Yom Kippur Vocabulary

Key words and phrases for Yom Kippur.


Al Het –(Hebrew, ‘For the sin’), Opening words of a confession of sin. It is recited on Yom Kippur.

Avinu Malkeinu
—literally, “Our Father, Our King” is recited after the Amidah (the main prayer, said while standing) and before the Torah service. It is recited throughout the Ten Days of Repentance, from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur.

Gmar Hatimah Tovah—literally, “May the rest of the signing be good.” A traditional greeting during the Ten Days of Repentance.

Kittel— a white robe that men and some women wear during High Holiday services. The kittel is white to represent the purity we hope to achieve through our prayers on these holy days.yom kippur

Kol Nidrei—literally, “all vows,”  this is a declaration, largely in Aramaic, recited at the beginning of the evening service on Yom Kippur in which all vows that will be uttered in the coming year are declared null and void.

Mahzor, machzor—literally “cycle” the mahzor is the special prayer book for the High Holidays, containing all the special High Holiday liturgy.

Neilah—literally, “locking,” the final service on Yom Kippur, during which we make a final plea to God to accept our prayers and seal us in the Book of Life for the year to come.

Teshuva, teshuvah—literally “return”, referring to the “return to God” teshuvah is often translated as “repentance.” It is one of the most significant themes and spiritual components of the High Holidays.

Viddui—a prayer recited just before Yom Kippur, and repeated many times during the holiday. During the Vidui we beat ourselves on the chest for each transgression listed. This action serves as a symbolic punishment for our hearts, which are ultimately responsible for leading us to sins of greed, lust, and anger.

Yamim Noraim—literally “Days of Awe”, term that refers to the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur.

Yizkor—literally, “may God remember,” Yizkor is the memorial prayer recited on Yom Kippur.

Yom Tov—holiday

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