The Day of Atonement:
Jews celebrate Yom Kippur

by Birgit Barandica, October 2008
combined with parts of an article by Johannes Gerloff (Jerusalem), of German Isralenetz,

At sundown at the end of the 9th of Tishrei (of the Jewish calendar) begins the great day of atonement, "Yom Kippur", which is the last one of the "ten days of awe" beginning with Rosh HaShana. Already in the afternoon, life in Israel comes to a halt. "The great white fast", as this holiest of feasts is called, is a dry fast, e.g. no food, no drink. People only dedicate to God's word by reading Scriptues, prayers and meditation. It ends at sundown on the 10th Tischrei with the blowing of the shofar. It is the only fast day mentioned in the bible.

Some ultra-orthodox communities slaughter a hen in the morning of the 9th Tischrei, swinging this sacrificial animal over their heads of the sinners, symbolizing in this traditionel "Kaporot" (atonement) ceremony that blood has to flow for forgiveness. In some congregations, this symbolic sacrifice is being replaced by charity.

The name of the ceremony "Kaparot" has actually been taken from the lid of the Ark of Covenant, which stood in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and is called just this.

(Foto: Johannes Gerloff)

The High priest had to sprinkle a bit of the blood from the burnt sacrifice on the Ark. With the hen, people try to imitate this sacrifice.

Even in the New Covenant we read that forgiveness of guilt is not possible without blood (Hebrew 9:22). And Yeshua (Jesus) who has been recognized by John the baptist as the sacrificial lamb (John 1:29), did exactly that: "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption", (Hebrew 9:12).

"So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him", (Hebrew 9:28).

At Yom Kippur, all of Israel's public life comes to a complete halt. There are no TV or radio transmissions. There is no public transfer, either. Only ambulances in emergency cases or security forces are being tolerated on the roads. All other vehicles run the risk of being "stoned". Kids however, are using this traffic free day and populate the streets with bikes, roller blades and skate boards.

An atmosphere of awe and trepidation - yet now we can also rejoyce!
Even Israelis who call themselves secular, are fasting on this day. More or less 65 to 75% of the Jewish Israelis are holding the command for fasting. According to Jewish law it is forbidden to wear leather clothings or jewelry, to put make up on, to take a bath or have sex on this great Day of Atonement, which is shaped by an atmosphere of awe and trepidation, of despair and the horror regarding one's own guilt in the face of the Holy God of Creation.

Yet because of Yeshua (Jesus) we don't need to despair anymore - we already are forgiven, when we accept His sacrifice for us personnally! For with HIS blood, He atoned for our sins once and for all, so that He could set us free forever! We are inscribed in the Book of Life, which the traditional Jew sadly does not know yet.

Observing this Day of Atonment, can also be of benefit for us Christians: for as long as we are still living on this side of life, also we the redeemed, will always do things every now and then, that are not in God's sense, no matter how small they might be. Stopping and getting aware again of this, asking God and people for forgiveness in Yeshua's name in particular cases, this is something that all of us are in need of. And then we can rejoyce in thankfulness that Yeshua HAS forgiven us! HE is the ultimate fulfilling of Yom Kippur - just like He fulfills all other feasts, too!

Of course, we should always repent and turn to God again, as soon as it is necessary. However, this day is important also for us - how easily do we take God's forgiveness for granted...

Yet the most important reason for observing this day is the very fact that God Himself demands it of us in Leviticus 23:26-32! All of this chapter is about the feasts and especially at the beginning, God says to Moses: "These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies", which is followed by a list of all feasts, and the Day of Atonment is just one of them, which God already back then has seen as a feast! Well, and how often do we read in His word, "Rejoyce!"

Law-abiding Jews spend the whole day in prayer at the synagogue, wrapped in white robes of repentence - usually their cerements. In the afternoon, the book of Jonah is being read. The deceased are also being remembered on this day.

According to Jewish tradition, the destiny of the coming year is being sealed on Yom Kippur. This is why in this time, people greet each other with "Gmar Hatimah Tovah", meaning: "May you be written in (the Book of Life) and sealed!"

By the Spirit of the Lord, given to us by Yeshua, we already are inscribed in the Book of Life and are sealed! So we can take this day as an opportunity to pray for the Jews who are praying in their sinagogues today, yet without knowing the true sacrificial lamb. Since we are having access now to the Holy of Holies, it is our duty to stand up and pray for them to recognize their Messiah!

Remembering the Yom-Kippur-War
For modern Israel, this day is being associated with one of its biggest catastrophes in almost 4 decades, the Yom-Kippur-War. At Yom Kippur on October 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked the Jewish State. Israeli news and sucrity services were completey taken by surprise. An Israeli fortification, the Bar-Lev-Line at the Suez Canal, broke down within hours. For several days, the situation in the country was very precarious. In two weeks of war, 2.688 Israeli soldiers lost their lives.

Traditionelly, the security forces are being put on alert at Yom Kippur. The Westbank is being completely sealed off. Yet in emergency cases, Palestinians are allowed to pass the check points. Synagogues and Jewish facilities worldwide are being guarded in particular. The security apparatus considers it possible for the radical Islamist Hisbollah Militia to plan an attack on this day.

Scripture verses: Leviticus 16; 23:27-32; Numbers 29:7-11; Isaiah 58:1-12; book of Jonah; Matthew 16:1-4

This following video is a fantastic biblical-messianic explanation of what Yom Kippur is and was meant by God from the beginning on.

A wonderful Yom Kippur song by Steve Mcconnell

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