Since the Temple is not standing, the rabbis felt that some rite needed to be created to substitute for the High Priest’s sacrifice for Yom Kippur. A practice known as kaparot is a traditional way of atoning for sins one has committed during the previous year. On the day before Yom Kippur, one waves a live fowl over his or her head and recites a prayer. Sometimes money is waved over the head and these stands are for this purpose. Sometimes they then donate the fowl (chickens) to the poor.
Beginning at sundown tonight, we will begin our 25 hours of fasting. This means no food, drink, water. The requirement to fast on Yom Kippur comes from the Leviticus 16 passage to “afflict one’s soul.” This holiday is the most holy to the Jewish people and it is estimated that about 80% of Israeli Jews will complete the fast.
The Yom Kippur evening service is called Kol Nidre, because the first prayer recited is Kol Neidre, which literally means “all vows”. This plea for nullification of vows made innocently or under duress is chanted three times by the chazzan. This service begins before sundown, as it is considered a legal procedure, which cannot be done once the holiday begins.
Some traditions during Yom Kippur include: sneakers or non-leather shoes (because leather shoes would be considered a luxury), breastbeating as a symbol of penitence, breaking the fast with chopped herring (to encourage drinking a lot of fluids).
It is traditional to say “Tzom Kal” which means light or easy fast. But more importantly, we want to encourage each of us to search ourselves and repent of sins which are holding us back from participating in the plans and purposes of G-d.