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5 Thing to Know About the Jewish Holidays: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot

Followers of the Jewish faith will begin a 10-day period of reflection and celebration beginning with Jewish New Year's at nightfall tonight, Sept. 4. Here are 5 things to know about Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot.

The celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins Wednesday evening.
The celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins Wednesday evening.

Many people who are unfamiliar with the Jewish culture may have curiosity about the upcoming Jewish New Year's celebrations. Here are 5 things to know about Yom Kippur and the holidays surrounding it beginning week. 

1. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated in 2013 from sundown on Sept. 4 to nightfall on Sept. 6 and begins a 10-day period of reflection, repentance and celebration. Yom Kippur begins at sunset on Friday, Sept. 13. Sukkot 2013 begins in the evening of Wed., Sept. 18 and ends in the evening of Wed., Sept. 25.

2. Yom Kippur is considered the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast and/or attend synagogue services on this day.

3. The name "Yom Kippur" means "Day of Atonement."

It is a day set aside to "afflict the soul," to atone for the sins of the past year.

It is considered to be the time to repent sins committed over the course of the last year in order to change judgment, demonstrating your repentance and make amends; a time to apologize to both people and God for transgressions. 

4. Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and prayer. Observers refrain from eating and drinking (even water) during the 25-hour fast that begins before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur, and no work is to be preformed. 

5. Yom Kippur is preceded by Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and is followed by Sukkot, a joyous celebration five days later. The word Sukkot means booths, and refers to the temporary dwellings that observers are commanded to live in during the seven-day holiday, commemorating the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters.

Jews observing the holiday will construct a Sukkah, a camping-like structure in their backyard, or even in the wilderness, to put life’s luxuries into perspective. It is a time to get back to basics, celebrate God and feast with family.

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