Yahweh commands us to afflict our souls at Yom Kippur.
Bemidbar (Numbers) 29:7
7 “On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a set-apart gathering. You shall afflict your souls; you shall not do any work.”
Although there are other methods, most people choose to fulfill this commandment by abstaining from food and water for a day. But is that all Yahweh wants–for us to go hungry and thirsty for twenty-four hours?
What if, more than just being a collection of commands, the instructions of Yahweh are really a path to spiritual refinement? And what if the purpose of Yom Kippur is to give us an opportunity to develop the broken and contrite heart that Yahweh says He will not despise?
Tehillim (Psalms) 51:17
17 The sacrifices of Elohim are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart — These, O Elohim, You will not despise.
If we consider this verse, doesn’t it say that unless we have a broken spirit, and a broken and contrite heart, that Yahweh will despise our spirit and heart on the Day of Judgment? How will we ever make it into His favor that way?
But what is wrong with our spirit and heart? Aren’t we pleasing just as we are, once we confess Yeshua?
The world teaches that humans are basically good, but Scripture teaches us that the human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. It also tells us that most people will not be aware of this fact (but that they will rationalize their evil away).
Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 17:9
9 “The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
Get this: Our animal nature is so bad that even though we are born basically selfish and self-serving, we think of ourselves as being good and righteous (all the time). We continually justify and rationalize our bad behavior, and make excuses for what we do wrong. All of this is the fruit of any heart which is not broken or contrite.
What we have to understand is that Yahweh wants more than just “checklist’” behavior from us. In addition to believing on Yeshua, and in addition to resting on His Sabbath and the feasts, and in addition to abstaining from food and drink on Yom Kippur, and in addition to helping to spread His Good News however we can, we also need to understand that our default animal nature is not good. We need to mindfully develop a heart that does not lift itself up, and that continually checks itself for the fruits of the Spirit (or the lack thereof).
Galatim (Galatians) 5:22-26
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no Instruction [i.e., there is no Instruction against these].
24 And those who are Messiah’s have crucified [put to death] the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
More than just going hungry, what if the purpose of Yom Kippur is to take our own thoughts into captivity, so we can hear and obey His voice?
Qorintim Bet (2nd Corinthians) 10:4-6
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in Elohim for pulling down strongholds,
5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the know-ledge of Elohim, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Messiah,
6 and being ready to punish all dis-obedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
And what if the mental quietness of taking our thoughts into captivity allows us to have a personal one-on-one relationship with Yeshua, such that we are able to abide in Him, and He in us?
Yochanan (John) 15:1-8
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”
A common mistake is to believe that we are filled with His Spirit automatically upon becoming saved. That is not true. We need to pray for His Spirit, and once it comes we need to be careful not to quench it. I talk about this in the study “Don’t Quench the Spirit.”
The problem is that after we receive His Spirit, very few of us let it lead us. His Spirit will focus on doing His will all of the time, but most of us let some other spirit (i.e., some other priority) creep in and take up residence. This is attested every time we do things that are not glorifying to Yahweh. Yahweh’s Spirit will never do these kinds of things (and hence they can only be the fruit of some other spirit).
What we need, then, is to be delivered of every spirit that is not His. We need to ask Yahweh to take those other spirits away from us, so that Yahweh’s Spirit alone dwells in us. This is where fasting and prayer come in.
Marqaus (Mark) 9:28-29
28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
29 So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
The reason fasting is so important is that our hearts are deceitful and rebellious, and like to exalt themselves. Just like our Pharisee/Orthodox brothers like to pretend that their own commandments are of Elohim, so too the people in this movement like to do their own will, and pretend that it comes from Yahweh. They open the door to all sorts of other spirits, but they pretend that they only have Yahweh’s Spirit because they perform some of the outward commandments. This is exactly what Yeshua decried when He criticized the Pharisees (Orthodox Jews) for keeping Yahweh’s commands as a checklist of steps to spiritual purification.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 23:23-28
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and Torahlessness.”
If we believe we are above the same reproach because we believe on Yeshua and keep Sabbath and feasts, then we have badly deceived ourselves. When we think of ourselves as righteous, that is when we are the very farthest from His righteousness.
Luqa (Luke) 18:9-14
9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘Elohim, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘Elohim be merciful to me, a sinner!’
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The fruit of the Spirit includes joy, and Yahweh generally wants us to be happy. There are also many times to be as bold as a lion, and stand up for what is right; but if in general we think of ourselves as being good and righteous people, then that is the opposite of having a broken, humble, and contrite heart.
In Hebrew the root word for “contrite” is daka (דכא).
OT:1792 daka’ (daw-kaw’); a primitive root (compare OT:1794); to crumble; transitively, to bruise (literally or figuratively):
KJV – beat to pieces, break (in pieces), bruise, contrite, crush, destroy, humble, oppress, smite.
When we look at the reference to OT:1794 we see that it means “to collapse” (or to have collapsed).
OT:1794 dakah (daw-kaw’); a primitive root (compare OT:1790, OT:1792); to collapse (phys. or mentally):
KJV – break (sore), contrite, crouch.
When our hearts and our spirits are collapsed, that is when our hearts and our spirits are contrite, and at those times He does not despise our spirit or our heart. But brothers, what percentage of the time does this honestly describe our hearts? The rest of the time we are not pleasing.
Have you ever wondered why there is so much sin and corruption in the body? Have you ever wondered why there is so much fraud, lying, stealing, adultery, book merchandising, and general making-of-way-for-Satan in the Messianic movement? It is because of a general lack of brokenness on the part of our people.
If we receive Yeshua as our Master and our unclean spirits go out of us, but we do not take care to cultivate and maintain a broken and collapsed heart condition, Yeshua says we are spiritually worse than before.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 12:43-45
43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.
44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.
45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”
Yeshua was speaking of the Pharisees here, but He might just as well have been speaking of our people. Our Orthodox brothers think of themselves as being good and righteous because they are descendants of Judah, and because they perform the works of their hands. How many in the Messianic world think they are doing all that they need to do because they wear tzitzit, keep Sabbath and feast days, and abstain from food and water for twenty-four hours on Yom Kippur?
Yahweh’s Spirit is capable of flourishing in us even when we are fasting. In fact, it even nourishes us.
Yochanan (John) 4:31-34
31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”
34 Yeshua said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”
Yet while Yahweh’s Spirit can survive without food, our own spirits cannot. Because our own spirits’ energies are corrupt, they need to be fed. When we fast, we cut this outside fuel off, and after an initial convulsion the corrupt spirits begin to fade.
Once the corrupt spirits that are within us have begun to starve; grudges, hatreds, and animosities can fade, and we can begin to forgive. At a certain point, fears, worries, and anxieties also fade, and we can begin to understand that Yahweh will sustain us as long as it serves His purposes; and that this is all that really matters. This is Yahweh’s Spirit talking to us and nourishing us spiritually. Once we reach this point, we need to pray for Yahweh to cause it to stay with us, and for all of the other spirits to stay out.
When we are no longer worried about the future and hold no grudges about the past, we can become as little children, completely trusting in our Father, and ready to enter into His kingdom.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 18:1-5
1 At that time the disciples came to Yeshua, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 Then Yeshua called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,
3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.”
It is not easy to humble our hearts and become as little children. It is not easy to set the binoculars aside and look for flaws in the mirror. It takes discipline to humble ourselves sufficiently and take the log out of our own eye before we take the speck out of our brother’s eye, but this is the kind of humble and contrite spirit that Yahweh says He will save.
Tehillim (Psalms) 34:18
18 Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
This is also the same kind of thing Shaul was talking about in 2 Corinthians. His humility and contrite spirit came from a different kind of affliction, but the principle is the same: when our own spirit is weak, that is when we must turn to Him for strength, and that is when His Spirit can shine brightly through us.
Qorintim Bet (2 Corinthians) 12:7-10
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with Yahweh three times that it might depart from me.
9 And He said to me, “My favor is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Messiah may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Messiah’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Clearly we need to eat sometime, and there are other ways to become broken and contrite; yet one reason they call it “fasting” is that it is the fastest way to starve out our wrong spirit, so we can be filled with His. Therefore, rather than look at Yom Kippur as a “check the box” activity that we have to go through once a year, why not look forward to fasting as a blessed opportunity to re-zero our meters, and get back in touch with Him? Why not look forward to the fast as a blessed once a year opportunity to be reminded that we are literally nothing more than bags of dirt, and to carry that realization with us, moment by moment, until our next calibration the following year?
When Yahweh brings us back to His land there will once again be a temple and all of the rites and rituals that go along with Yom Kippur. But even then, abstaining from food and water for twenty-four hours will not do us any good, unless we use it to learn to become humble, broken, and contrite all year long.
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 66:1-2
1 Thus says Yahweh:
“Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
2 For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word.”
And within that broken, humble, and contrite state, now let us find joy and abundant life.