Halacha Club

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried

Chapter 131 : Laws of Erev Yom Kippur


It is customary to perform the kapparos ritual erev Yom Kippur, early in the morning, for then God's compassion is at its height. Men take roosters and women take hens, and a pregnant woman takes a rooster and a hen. The rooster is taken in case she is carrying a male: and if the child is a girl, one hen suffices for the mother and the child. Even for other people, one kapparah is sufficient for two persons.

You should select white chickens, for it is said, "Though your sins will be like scarlet they will become white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18). But when buying, you should not express preference for white fowl and pay a higher price for it, for this resembles the customs of the Amorites [superstition]. But if you happen to find a white one among the fowl you bought, you should choose [the white one.]

You take the kapparah in your right hand, and recite the verses Benei Adam [children of man] etc., move it around your head, and say: Zeh chalifasi [This is instead of me] etc. three times. If you move it around someone else's head, you say Zeh chalifasecha [This is instead of you]. You should first move it around your own head and then do it for others. It is preferable that the shechitah is done also early in the morning, immediately after the kapparos ritual.

You should not think that this kapparah ritual is an actual atonement, but you should consider that what is done to the fowl should be rightfully done to you, because of your sins. You should agonize over your sins, and the Holy One blessed is He, in His compassion, will accept your repentance.

It is customary to throw the intestines, the liver and the kidneys of the kapparos, on the roof or into the courtyard, where the birds can take them, for it is appropriate to take pity on living creatures on that day, so that Heaven will take pity on us. Another reason is that birds usually steal the seeds they eat [we, therefore, throw away their digestive organs] so that we should be mindful to keep away from theft.

If you cannot obtain chickens for kapparos, you can take a goose or some other living thing that is not ritually acceptable as a sacrifice on the altar in the Beis Hamikdash. Some authorities say that even fish [may be used], but not pigeons or young doves, because these were acceptable as altar sacrifices, and it would appear as if you were bringing sacrifices outside the Beis Hamikdash [which is forbidden]. Some people follow the custom of giving the kapparos chickens to the poor, but it is better to redeem the kapparos with money, and give the money to the poor.


We do not say Mizmor lesodah [a Psalm of thanksgiving], nor Tachanun, nor Lamenatzei'ach on erev Yom Kippur . Neither do we recite Avinu malkeinu [our Father, our King]. Only when Yom Kippur occurs on Shabbos, do we say Avinu malkeinu on erev Yom Kippur in the Shacharis service.


It is a mitzvah to have elaborate meals and to eat and drink [abundantly]. The person who eats and drinks on erev Yom Kippur in order to fulfill this mitzvah, it is regarded to him, as if he fasted on that day also. It is a mitzvah to eat fish at the first meal.


Sins committed against your fellow man are not atoned for on Yom Kippur unless you placate him, as it is said, "You will be cleansed of all your sins before God." This means, only sins against God are atoned for on Yom Kippur, but sins committed against your neighbor are not atoned for on Yom Kippur, unless you placate your neighbor. Everyone must, therefore, be very careful, if he has in his possession illegally acquired property, to return it and placate [the rightful owner]. If you are holding property of which you are not certain whether or not it legally belongs to you, you should let your neighbor know that you wish to appear with him, immediately after Yom Kippur, before a Beis Din - Rabbinical court - to be judged according to the holy Torah; and you should firmly resolve to abide by the verdict pronounced by the Beis Din. If you sinned against your neighbor, even if only with words, you must appease him. It is your duty to go personally to appease him. However, if it is difficult for you to do so, or if you understand that he will be reconciled more easily through an intermediary, you should appease him through an intermediary. The person whose forgiveness is asked should forgive wholeheartedly and should not be ruthless, for this is not a Jewish characteristic, but a trait of Esau of whom it is said, "And he kept his anger forever" (Amos 1:11). It is also said of the Gibeonites, because they did not forgive and would not be appeased, "The Gibeonites were not of the Children of Israel." (II Samuel 21:2) The characteristic of the Children of Israel is to be slow to anger and easy to be appeased. And when the sinner asks for forgiveness you should grant forgiveness wholeheartedly and willingly. Even if he tormented you a great deal you should not take revenge nor bear a grudge. On the contrary, if the offender does not take the initiative to come to you asking for forgiveness, you should present yourself to the offender in order that [the offender] should ask your forgiveness. If a person does not banish hatred [from his heart] on Yom Kippur, his prayers will not be heard, God forbid; but if you are tolerant and forgiving, all your sins will be forgiven.


If the wronged person has died, the offender should gather ten men at his grave, and say, "I have sinned against the God of Israel and against this man" and they respond, "You are forgiven, you are forgiven, you are forgiven." He should walk barefoot, and spell out in detail the nature of the offense, unless it is humiliating to the dead. If the grave is more than three parsa away from the residence of the offender, he does not have to go there in person, but may send a representative. The representative should gather ten men to go to the grave, and say, "I, the agent of so-and-so publicly declare that so-and-so has sent me to ask forgiveness for his sin," etc. If he insulted a dead person he does not have to go to his grave, but he should ask for his forgiveness at the place where he insulted him. But if he had defamed his character, he must accept upon himself to repent, for transgressing the prohibition of the early sages, against slandering the dead.


It is a mitzvah for every man to immerse in a mikvah on erev Yom Kippur, to purify himself from nocturnal emission, and also as an element of repentance, just as a convert is required to immerse in a mikvah. Therefore, even boys and girls should immerse themselves in a Mikvah. You should be certain that there is no chatzitzah on your body [a particle intervening between the body and the water) (see Chapter 161 below). The most appropriate time for the immersion is after midday. A woman after intercourse is likely to discharge semen within three days. She is then considered as one who has had a nocturnal emission, and the immersion is pointless in this case. The practical thing for her to do, is before immersing, to wash herself well with warm water; she will then experience no further discharge. However, if she had intercourse soon after her monthly immersion in the mikvah, or immediately before her menstrual period, when she is likely to become pregnant, then she is forbidden to destroy the semen of conception, and she should, therefore, not wash herself in warm water. Nevertheless, she should immerse in cold water. A mourner, may the Merciful One protect us, even during the first seven days of mourning, may wash and immerse himself about one or two hours before nightfall, even before the Minchah service, but all the other laws of mourning, such as sitting on the floor, and not wearing [leather] shoes, must be observed until nighttime.


It is the custom that every head of the household prepares a candle for his house, as a reminder that on Yom Kippur Moshe came down from Mount Sinai with the Second Tablets, of the Torah, and the Torah is called "light"; and he prepares another candle for the soul of his deceased father and mother, to make atonement for them. It is customary that one candle is lit in the house to burn until the close of Yom Kippur, and Havdalah is said over it, (see Chapter 133:28 below) and one candle is lit in the synagogue. These candles should not be made out of wax taken from houses of idol worship. Some people become upset if their candle is extinguished on Yom Kippur, although in reality there is no reason to worry about this, still it is best to avoid it. It is best therefore to give the candle to the shamash (sexton), who will put it wherever he wishes, so that no one will know which is his candle. You should take the candle to the synagogue, when you go there for the Minchah service to be put in its proper place, and to be lit before twilight, because later, when people come to the synagogue for the Maariv service they are pressed for time.


When you go to the synagogue for the Minchah service it is the custom to put on Shabbos clothes. In the Minchah service, at the conclusion of the Shemnoneh Esrei, the Vidui [confessional] is said,. Before Elokai netzor, [My God, guard my tongue] you say the verse, Yih'yu leratzon, [May... they be acceptable] etc., and then you say, Elokeinu v'Elokei avoseinu, [Our God and the God of our forefathers] tavo lefanecha [may our prayer come before You], until vecholayim ra'im [or serious illness]; then you say Eloka netzor etc. and you repeat the verse Yih'yu leratzon. If, while you are saying the Vidui the Chazzan is repeating the Shemoneh Esrei, since you already said the verse Yih'yu leratzon, you may respond Amein, and say the Kedusha and Modim, (see Chapter 18:14 above).


You must say the Vidui while standing in a bowed position, as when you say Modim, and when mentioning each sin you should beat your heart as if to say, "You (the heart) caused me to sin. The order of the Vidui, set down in the Siddur, should be said by all alike. If you are aware of an individual sin not enumerated in the Vidui, since the Vidui is recited in an undertone, you should specify that sin, and confess it with a grieving heart, and profuse tears. If that sin is one that is mentioned in the Vidui, then, when you come to it, you should burst out in bitter self-reproach. Sins you confessed on the previous Yom Kippur may be confessed again, although you know that you did not commit them again, and you are to be praised for doing so, as it is said, "And my sin is always before me." (Psalms 51:15)


After the Minchah prayer, Avinu Malkeinu is not recited, regardless if Yom Kippur occurs on a weekday or on Shabbos.


After the Minchah service it is customary to receive [symbolic] lashes. Although these lashes are not real lashes, nevertheless, it will inspire the recipient to repent of his sins. A strap of calf's leather should be used, even though it is less than a tefach wide. The one receiving the lashes should bend down and kneel with his face towards the North and his back towards the South. It is customary to recite confessions while receiving the lashes. The one who administers the lashes says Vehu rechum (He, the Merciful One) three times, which amounts to thirty-nine words, analogous to the thirty-nine lashes.


Towards evening you eat the closing meal, and it is customary to dip the piece of challah for Hamotzi in honey, just as you do on Rosh Hashanah. You should eat only food that is easy to digest, such as fowl. It is the custom not to eat fish at the meal. You should not eat or drink anything that raises the body temperature, such as foods seasoned with spices and saffron. You should be very careful to add from the secular to the sacred, that is, you should end the meal while it is still day, a little before twilight. The zealous finish their meal early, about an hour before sunset. If you ended your meal while it is still the middle of the day, and you intend to eat or drink after that, you must stipulate before Birkas Hamazon and say explicitly, or at least have in mind that you do not yet accept the fast on yourself.


It is the custom in these regions not to store food to warm on erev Yom Kippur, to be used at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, as it is done on erev Shabbos for Shabbos, because it is equivalent preparing food on Yom Kippur for the weekday; and it also gives the impression of gluttony.


It is written, (Isaiah 58:13), "The holy [day] of Hashem should be honored" and the Sages explain that this refers to Yom Kippur for on that day there is no eating or drinking. It is a mitzvah to honor this day with clean clothes and with candlelight. Therefore, in the synagogue we spread beautiful covers and light many candles, which are called "honor", as it is said. "Honor Hashem, ba'urim," (Isaiah 58:13) and the Targum translated it, "Honor Hashem with lights." Before twilight, the tables should he covered with cloths, and candles should be lit in the house, as on erev Shabbos. A candle should be lit in the bedroom to prevent the occurence of marital relations... Over the candles, the berachah Lehadlik neir shel Yom haKippurim is said [to kindle the light of Yom Kippur]. If Yom Kippur occurs on Shabbos, the berachah, Lehadlik Neir shel Shabbos and Yom Kippur is said. (Concerning the berachah of Shehecheyanu see Chapter 103:4 above)


It is the custom to put on a kittel (white robe) which is a garment of the dead. The wearing of such a garment causes the heart of man to be subdued and broken. A mourner may also wear a kittel. Since it is a garment that is worn only at prayer, you should not wear it in the bathroom. Women, too, should wear clean, white clothes in honor of the day; but they should not wear jewelry, because of the awe of judgement.


It is customary for the father and mother to bless their sons and daughters before going to the synagogue, because the holiness of the day has already begun, and the Gates of Compassion are already open. They implore in this blessing that the children should be sealed for good life, and that their hearts be steadfast in the fear of God, and they should plead, with tearful eyes, that their prayers be accepted. The children will also be inspired and resolve to walk in the ways of the righteous and follow the path of the just. Some people visit their relatives who are Torah scholars and righteous men to receive blessings from them, and ask them to pray for them on the holy and awesome day. You should do this early, while it is still the middle of the day, for towards evening everyone should be ready to receive the holy day in a quiet and serene frame of mind. The text for blessing the children is: Yesimecha [May God make you] etc., Yevarechecha [May God bless you] etc., and everyone may add to this prayer according to his eloquence of speech. It is proper to say also the following prayer: May it be the will of our Father in heaven to place in your heart love and fear of Him, and may the fear of God be upon your face all the days of your life, so that you will not sin. May your desire be for Torah and mitzvos. May your eyes look straightforward, may your mouth speak wisdom, and your heart meditate with reverence. May your hands be engaged in the performance of mitzvos; may your feet hasten to do the will of your Father in heaven. May He grant you righteous sons and daughters occupying themselves with Torah and mitzvos all their days. May your wellspring be blessed, [May you be blessed with many children]. May He grant that your livelihood, come with honesty, ease, and abundance, from His generous hand, and not from the gifts of men; a livelihood that will free you to serve God. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good and long life among all the righteous of Israel. Amein.


It is customary to put on the tallis. You should be careful to put it on while it is still day, and to say the berachah over it. But if you waited [to put it on until twilight you should not say the berachah.