The most holy and solemn of all the feasts of the Lord is the Day of Atonement, (Yom Kippur in Hebrew). “Feast” is definitely a misnomer because the Jewish people fast from sundown to sundown. The more religious fast not only from food, but also from water. One year I observed Yom Kippur in the home of a religious friend. Every light switch was taped so that no one inadvertently would turn the light on or off. All the food which would be eaten before and after the fast was prepared. Once the holiday began there was to be no work, not even a fire could be lit. A hush began to descend in the Brooklyn neighborhood as the onset of the holiday drew near. The same hush is descending now even over my secular Israeli neighborhood. Yesterday the markets were more frantic than usual because on this Sabbath homes would be filled with family members who might otherwise not come home. From sundown to sundown the entire country shuts down. The roads are empty except for emergency vehicles and bicycles. Tonight after the pre-fast dinner, and for most of tomorrow even the highways will be filled with people walking and enjoying the peace. For those who attend synagogue, there are services tonight and all day tomorrow. Normally the Yom Kippur service is long, but coupled with Shabbat, well, it’s a super Shabbat. The focus of all the prayers is confession of sin and hope for God’s forgiveness. So what is Yom Kippur? In Hebrew “yom” means day and “kippur” comes from the root: כִּפֻּר which means “to cover, to purge, to make atonement.” So this is a day of atonement. Unlike other days when the individual makes atonement for his/her personal sins, this day is set aside to make atonement for the sin of the people. We can see this is the Hebrew form of the word “atonement.” Actually it reads “atonements” – the plural form. On this day the High Priest makes atonement for every man, woman and child in the nation. The Bible gives a very detailed description of the purpose and ritual of this day. Actually more space is given to the specifics of this holiday than to any other of God’s feasts. Besides the cursory references in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29, the entire Old Testament chapter Leviticus 16 and the New Testament book of Hebrews is devoted to Yom Kippur.
“This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments; then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year.” And he did as the LORD commanded Moses. (Leviticus 16:29-34)
The ritual also included making atonement for the Tabernacle and its furniture.
[From Celebrate Jesus! The Christian Perspective of the Biblical Feasts]