Erev Yom Kippur
Immersion in the Mikveh
It is proper for men to immerse themselves in a Mikveh on Erev Yom Kippur. Even in his advanced years when Maran zt”l was weak and this proved difficult, he nevertheless made the effort to go and immerse in a Mikveh (located in the home of Harav Eliyahu Sheetrit Shlit”a) on Erev Yom Kippur.
Nevertheless, if one is unable to immerse one’s self in a Mikveh on Erev Yom Kippur, one should have nine Kabin of water poured on one’s body in the shower. This amounts to approximately twelve liters of water (see Chazon Ovadia- Yamim Nora’im, page 246). Thus, standing under the shower for several minutes will bring about a certain level of purity similar to immersion in a Mikveh. Clearly, this is not considered an actual immersion and is invalid anywhere a proper immersion in a Mikveh is necessary.
Prayer on Erev Yom Kippur
Mincha services are held earlier in the afternoon on Erev Yom Kippur and there are several reasons for this (see Chazon Ovadia- ibid, page 249). This will also allow for more time for everyone to partake of their last meal before the onset of this holy day. There are some Sephardic communities in the United States which have instituted that Tallit and Tefillin be worn for Mincha of Erev Yom Kippur in order to bring merit to those people who do not necessarily don Tefillin during the rest of the year and they will now do so before Yom Kippur. This is a fine custom and brings merit to the public. We have likewise heard of Maran zt”l’s approval of this custom as well.
At the end of the silent Amida during Mincha prayers, Viduy (the confessional prayer) along with the “Al Chet” texts are recited. Similarly, every time the Chazzan reaches the Viduy section of his repetition of the Amida, the congregation must rise and recite it along with him (see Chazon Ovadia- ibid, page 251).
The Last Meal
During the last meal before Yom Kippur, some have the custom to dip the bread into honey or sugar. It is nevertheless proper to leave salt on the table as well. One must conclude the meal at least a few minutes (approximately twenty) before sunset, for there is a Torah obligation to add from the mundane onto the holiness of Yom Kippur. The same applies regarding all five categories of abstinence which pertain to Yom Kippur and one must begin refraining from these things a few minutes before sunset.
There is a Mitzvah to light candles in honor of Yom Kippur. Before doing so, one should recite the blessing: “Asher Kideshanu Be’Mitzvotav Ve’Tzivanu Le’Hadlik Ner Shel Yom Ha’Kippurim.” After lighting the candles, one should remove one’s shoes and then recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing, for it is at that point that one accepts the sanctity of Yom Kippur. However, one should not recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing immediately after the first blessing, for one would not be able to light the candles since one has already accepted the sanctity of the day.
Nice Clothing and a Tablecloth on the Table
It is a Mitzvah to wear nice clothing on Yom Kippur. Even if one is home alone, one should still wear nice clothing, as one would for Shabbat, for the Gemara (Shabbat 119a) states that part of honoring Yom Kippur is by wearing fine clothing. Maran Ha’Bet Yosef (Chapter 610) quotes the Mordechi who writes that one should place a tablecloth on one’s table for Yom Kippur as one would for Shabbat. The Mekubalim praise this custom and write that one should place some Sefarim (holy books) on the table as well. Maran zt”l writes likewise (see Chazon Ovadia- ibid page 260).
By Popular Request: If one is forced to pray alone on Yom Kippur (as a result of the Coronavirus), one may pray the entire order of the Yom Kippur prayers, as usual, including “Avinu Malkeinu” and Selichot. Nevertheless, one should only recite Hashem’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy if one knows how to do so with its cantillation notes.
Similarly, one should omit the Aramaic portions of the Selichot, such as “Rachamana” and “De’Aneh La’Aniyeh.”
After praying Mussaf, it is especially worthy for one to recite the “Seder Ha’Avodah” (order of the Kohen Gadol’s service in the Bet Hamikdash on Yom Kippur) printed in the Chazzan’s repetition of the Mussaf prayer.
May Hashem hear our prayers and remove this plague from among us, Amen.