with round Challos (dipped in honey). Aside from the food mentioned earlier, one avoids dairy foods, salty and spicy foods, and alcoholic beverages.

Before bentching, one should verbally stipulate that he might still eat or drink again before the fast begins. [If one neglected to do so, it is still permissible to eat and drink.]

One goes to Mikvah after the Seudah Hamafsekes, making sure to finish well before Yom Kippur begins.

One ensures that the house is prepared for Yom Kippur as before every Shabbos and Yom Tov. The table should be covered with a tablecloth, the beds should be made, and the floor swept. One wears Shabbos clothing. [Some are accustomed to change before Mincha, or already from the morning.] Women should minimize their jewellery.

One should not set up an urn of hot water (or put up any other hot foods in a pot or crockpot) for Motzei Yom Kippur.

 LATE AFTERNOON & CANDLE-LIGHTING

One dons his Kittel and Tallis before sunset. The Brocho on the Tallis is recited (unless the sun has already set).

A Chosson in the first year of his marriage does not wear a Kittel on Yom Kippur.

The Kittel may not be worn in the bathroom, similar to a Tallis and Gartel.

After donning the Tallis and Kittel, one performs Birchas Habonim. One places his hands on the head of each child and recites the entire Birchas Kohanim from Vayedaber until Va’ani Avorachem. (One may add any Brocho of his own.)

Each married man lights a “Lebbedige Licht” that burns for 26 hours. A 26 hour “Ner Neshama” is also lit for one’s departed parents. [Havdalah requires a pre-existing flame, so at least one of these is lit at home to be used during Havdalah.] 

Married couples should keep a light on in the bedroom.

Candle-lighting time is 7:12pm. The Brochos are “L’Hadlik Ner Shel Yom Hakippurim”, followed by Shehecheyanu.

The one who lights candles may no longer perform Melacha. Arrangements should be made for that person’s Machzor to be carried to Shule. [If a woman will need to drive to Shule after candle-lighting, she should consult a Rav for the most appropriate option in her circumstances.]

Both men and women should not eat after candle-lighting time. [One should take all medications beforehand.]

If one accepts Yom Kippur any time after Plag Hamincha, he may no longer eat or perform Melacha, and all the other restrictions of Yom Kippur apply – the exception being that leather shoes may still be worn.

The Shule should be well lit in honour of Yom Kippur.

 FASTING

All must fast, including Baalei Habris (i.e. the Mohel, the Sendek, and the father of the baby). Pregnant and nursing mothers are required to fast. 

Fasting is the most important aspect of Yom Kippur and takes precedence over going to Shule and reciting all the Tefillos. One who might not be able to complete the fast if they go to Shule should stay at home. [If necessary, a husband should facilitate his wife’s fasting by going home during the break to help out with the children. If necessary, he should do so even during davening, or arrange help.]

The ill/elderly, a woman who recently gave birth, or a pregnant or nursing woman who feels excessive weakness, should consult a Rav. A Rav should also be consulted regarding medicines. 

One exempt from fasting does not make Kiddush or eat Lechem Mishneh. [It is convenient to avoid bread, as there are many particulars regarding washing for bread and bentching on Yom Kippur.]

One may touch food, but may not engage in its preparation, lest he forgets and eats it. Therefore, one should not prepare food for children and those exempt from fasting, unless they cannot do so themselves. One

who normally washes his hands before handling food may do so on Yom Kippur. When a Bris occurs on Yom Kippur, the Seudah takes place at night, after the fast. [The actual Bris takes place before Musaf. Since no one can drink the wine, a drop is given to the baby who is having the Bris.]

  OTHER RESTRICTIONS OF Y”K

It is prohibited to:

• Wear leather footwear. It is appropriate to avoid wooden clogs. One may wear all non-leather footwear, including crocs. [Although not a requirement, it is ideal to avoid standing barefoot on leather pillows or couches etc.]

• Go to Mikvah, bathe or wash – even in cold water. Similarly, one may not wipe himself with a cloth sufficiently damp to moisten what it touches. [One may rinse if necessary for medical or therapeutic purposes, or for pain-relief. One may also rinse soiled areas, but only as necessary. Similarly, one may wash his hands up to the knuckles after exiting the restroom or touching an area of the body that is normally covered. One may also rinse one’s hands as usual in the course of handling food. A Kallah who is married for less than thirty days may wash her face if necessary.]

• Apply makeup, ointment, lotions, deodorants, perfumes or creams. One may apply an ointment for medical or therapeutic purposes, or for pain-relief, but must be aware of the prohibition of smearing a thick lotion. 

• Brush one’s teeth or rinse one’s mouth, even if the liquid is completely expelled. 

All married couples must keep Harchakos (even during the day).

 CHILDREN

Anyone below Bar/Bas Mitzva need not fast. However, they should not eat excessively. 

From the age of nine (or ten if the child has a weak constitution), children are trained to fast at night and for several hours during the day, as per the child’s abilities. A child below that age should not skip any meals.

All the other prohibitions of Yom Kippur (i.e. leather footwear, bathing and anointing) are applicable to children of all ages. Therefore, an adult may not encourage or assist a child in any of these activities, or make it accessible to them. 

If a child performs any of these activities of his own volition, he or she may be left alone if younger than nine. If older than nine, the father is obligated to correct his child’s behaviour, and must also prevent the child from eating during the hours when he or she should be fasting.

  KOL NIDREI & MAARIV

Before Kol Nidrei, one recites the entire Vidui individually, followed by nine Kapitlach of Tehillim, as printed in the Machzor. [Many times, the Rebbe would begin the Nigun of Avinu Malkeinu before the nine Kapitlach of Tehillim.]

At least three Sifrei-Torah are taken out and held near the Chazzan. [If a Shule has only one Sefer-Torah, at least two people should still stand near the Chazzan.]

The Chazzan recites Kol Nidrei three times, each time raising his voice more than the previous time.

Each congregant stands and recites Kol Nidrei with the Chazzan word by word, quietly but audibly enough so that it may be heard by those closest to him or her.

The Chazzan recites V’nislach all three times before the congregation does.

One should quietly begin Shehecheyanu with the Chazzan, but hasten to finish before him, in order to answer Omein. One who said Shehecheyanu when lighting candles does not repeat it now.

One does not kiss the Tzitzis of his Tallis during Shma.

 SHMONEH ESREI ON YOM KIPPUR

On Yom Kippur, the third Brocho of Shmoneh Esrei has a long addition beginning with the words L’Dor V’dor. If one omitted this addition, he may go back to recite it only if he realised before saying Hashem’s name at the end of the third Brocho. Otherwise, he continues Shmoneh Esrei without going back, as long as he is sure that he concluded the Brocho with the words Hamelech Hakodosh.

If one recited the unique Yom Kippur Nusach of the third Brocho, but is in doubt whether he concluded the Brocho with the words Hamelech Hakodosh, he may assume that he did so correctly. 

One who did not say Hamelech Hakodosh: If he realized before he began the next Brocho and within the time frame it takes to say three words, he corrects his mistake. Otherwise, he must begin Shmoneh Esrei again. [The same applies if this occurs in Chazaras Hashatz, in which case Kedushah is recited again.]

If one mistakenly omitted any of the other four additions (Zochreinu, Mi Chomocha, u’Chsov, u’Vsefer Chaim), he may recite it at the place he remembers if he has not yet said Hashem’s name at the end of that Brocho. Otherwise, he continues Shmoneh Esrei and does not go back.

During Chazaras Hashatz, the congregation recites the selections of u’Chsov and u’Vsefer Chaim aloud before the Chazzan.

 END OF MAARIV & KRIAS SHMA

It is not our custom to recite Avinu Malkeinu verse by verse after the Chazzan. The words Roia Gzar in Avinu Malkeinu are recited without pausing in between.

L’Dovid Mizmor: It is not our custom to open the Aron Hakodesh, nor to recite it verse by verse after the Chazzan.

It is customary to recite the entire Tehillim with a Minyan after Maariv.

One should be sure to derive benefit from the candles at one point after Yom Kippur begins (e.g. when returning from Shule).

Krias Shma before bed is recited as on Shabbos and Yom-Tov. Boruch Shem is recited aloud. One should remember to recite the nine Kapitlach of Tehillim before Hamapil, as printed in the Machzor. 

When going to bed, a man should not cover himself warmly. At the very least, he should leave his feet uncovered.

  YOM KIPPUR MORNING

 Neggel Vasser is washed only up to the knuckles. [Tip: Prepare the Neggel Vasser in a slightly different way as a reminder not to wash one’s hands as usual.] One should not derive enjoyment from washing his hands. One wipes his eyes with the towel moistened by his hands.

One who washes the flakes out of his eyes every morning may do so on Yom Kippur morning as well. After getting dressed, Neggel Vasser is performed again – with a Brocho – only up to the knuckles. [However, Kohanim wash their hands up to the wrist, as usual.]

The Brocho of Sheoso Li Kol Tzorki is omitted until the following morning.

 SHACHARIS

Preferably, when putting on the Tallis, one should intend that the Brocho also applies to putting on the Tallis after the break, before Mincha. [This is assuming that the break does not last more than several hours.]

The Chazanim should familiarize themselves in advance with the meaning of all of the Piyuttim and Tefillos – even if they already did so the previous year. Similarly, one should train his children regarding the correct order of davening beforehand, so as to minimize any distractions during davening.

 Shir Hamaalos (after Yishtabach): It is not our custom to open the Aron Hakodesh, nor to recite it verse by verse after the Chazzan.

When the Aron Hakodosh is opened during Chazaras Hashatz, it is not obligatory to stand, since the Sefer Torah is not being moved. Some have the custom to stand. [The Rebbe was not particular about this, although he made a point of standing for Ho’aderes V’hoemunah and L’e-l Orech Din.]

At Shacharis, the paragraph of Misoid (at the beginning of Chazaras Hashatz) and the one that follows is recited by the Chazzan and not by the congregation.  

One must complete the daily quota of 100 Brochos. As we can’t eat or drink on Yom Kippur, one must find other ways to meet this quota, such as by concentrating on the Brochos that are recited during Krias Hatorah and Haftorah, or by reciting Besomim over fragrant spices. [One can’t make a second Brocho on fragrant spices unless a sufficient amount of time has elapsed to divert his attention.]

It is customary to grant an Aliyah to the Ba’al Musaf unless he is being paid.

  MUSAF

 Yizkor is recited before Musaf. Those who leave the Shule for Yizkor may recite “Av Harachamim” after Yizkor if they wish to.

Ideally, Musaf should be davened before the earliest time for Mincha.

Since the Chazzan cannot move out of his place to bow at Aleinu and during the Avodah, he stands at a distance from the Shtender, to allow him space to bow.

The paragraph of Misoid (beginning of Chazaras Hashatz) is recited by the Chazzan and not the congregation. 

One should stand for u’Nesane Toikef.

The Chazzan recites the entire Aleinu – including the second half – out loud. The congregation quietly recites it word for word with him, bowing at V’Anachnu Korim, and continuing until Hu Elokenu Ein Oid. At that point, they begin saying the Pesukim of Atoh Horayso, as printed in the Machzor. The subsequent paragraph (beginning Oichilah) is recited by the Chazzan only.

When one bows, his head should reach all the way to the ground. One may not bow directly on a stone floor, but should prepare mats upon which to bow. [Mats do not need to be used when bowing on a floorcovering of any other type.] The Chazzan needs to keep his feet together during Shmoneh Esrei. He should therefore be helped up after bowing. Kohanim wash their hands until the wrist before Duchenen. One stands for those recitations of V’hakohanim that require bowing. Musaf is followed with a break of at least 45 minutes (if possible).

  MINCHA & NEILAH

 After the break, one does not make a Brocho when putting his Tallis on, unless the break lasted more than several hours.

Neilah begins shortly before sunset.

One should pay attention to all the changes in Neilah (such as Chosmeinu instead of Kosveinu).

Napoleon’s March is sung right before the Shofar is sounded.  The Shofar is sounded after the fast ends.

  MOTZEI YOM KIPPUR

One extends Yom Kippur at least several minutes. The time during which Maariv is davened suffices for this purpose. After that, all prohibitions of Yom Kippur cease. Even so, one may of course not eat until after Havdallah. [Since one’s fast extends for more than 25 hours, it is regarded as a 26 hour fast.]

 Maariv is davened with a Tallis, but not over the head. Instead, one wears a hat. Havdallah is recited in similar fashion.

 Vihi Noam and V’atah Kaddosh are not recited.

Everyone – even Kohanim who washed their hands before Birchas Kohanim – should wash Netilas Yadayim until the wrist and rinse their mouth. This should be done as soon as possible after Maariv, and certainly before Kiddush Levanah or breaking the fast.

 Kiddush Levanah is recited if the moon is visible. Ideally, one first changes into leather shoes and rinses his face, unless this will negate his participation in a Minyan. 

We greet each other “Gut Yom Tov”.

For Havdallah, Besomim is not used. One uses a candle that was burning from before Yom Kippur, together with another candle which he lights from the first. [If one does not have a pre-existing flame from before Yom Kippur, the Brocho is omitted.]

Although we usually don’t give out the leftover wine of the Havdallah, this may be done on Motzei Yom Kippur.

A man who heard Havdallah may recite it again for another man or for a boy over the age of Chinuch if they don’t know how to recite it themselves. However, a man should not recite it again for a woman. Therefore, one should not be yoitze with the Havdallah at Shule when there are women at home waiting to hear Havdallah.

A woman may make Havdallah herself in order to eat.

If the “Lebbedige Licht” was extinguished during Yom Kippur, one should relight it on Motzei Yom Kippur and let it burn until the end. One should also resolve to ensure that the “Lebbedige Licht” burns until the end in all subsequent years.

 The table is set, candles are lit, and a full Yom Tov meal is eaten, beginning with round Challos (dipped in honey). [The Rebbe Rashab states that an expansive meal draws down Gashmiyus for the whole year.]

On Motzei Yom Kippur, we start building the Sukkah, or at least speak about the Sukkah.

 GOTT’S NOMMEN

The day after Yom Kippur is called “B’Shem Hashem” or “Gott’s Nommen”, and we go to Shule early in the morning for Shacharis. The days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos are days of joy, for the Mizbeach in the first Beis Hamikdash was inaugurated then. Aside from a Chosson and Kallah on their wedding day, one may not fast.

Click here to download a PDF version.

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