Yom Kippur Prayers | The Jewish Agency – U.S.Yom Kippur Prayers
Yom Kippur prayers

Yom Kippur Prayers

Yom Kippur Prayers

The day is dedicated entirely to prayer

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Online Yom Kippur Machzor (prayer book)

Yom Kippur Prayers and Services

The afternoon service on the eve of Yom Kippur sets the tone for the prayers of Yom Kippur, in that the confession is said at the end of the (silent) Amidah.

There are five services on Yom Kippur itself:

(a) Kol Nidrei and Ma’ariv
(b) Shacharit
(c) Mussaf
(d) Minchah
(e) Ne’ilah

The following are the main prayers special to Yom Kippur:

(a) Tefillah zakkah: A private prayer before Kol Nidrei, includes examination of one’s conscience, Vidui and expression of remorse. The prayer concludes with a request to G-d to, “create in me a pure mind and renew in me an eager spirit”.

(b) Kol Nidrei: This moving prayer, read by the leader is based on the Talmud (Nedarim 23b): “Anyone who wants his vows throughout the year not to be binding, should stand up on Rosh Hashanah and say, ‘Any vow that I make in the future shall be invalid'”. (The expression Rosh Hashanah is interpreted to mean Yom Kippur, as in Ezekiel 40:1)

Yom Kippur is a day of forgiveness and repentance, when a person must purify oneself from sins (To fear sin means: so that one fears sin itself more than one fears the punishment arising from it.) One cannot do this with vows on one’s conscience, or possible vows, so one must first remove any problems that vows might cause – hence the relevance of Kol Nidrei . (Rabbi Mendel of Vitebsk)

(c) Ma’ariv: The Service resembles that of a regular festival, but with the following major additions:

1. The Sephardim begin with the two verses Vehu Rahum, as on weekdays, which are otherwise omitted on Shabbat and festivals.

2. After the first verse of the Shema, the second verse, Baruch Shem… is chanted aloud. Normally this is recited quietly, because this is the prayer of angels, into whose domain we do not wish to intrude, but on Yom Kippur we are all compared to angels.

3. Before the Amidah we recite the verse, “For on this day…” (Leviticus 16:30)

4. The Amidah includes seven blessings, especially Hamelech hakadosh; the Vidui is recited at the end.

5. After the Amidah various special Selichot are recited, often sung to traditional tunes, followed by a repetition of the Vidui; Avinu Malkenu (except on Shabbat) etc.

6. In different congregations, various additional prayers are said after the end of the service.

(d) Shacharit: The Amidah is similar to that of Rosh Hashanah. The theme of the Piyyutim in the reader’s repetition of the Amidah is G-d’s rule over the entire world. The Amidah is followed by Avinu Malkenu (except on Shabbat). Two Sifrei Torah are taken out of the Aron Kodesh. The main Torah reading is Leviticus 16, describing the special service performed in the Sanctuary by the High Priest on Yom Kippur. Six people are called to the reading (seven, as usual, if it is on Shabbat). The Maftir, as usual on a Festival, describes the additional sacrifices (Numbers 29:12-16).

The Haftarah (Isaiah 57:14 – 58:14) exhorts the people to repentance, followed by a change of behavior and good deeds.

(e) Yizkor (Memorial Prayers): These are said four times a year – on Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, the last day of Pesach and the second day (in Israel, the first and only day) of Shavuot. In addition to prayers for departed relatives, El Maleh Rahamim is said for Jewish martyrs throughout the ages, for those who died in the Holocaust in particular, for soldiers in the Jewish underground and, later, in the Israeli army who died fighting to establish and defend the Jewish state.

(f) Mussaf: There are seven blessings in the Amidah as on Rosh Hashanah. [In the Yovel (jubilee year, temporarily suspended), when the Shofar is blown, nine blessings are said as on Rosh Hashanah.] The focus of the repetition of the Amidah is a full description of the Avodah, the special service conducted by the High Priest in the Temple. This section is particularly important.
Other outstanding “additions” in the repetition include Unetanneh Tokef (as on Rosh Hashanah), Aleinu (as on Rosh Hashanah) and Eileh ezkerah, the story of the Ten Martyrs.

(g) Minchah: This begins with a Torah reading (Leviticus 18), the section following on from the morning reading, which deals with some of the worst temptations a person is liable to face and to which one must not succumb. Three people are called to the Torah, the third then going on to read the Haftarah, which consists of the entire Book of Jonah. The story of Jonah carries the message that repentance is effective in avoiding punishment. The Amidah is similar to that of Ma’ariv and Shacharit; it is followed by Avinu Malkenu (except on Shabbat), although some congregations do not say Avinu Malkenu at Minchah .

(h) Ne’ilah (Neilah): This fifth service is unique to Yom Kippur. At this time of day the gates are about to close and be locked, and we pray to G-d to, ‘Open the gates of Heaven to us at the time when gates are normally locked, because the day is closing’ (i.e. give us a last chance). Wherever “inscribing” is referred to in earlier prayers (i.e. inscribing the decree sentence in the book of judgement), it is replaced with a reference to “sealing” (i.e. confirming). Two special prayers are included (Atah noten yad; atah hivdalta). In the repetition, Selichot are said. After the Amidah, Avinu Malkenu is always said (even on Shabbat).

As the day closes, the following are recited aloud:

  • The first line of the Shema (once);
  • Baruch shem… (three times);
  • Hashem hu… (seven times);
  • Many congregations sing, ‘Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem’ at this point.

Finally the reader says the Kaddish titkabal.

The end of the fast is marked by sounding one long note (Tekiah) on the Shofar (as a reminder of the Shofar blown on the Yovel, jubilee year, on Yom Kippur – Leviticus 25:9), after which the congregation sing, “Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem!” (“לשנה הבאה בירושלים הבנויה”).