Day of Atonement <br>(Yom Kippur)

Day of Atonement
(Yom Kippur)

Yom Kippur (Yome Ki-POOR) is the second great feast day celebrated in the fall season. This day marks the conclusion of the High Holy Days, or the Ten Days of Repentance, which began 10 days prior with Rosh Hashanah. It is the holiest day of the Jewish year, described biblically as “The Sabbath of Sabbaths.”

The traditional Jewish calendar is based on a lunisolar calendar, with 354 days. This means that while Jewish holidays are observed on the same date every year according to the Jewish calendar, these dates vary on the Gregorian calendar. The celebration of this date falls somewhere between the third week of September through the End of October.

Follow the link for future dates of this Feast Day: https://www.infoplease.com/calendars/holidays/jewish-holidays           

The Lord’s Commandment

“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or an alien living among you—because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance” 

Leviticus 16:29–32

Why is Atonement Needed?

The word “atone” is often translated “to make atonement,” “forgive,” “pardon,” “purge,” and “reconcile.”  Merriam-Webster describes it as: a reparation for an offense or injury: satisfaction.

The LORD our God is a Holy God. He cannot look upon sin. Sin is the transgression of God’s Will and Law and is, therefore, considered irreconcilable with God and resulting in death (Rom. 8:6-8). That very first act of sin committed in the Garden of Eden created a “separation” between mankind and God. The good relationship between God and people was severely damaged when they disobeyed Him, and this injury was almost irreparable. However, God, out of His immense love and desire for relationship with His creation, created a way for His people to be reconciled to Himself. That too, began in the Garden, when the first animal’s blood was sacrificed to provide clothing for Adam and Eve, to “cover” their sins.

In the Old Testament, the shedding of blood in sacrifices represented this “atonement.” The sprinkling of the blood is a “covering” for sin. The life of the animal was poured out in death as a substitute for the people. The animal’s life was given up on behalf of the life of the people. Judgment was carried out by transferring the sin of the people to the animal sacrifice. Atonement or forgiveness was made through the blood.

Yom Kippur Tradition in Biblical Times

Yom Kippur was the most solemn holy day of the Jewish people. It was the only time of year the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies. In Biblical times, the high priest sacrificed an animal to pay for his sins and the sins of the people. Each person was required to present an animal to the high priest for sacrifice, usually a lamb, but not just any ordinary lamb. It must be one that was “spotless and without any defect.”

After an elaborate cleansing ritual, the high priest passed through the Holy veil to where God dwelled. As he approached the ark of the covenant, he immediately presented the blood of the animal sacrifice for himself. Once the blood had atoned for his own sins, a second sacrifice was made for the sins of the people. He would sprinkle the blood on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant, which was known as the atonement cover. When the atonement sacrifice was finished, the high priest would release a goat into the wilderness, representing the “scapegoat” that carried Israel’s sins away, never to return (Lev.16:7-8).

Jewish Tradition Today

The Talmud Books of Destiny

According to the Hebrew Talmud (a compilation of sacred ancient teachings regarded as tradition); God has three books of destiny. On Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Day of Judgement, He opens and reviews these books. If a person’s deeds are good, He writes their name in the Book of Life. If their deeds are wicked, He writes their names in the Book of Death. The unnamed third book is for those who fall between these two categories. Those names that are written in this book are then given 10 days to make atonement for their sins, thus saving them from the latter sentence. They spend their time praying, fasting, and asking one another for forgiveness.

Yom Kippur marks the end of the “Ten Days of Repentance” also known as the “Ten Days of Awe.” According to the Talmud, this is the day God renders His final judgment on the people for that year. If a person has repented and their good deeds outnumber the sinful ones, their name will be written in the Book of Life. However, if they remain unrepentant, their names will be written in the Book of Death. The books are then closed and sealed, and the judgment cannot be changed until the following year.

Feast Day Customs

Now that there is no longer a temple, there are no longer animal sacrifices. Yom Kippur has become a time of fasting, prayer, and repentance. The people hope that through the traditions of the Talmud, repentance will suffice for the forgiveness of sins. By asking for forgiveness and forgiving one another, they believe God will spare them from the final judgment of death.

No work is to be done on this day, including at home, and a traditional fast is observed the entire day. Many Jewish people spend the day at synagogue, praying for the forgiveness of their sins. The book of Jonah is read during the afternoon service as a reminder of God’s forgiveness and mercy. Immediately after the evening service, they have a “breakfast” meal.

Jesus -The Final Sacrifice

The people of the Old Testament were very familiar with substitutionary sacrifices. During Passover, they painted the blood of a sacrificial lamb over their doorposts so that the angel of death would pass over them. The lamb died in the place of their firstborn. They continued making animal sacrifices for thousands of years, but no amount of blood could ever completely cover their sins.

These continual sacrifices were only a temporary solution for sin’s permanent consequences. God had a plan to replace them by providing, once and for all, the perfect sacrifice, His Son. Jesus became our sacrificial lamb “spotless and without any defect.” When Jesus offered His own blood as our atonement, the veil of the Temple was torn in two, signifying that he had opened the way into the Holy of Holies (Heb 9:12). He had become the final sacrificial lamb that covered all our sins, freeing us from the fear of death!

Jesus was referred to many times in both the Old and New Testaments as “The Lamb of God.”  Isaiah 57 prophesied of His coming and “being led like a lamb” to His crucifixion. John the Baptist testified that Jesus was indeed “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” John 1:29

The Book of Revelation references the “Lamb of God” an astonishing 27 times, and it is in this book that we learn there is indeed a record God keeps of us, “The Lamb’s Book of Life.” Believers in Jesus who accept His sacrifice on the cross as the final atonement for sin and put their trust in Him will have their names permanently inscribed in this book, ensuring everlasting life with the King. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” Revelation 3:5


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