Yom Kippur, one of the most sacred dates in the Jewish religious calendar, comes to a close this evening.
The holiday – known as the Day of Atonement – falls 10 days after Rosh Hashanah, which marks the beginning of the Jewish year.
It is a time for Jewish communities around the world to reflect on the past year, during which most will be expected to fast.
Here’s what you need to know.
When is Yom Kippur?
Yom Kippur falls on the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei (September or October in the Gregorian calendar).
Jews traditionally observe the holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.
It marks the culmination of the Days of Repentance or Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection that follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which celebrates the anniversary of world’s creation.
This year, Yom Kippur began at sundown on and ends at nightfall on .
This means fasting began at 6.17pm on 4 October, and ends at 7.16pm on 5 October.
The fast lasts for 25 hours because it must start and end at sundown. The extra hour allows for some subjectivity with when nightfall is.
What is the significance of Yom Kippur?
Yom Kippur is a time to reflect on the past year and ask God’s forgiveness for any sins committed. The origins trace back to the story of Moses, after the people of Israel made their exodus from Egypt.
After Moses climbed Mount Sinai, God gave him two tablets containing the Ten Commandments. The first commandment told people that they should not worship anyone other than God.
However, when he descended from the mountain, Moses caught the Israelites worshipping a golden calf and shattered the holy tablets in anger.
The Israelites atoned for their idolatry and God forgave them on on the 10th day of Tishrei, which then became known as Yom Kippur.
How is Yom Kippur celebrated?
Millions of Jewish families around the world mark the day of Yom Kippur by fasting for 25 hours.
Anyone who must eat due to health reasons will not be required to fast. Children under the age of nine are also exempt. Generally, adults do not work on Yom Kippur; children may also miss school.
Most of the day is spent at the synagogue, where five prayer services are held (instead of the traditional two). These are known as: Maariv, Shacharit, Musaf, Mincha and Neilah.
Maariv includes the recital of a prayer service called Kol Nidre, which takes place on the eve of the holiday.
Yom Kippur concludes with the Neilah service and the blowing of the shofar, an ancient instrument, which marks the conclusion of the fast.
After the service, people usually break the fast and celebrate with a family meal. It is customary to wear white, as a symbol of purity during the day.
As a way to atone and seek God’s forgiveness, some Jews make donations or volunteer their time to charity in the days leading up to the holiday.