Before ערב כפור each family bought a few chickens from the market, one chicken for
each member of the family. A hen for the female and a cock/rooster for the male and
every body tried to buy white chickens if possible. On ערב כפור immediately after
סליחות and התרת נדרים most people would rush home for סדר כפרות . The father
held a chicken and circled it around his head while reciting the text of '' חליפתי וכו
זה three times, then repeating the same act first on his wife then on the boys and
finally the girls. Then, immediately after this ceremony all the chickens were taken to
the שוחט to be slaughtered. After Shchita the chickens were cleaned and given to the
poor. The intestines of the chickens were thrown on the roof of the houses for the
birds to eat them, in the belief that as we have mercy on the birds by giving them
food, in turn G-d will have mercy upon us.
סעודת ערב יום כפור - Seudat Erev Yom Kippur
On ערב כפור we believed that it was a big Mitzvah to have more meals than on a
normal day and some people had many meals at different intervals. We also had a
Minhagh to eat fish in the morning.
סדר המלקות - Seder Hamalkut
Befor Mincha after having a bath every body went to the Synagogue to receive
מלקות in order to atone for those sins that were חייו מלקות . A calf leather whip
fringed with donkey skin was used to give a ritual 39 lashes to all males over Bar-
Mitzvah age to stir them to repentance. The man bent himself on the pole and put his
head between his arms and his hands symbolically bound, then the Rav started to
strike at his bared back while reading the whole Pasuk of והוא רחום three times one
beat on each word for the total of 39 lashes for the sins for which we deserve the
punishment of stripes.
After receiving the Malkut most people went to the Mikveh which was in the
Synagogues courtyard and had a טבילה . After the טבילה everybody rushed for
Mincha, there were many Minyanim for Mincha. As soon as one group of 15 to 20
people were ready they prayed Mincha followed by another group of 15-20, until all
had completed mincha.
ליל כפור (Lel Kippur)
Most families had a Minhagh to kindle a few lights in the Synagogue in addition to
the lights kindled at home. Some families kindled one light and some families kindled
two or three lights in the Synagogue, one light was for נר נשמה (memorial light) for
deceased relatives and one or two more lights for the long life of the family. The
lights were a lamp with a wick burning with Neft paraffin oil and there was enough
oil in the lamp to burn until .מוצאי כפור
So, before סעוּדת המפסקת people took their oil lamps to the Synagogue and kindled
them or gave them to the Shamash who lived in the courtyard of the Synagogue to
kindle them later on their behalf. It was believed that if the lamps burnt nicely and
clear without smoke until the end of כפור then the coming year would be a lucky and
good year for the family, but חס וחלילה if the lamp did not burn cleanly throughout
the day, or went out, then the family was very upset in case the coming year would
not be as good as it should be for them. However, if the family kindled two or three
lights and one of them did not burn well or went out it would not be so bad, as the
other one or two were ok and this gave them great comfort.
סעודת המפסקת (The final meal)
This was arranged like a feast day, but with respect and awe. After the meal, and
before going to shul, the children kissed their father’s hands and he blessed them.
We did not have electricity until much later, therefore, there were many large paraffin
oil lamps hanging on all sides of the Synagogue and the שמש (Shamash) would
kindle them at the right times. On כפור there were so many oil lamps burning in the
Synagogue that it became very warm and very bright from the heat of the lights.
כל נדרי (Kol Nidre)
Seven ספרי תוּרה were brought out from the היכל and before starting כל נדרי the
honour of bringing out all the sefarim were sold by auction. The first ספר כל נדרי
was the most expensive of all. Most years my father z’l used to purchase bringing out
ספר כל נדרי , but he had to pay a good price for it.
I remember that the highest price was to donate a large barrel of paraffin for lighting
the synagogue lamp. Once agreed the congregants were happy, as the supply of
paraffin which was difficult to get in those days, was now guaranteed. (My father z’l
had business connections with Russia exporting karakul sheepskins and wool and in
return importing sugar and paraffin).
After the auction the seven ספרי תוּרה were brought out from the היכל (ark) and
taken to the בימה (Bimah) which was in the middle of בית הכנסת (synagogue).First
the person carrying ספר כל נדרי went to the בימה and stayed in the middle of the
ארון followed by בעל ספר שני who stood on his right and בעל ספר שלישי stood on
the left. The rest of בעל ספרים carrying the ספרים stood around the בימה and the
congregation stood around the ספרים with awe and respect.
After reciting בישבה של מעלה (Bishivah Shel Maala) and ברכת שהחיינו (Birkat
Shechechyanu) by the person holding the ספר כל נדרי , every body attempted to hold
ספר כל נדרי and each of the other ספרים (Sefarim) whilst praying to Hashem asking
forgiveness for their sins and for a good and healthy new year and wellbeing of their
Then every body went to the Rav to make השכבה (Hashkava) for their relatives who
had passed away and a (Mi Sheberach) of חיים טובי ם (Chayim Tovim) for the
family and all the relatives who were alive and made an offering (donation to בית
הכנסת ). At the end a מי שבירך was said by the Rav in honour of the 3 חתנים
(Chatanim) of שמחת תורה (Simchat Torah). The honour of being חתנים were
already auctioned before כפור (Kippur).
There were 3 חתנים (Chatanim) - חתן בראשית (Chatan Breshit), חתן וזאת הברכה
(Chatan Vezot Haberacha) and חתן מעונה (Chatan Meonah). Then all the Sefarim
were taken back to the היכל and the service continued with תפילת ערבית (Tefilat
Arvit) until the end.
Some people stayed the all night in the Synagogue reading תהלים (Tehilim) and in
the very early morning they sung the כתר מלכות (Keter Malchut) which speaks about
the greatness of Hashem with the creation of the world.
On Yom Kippur the כהנים (Cohanim) performed נשיאות כפים (Nesiout Kapayim)
דוכן - Duchanning – three times; during תפלת שחרית - מוסף - נעילה
( Tefilat Shachrit, Mussaf and Tefilat Neailah). All the מצוות ועליות (Mitzvot and
Aliyot) for יום כפור were sold by auction.
Some people started to read תקוני הזוהר (Tikune Hazohar) from - ערב ר''ח אלול
Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul, a portion of it each day and finished it on יום כפור . So,
between תפילת מוסף (Tefilat Musaf) and מנחה (Mincha) there was a small break
and those people read the last portion of the תקוני הזוהר and said Kadish.
תפילת נעילה(Tefilat Neilah)
During תפילת נעילה the כהנים performed נשיאות כפים , washing their hands
עד קשרי אצבעותיהם . There was a מנהג (custom) that after the כהנים washed their
hands families that had a barren woman brought a tea pot filled with rose water and
asked the כהנים to wash their fingers again with the rose water. This was done in a
china bowl and this rose water was then given to the barren women to drink on מוצאי
כפור (Mosaei Kippur). It was believed that this water would help them to conceive. It
was believed also that this water was good for certain heart ailments and I remember
that over the years I had to wash my fingers with rose water quite a few times for the
Candle of כפור
It was a custom that every year after ט''ו באב or the latest between & ראש השנה
כפור each Synagogue collected some money from the community and bought a large
piece of pure wax. The wax was melted in a large copper pot until it turned liquid.
The boiling liquid wax was then poured on to a very thick wick about 1m or more in
length which was made especially for this purpose. The liquid wax was poured many
times, layer upon layer until it produced a very thick, long candle.
On ערב יום כפור this special candle was lit in the Synagogue and would burn for the
whole of יום כפור . On מוצאי כפור after ערבית (evening service) the almost burnt
candle was brought on to the Bimah for הבדלה Havdala and every body said
ברכת מאורי האש over the candle. Most people tried to get a small piece of the wax
which dropped around the candle while burning on יום כפור as it had a nice smell.
People also put some of the wax in their pockets for סגולה (Segulah) since it was
believed that it was good for protection and prosperity. Pregnant women carried these
pieces of wax at the time of birth as they believed it would ease the pain.
Whilst making this special candle many more smaller candles were also made to be
used for הבדלה (Havdalah) on Mosaei Shabbat in the Synagogue and for people to
make הבדלה at home as there were no pure candles available in the shops.
After ערבית we recited ברכת לבנה (Birkat Levanah) and some people had recited it
after breaking the fast by making a Minyan in their neighbours’ house.__