Every other Feast of the Lord, is just that…a feast. Yom Kippur (literally “day of covering”) is a fast. Actually God didn’t call a fast, He said, “Afflict your soul,” but over the years it’s become a day to afflict the body.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.” Lev 23:26-32
A TIME TO REPENT God provided this day for the nation to be forgiven of its sins through the atoning sacrifice. But the rituals would avail nothing without repentance. Repentance was the reason for the affliction of the people’s souls. What does it mean to repent? True repentance comes from the realization of the horror of sin leading to feelings of contrition, self-reproach, remorse and leads to a determination to turn from sin and turn towards God. Repentance that doesn’t result in a change of behavior will not be acceptable before God. As He said about Israel,
Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…(Isaiah 29:13)
Admittedly most Israelis, especially the younger generation, do not want to fast, but do so because of pressure of their parents. Others tell me that they fast simply because it’s tradition. My older religious neighbors continue to fast, and even attend synagogue, but have no inclination to repentance. BIBLICAL DETAILS Chapter 16 of Leviticus describes in minute details the ritual performed by the High Priest on this most solemn day. It was on this day and through this process that the sins of the nation were atoned for. (For personal sins, the sinner had to bring his own sacrifice to the Temple and by faith, transfer his personal sins onto the sacrifice.) The entire letter to the Hebrews is based on this holy day, as the writer compares the insufficiency of the Mosiac Law to the New Covenant. There are two unique aspects of this day, the “scape goat” and the High Priest.
- Actually there were two goats: one who bore the sins of the nation and the other carried them into the wilderness.
- The rituals of this day could ONLY be performed by the High Priest who stood in the gap between Israel and God.
RABBINIC DISTORTION Today, without the Temple and rejecting the redemption provided by Messiah Yeshua, the rabbis have made a few changes in the holy day.
- Traditionally the Jewish people fast from sun-down to sun down, thus afflicting their bodies but not necessarily their souls in repentance.
- The focus is on individual repentance for personal intentional and unintentional sins.
- The blood of a chicken is the suggested sacrifice…
- Atonement through the blood of the chicken is sold for $5.00 (18 shekels)
YOM KIPPUR IN ISRAEL The more religious spend most of the day in synagogue which is always a short walk from home. (Only a certain number of steps are allowed so it’s not considered to be “work.”) But the majority of Israelis take this opportunity as family time. You will see whole families strolling along the streets… Yes I said streets, because cars are NOT allowed. The entire country completely shuts down. Children as well as adults take to the highways and byways on bicycles without fear. Another common sight are families spread out on blankets, appearing to be having a picnic, but there is no food. All in all, the atmosphere is one of relaxation DESPITE the seriousness of the holy day. CHICKENS Chicken is the standard holiday fare, much like ham or turkey is in the States. But since this is a day of fasting, the religious have found another use for the chicken….the sacrificial atonement. I’d heard about the tradition of the rabbis swinging a chicken over their heads and with its death, proclaiming atonement had been made. What I wasn’t prepared to see however, was the religious standing in the shuk (outdoor market) with the intended sacrifice in a box and SELLING the opportunity for atonement. The going rate for atonement of sin? 18 New Israeli Shekel = $5.00 USD! FULFILLMENT IN YESHUA (see blog, “Yeshua IS Our Atonement”) OBSERVING AS A BELIEVER IN YESHUA I am so grateful and agree with the Psalmist:
Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)
At sundown tomorrow, all eyes will be on the next and final fall holiday, Sukkot…the Feast of Tabernacles. Soon we will see these brightly decorated “booths” on every patio and in front of most business establishments.