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Yom Kippur Katan

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A sign announcing fast day prayers for Yom Kippur Katan in the Zichron Moshe Synagogue in Jerusalem. The special Torah Reading for Mincha of a fast day, as announced on this sign, is done only if at least ten men are fasting.

Yom Kippur Katan (יום כיפור קטן‎ translation from Hebrew: "Minor Day of Atonement"), is a practice observed by some Jews on the day preceding each Rosh Chodesh. The observance consists of fasting and supplication, but is much less rigorous than that of Yom Kippur proper.


The custom is of comparatively recent origin and is not mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch. It appears to have been inaugurated in the sixteenth century at Safed by the kabbalist Moses Cordovero,[1] who called the fast Yom Kippur Katan; and it was included by Isaac Luria in his Seder ha-Tefillah. R. Isaiah Horowitz refers to it by that name, and says it should be observed by fasting and repentance: "Following the custom of the very pious, one must repent of his ways and make restitutions both in money and in personal acts, in order that he may enter the new month as pure as a new-born infant".[2] When Rosh Chodesh occurs on Shabbat or Sunday, Yom Kippur Katan is observed on the preceding Thursday.[3]

The custom has roots in scripture (Numbers 28:15) where a sin offering is sacrificed on Rosh Hodesh, indicating judgement and atonement is provided by God on that day. Therefore the idea of fasting would seem obvious. However, fasting is prohibited on Rosh Hodesh, so the fast is observed on the day prior to Rosh Hodesh.


Fasting is not obligatory and is only performed by the very pious.

The liturgy of the day, which consists of selichot, is recited at the Mincha prayer in the afternoon.[4] In many communities, Tallit and tefillin are worn, especially by those who are fasting. If there are among the congregation ten persons who have fasted, they read the Torah reading Vayechal (Exodus 32:11–14, 34:1–10) as on other fast days.[5] The selichot are taken partly from the selichos of mincha from Yom Kippur, with the Viddui ha-Gadol (the great confession of sin by Rabbenu Nissim) and Ashamnu, and also a beautiful poem written for the occasion by Leon of Modena and beginning with Yom zeh. Some congregations add Avinu Malkenu. For the text of the Selichot see Baer, Avodat Yisrael, pp. 317–319; Emden's Siddur Beit Ya'aḳov, ed. Warsaw, pp. 212a–216b.

Yom Kippur Katan is not observed on the day before Rosh Hashanah. It is not observed prior to Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan because Yom Kippur has just passed. It is not observed before Rosh Chodesh Tevet, because that day is Hanukkah. It is not observed prior to Rosh Chodesh Iyar, because one may not fast during Nisan.

As stated above, if the 29th of the month falls on a Friday or a Sabbath, Yom Kippur Katan is observed on the Thursday prior.

See also[edit]

  • Isru chag refers to the day after each of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals.
  • Chol HaMoed, the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot.
  • Mimouna, a traditional North African Jewish celebration held the day after Passover.
  • Pesach Sheni, is exactly one month after 14 Nisan.
  • Purim Katan is when during a Jewish leap year Purim is celebrated during Adar II so that the 14th of Adar I is then called Purim Katan.
  • Shushan Purim falls on Adar 15 and is the day on which Jews in Jerusalem celebrate Purim.
  • Yom tov sheni shel galuyot refers to the observance of an extra day of Jewish holidays outside of the land of Israel.


  1. ^ Da Silva, "Peri Ḥadash," Rosh Ḥodesh, § 417
  2. ^ Shelah, ed. Amsterdam, 1698, pp. 120b, 140a, 179a
  3. ^ This is the common practice today, however opinions differ. The Ben Ish Hai (Year 2, Vayikra 4) rules that when Rosh Chodesh is on the Sabbath, one should fast on Friday, but the Kaf Hachaim (417:21) and Aruch Hashulchan (417:11) rule that one should fast on Thursday. The Mishnah Berurah in one place (550:11) says to fast on Thursday, but elsewhere (417:4) says that in places that recite Selichot it should be done on Thursday, but in places that do not recite Selcihot they should fast on Friday. The Kaf Hachaim (417:21) says that if the Molad falls two days before Rosh Chodesh, the fast should be held on the day of the Molad, and if the Molad is before midday, the fast should be observed on the day before the Molad. Nevertheless, the common practice is as we wrote in the body of the article.
  4. ^ See Daniel Goldschmidt's article where he presents several different orders for this service which were practiced in the past in various communities. The service as practiced today is virtually the same in all communities.
  5. ^ Although there are two opinions in Shulchan Aruch (562:2) if the special Torah Reading should be read, and the Mishnah Berurah rules that if there is no established custom, it is better not to read the Torah, the common practice is to read the Torah if there are 10 men fasting.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainJoseph Jacobs and Judah David Eisenstein (1901–1906). "Yom Kippur Katan". In Singer, Isidore; et al. (eds.). The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

Further reading[edit]