Your Last-Minute Stress-Free Guide to Yom Kippur – Kveller
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Yom Kippur

Your Last-Minute Stress-Free Guide to Yom Kippur


It’s nearly Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement — this year the holiday begins on the evening of Tuesday, October 4.

Yes, the solemn and most major fast day of the year can be overwhelming. What do we do with the kids? How do you parent when you’re hangry? And what if you can’t fast?!

Do not worry! To help you stress less — and, you know, focus on all that atoning you probably need to do — Kveller is here to answer all of your questions.

Wait… What is Yom Kippur all about? (And how do I explain it to my kids?)

Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement, during which many Jews fast in order to atone for their misdoings over the past year.  At the end of Yom Kippur, it is said that God seals the Book of Life and the Book of Death for the coming year. It’s a solemn day for introspection and repentance, and it’s probably the busiest day of the year at synagogues around the world. On the evening before Yom Kippur, we got to Kol Nidrei (“All Vows”) services; the holiday ends the following evening with Neilah services.

Let’s talk about fasting

We’ve got some super professional advice from nutritionists about how to best prepare for your fast. The gist is, don’t overeat or drink caffeine before you fast, don’t exercise too close to the beginning of the fast, avoid sugar and carbs before the fast, and most important of all, on the day before the fast, be sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

What if I can’t fast?

There are a lot of reasons why you may chose not to fast, from pregnancy, to medical reasons, to past (and present) eating disorders, to just the fact that fasting makes you feel really, really bad. That doesn’t mean that Yom Kippur can’t be meaningful for you. Here some things you can do, even if you’re not fasting:

  • If it’s possible, eat less and simply.
  • Turn off the TV and phones, even if you don’t observe Shabbat, and focus on family and introspection.
  • Jaclyn Novatt suggests eating only round things, “to symbolize the cyclical year.”
  • Novatt also suggests planning meals in advance, so your day isn’t occupied with any needless thoughts of food, and so that you can focus on introspection.

How do I make Yom Kippur meaningful for my family?

Making Yom Kippur meaningful for you:

As parents, there are specific things we feel remorseful about. Raising children is one of the most guilt-ridden activities you can engage in, after all! Here at Kveller, we have a collective Yom Kippur confession for parents and a tailor-made apology for working parents.

If you’re looking to challenge yourself, Rabbi Rebecca Rosenthal suggests asking yourself these 10 parenting-related questions this Yom Kippur. (Try it, you won’t regret it!)

Our sister site Alma has some great advice from Jewish therapists on how to best apologize to people this Yom Kippur.

Making Yom Kippur meaningful for (non-fasting) kids:

Here are some ways to make Yom Kippur meaningful for non-fasting kids, according to My Jewish Learning:

  • Involve the kids with the seudah mafseket — the last meal before the fast — so they feel like part of the fasting ritual.
  • Discuss the meaning of Yom Kippur with your kids during the fast.
  • Kids who can’t fast can do other ritual Yom Kippur things, like not bathe or use lotions.
  • Kids can also abstain from wearing leather shoes. You can explain why, and possibly take your kid shopping for a simple pair of shoes for the day before Yom Kippur.
  • Encourage your kids to give up some basic comforts — a favorite toy, game, piece of clothing, or even a favorite activity.
  • You can have your kids also give up a favorite food.
  • Have your kids eat their meals with others in the community who can’t fast, like the elderly and the ill.
  • After any ritual, ask them what it meant to them.

About breaking the fast…

We have three easy-to-make-in-advance recipes that are perfect for break fast, including a kugel, a frittata, and a fish and egg dish.

Shanon Sarna at The Nosher also has a great break fast menu

If you’re looking to shake things up, here are some delicious break fast dishes from around the world. 

And of course, we’d be remiss not to tell you that you can get everything for Yom Kippur break fast at Trader Joe’s.

Here are some styling tips for the perfect Yom Kippur break fast smoked fish platter.

Here’s how to make zimtsterne (star cookies) for Yom Kippur break fast. They’re just so pretty.

We know Yom Kippur can be hard for those of us who are gluten free (after all, bagels have become break fast staples). So here are some GF Yom Kippur break fast recipes. You’re welcome!

More Yom Kippur inspo from the Kveller archive

We’re so lucky that so many smart Kveller moms explored the meaning of Yom Kippur over the years. If you’re looking for additional inspiration ahead of or during Yom Kippur (you can print these out!) here’s some more food for thought, so to speak.

Yom Kippur Lessons from My Quirky Jewish Mother

This Yom Kippur, I Owe Myself an Apology

I Finally Fasted for Yom Kippur (No Cheating!) & This is What I Learned

I’m Turning 40 on Yom Kippur & It Couldn’t Be More Perfect

The Yom Kippur When My Daughter’s Life Was on the Line

I Actually Enjoyed Yom Kippur This Year

How I Learned to Love the Yom Kippur Fast

Why I’m Doing Yom Kippur Differently This Year

When I Fainted in Synagogue During My First Yom Kippur as a Jew

I Can’t Fast Because I’m Pregnant–Will Yom Kippur Mean Anything to Me?

Is it Too Hard to Fast with a Baby?

Is This Fast Really Supposed to Be Easy?

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