Chapter 10:

The Day of Atonements (Yom Kippur)

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The tenth day of the seventh month is called by several names, but it is usually called Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. However, the Torah actually calls it Yom HaKippurim (יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים), or ‘The Day of the Atonements (plural).’

The Day of the Atonements is the most set-apart day of our year. Yahweh tells us not to do any work at all on this day, for Yahweh promises to cut off anyone who does not make this a day of complete rest.

Leviticus 23:26-32
26 And Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying:
27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of the Atonements. It shall be a set-apart gathering for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to Yahweh.
28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonements, to make atonement for you before Yahweh your Elohim.
29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people.
30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.
31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
32 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.”
(26) וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:
(27) אַךְ בֶּעָשׂוֹר לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי הַזֶּה יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים הוּא מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם וְעִנִּיתֶם אֶת נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם | וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם אִשֶּׁה לַיהוָה:
(28) וְכָל מְלָאכָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה | כִּי יוֹם כִּפֻּרִים הוּא לְכַפֵּר עֲלֵיכֶם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:
(29) כִּי כָל הַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא תְעֻנֶּה בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה | וְנִכְרְתָה מֵעַמֶּיהָ:
(30) וְכָל הַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה כָּל מְלָאכָה בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה | וְהַאֲבַדְתִּי אֶת הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מִקֶּרֶב עַמָּהּ:
(31) כָּל מְלָאכָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ | חֻקַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם:
(32) שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן הוּא לָכֶם וְעִנִּיתֶם אֶת נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם | בְּתִשְׁעָה לַחֹדֶשׁ בָּעֶרֶב מֵעֶרֶב עַד עֶרֶב תִּשְׁבְּתוּ שַׁבַּתְּכֶם:

Yom HaKippurim is called ‘the Fast’ at Acts 27:9, because it is traditionally observed by abstaining from both food and water for twenty-four hours.

Ma’asei (Acts) 27:9-10
9 Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Shaul advised them,
10 saying, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.”

However, while fasting is a good way to afflict one’s soul, the commandment is not necessarily to fast, but rather to afflict one’s soul from the evening ending the ninth of the month, to the evening ending the tenth.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:32
32 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.”

While fasting can lead to desirable spiritual benefits, let us recognize that it is not always medically appropriate for diabetics, intensive care patients and/or nursing mothers to fast. If one’s medical condition precludes fasting, then other forms of self-affliction, such as wearing sack cloth next to the skin, still fulfill Yahweh’s commandment to afflict our souls.

Numbers 29:7-11 gives a second witness that we are to abstain from all forms of work on this day. It also gives us a list of the sacrifices Yahweh expects the priesthood to offer on Yom HaKippurim, whenever a Temple or Tabernacle stands.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 29:7-11
7 “On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a set-apart convocation. You shall afflict your souls; you shall not do any work.
8 You shall present a burnt offering to Yahweh as a sweet aroma: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year. Be sure they are without blemish.
9 Their grain offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the one ram,
10 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs;
11 also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, besides the sin offering for atonement, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings.”

Hebrews 9:7 tells us these sacrifices were to atone for sins the people committed in ignorance.

Ivrim (Hebrews) 9:7
7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance….

However, the High Priest also sent a scapegoat forth into the wilderness.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 16:1-34
1 Now Yahweh spoke to Moshe after the death of the two sons of Aharon, when they offered profane fire before Yahweh, and died;
2 And Yahweh said to Moshe: “Tell Aharon your brother not to come at just any time into the Set-apart Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.
3 “Thus Aharon shall come into the Set-apart Place: with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering.
4 He shall put the Set-apart linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are Set-apart garments. Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put them on.
5 And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering, and one ram as a burnt offering.
6 “Aharon shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house.
7 He shall take the two goats and present them before Yahweh at the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting.
8 Then Aharon shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for Yahweh and the other lot for the scapegoat.
9 And Aharon shall bring the goat on which Yahweh’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering.
10 But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before Yahweh, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness.
11 “And Aharon shall bring the bull of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bull as the sin offering which is for himself.
12 Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before Yahweh, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil.
13 And he shall put the incense on the fire before Yahweh, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die.
14 He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.
15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.
16 So he shall make atonement for the Set-apart Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness.
17 There shall be no man in the tabernacle of meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the Set-apart Place, until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the assembly of Israel.
18 And he shall go out to the altar that is before Yahweh, and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around.
19 Then he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, cleanse it, and consecrate it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.
20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Set-apart Place, the Tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat.
21 Aharon shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man.
22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.
23 “Then Aharon shall come into the tabernacle of meeting, shall take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the Set-apart Place, and shall leave them there.
24 And he shall wash his body with water in a Set-apart place, put on his garments, come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, and make atonement for himself and for the people.
25 The fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar.
26 And he who released the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.
27 The bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Set-apart Place, shall be carried outside the camp. And they shall burn in the fire their skins, their flesh, and their offal.
28 Then he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.
29 “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.
30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before Yahweh.
31 It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.
32 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 Set-apart garments;
33 then he shall make atonement for the Set-apart 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.
34 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 Yahweh commanded Moshe.

While extremely controversial, since the scapegoat was sent forth to bear “all” the sins of the people, some scholars believe the scapegoat even served to atone for sins that had been committed intentionally, provided the sinner had later repented of his sin (as in the case of King David’s infamous sin with Bathsheba). The Talmud tells us that the people knew when their sins had been forgiven, for the High Priest tied one piece of scarlet wool on the horns of the scapegoat, and then Yahweh would supernaturally cause this piece of scarlet wool to turn white when He had forgiven their sins.

Isaiah 1:18
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says Yahweh. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
(18) לְכוּ נָא וְנִוָּכְחָה יֹאמַר יְהוָה | אִם יִהְיוּ חֲטָאֵיכֶם כַּשָּׁנִים כַּשֶּׁלֶג יַלְבִּינוּ אִם יַאְדִּימוּ כַתּוֹלָע כַּצֶּמֶר יִהְיוּ

According to the Talmud, a second piece of wool was tied first to the door of the Temple, and then later to a rock, so that those in the Temple would also be able to see when Yahweh had forgiven his people.

R. Nahman b. Isaac said it was the tongue of scarlet, as it has been taught: ‘Originally they used to fasten the thread of scarlet on the door of the [Temple] court on the outside. 28 If it turned white the people used to rejoice, 29 and if it did not turn white they were sad. They therefore made a rule that it should be fastened to the door of the court on the inside. People, however, still peeped in and saw, and if it turned white they rejoiced and if it did not turn white they were sad. They therefore made a rule that half of it should be fastened to the rock and half between the horns of the goat that was sent [to the wilderness].
[Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 31b, Soncino Press]

The Talmud also tells us that forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the scarlet thread stopped turning white. It now remained red, indicating that Yahweh was no longer forgiving His people their sins.

For forty years before the destruction of the Temple the thread of scarlet never turned white but it remained red.
[Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 31b, Soncino Press]

Tractate Yoma 39b gives us a second witness that for the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the “crimson-coloured strap” no longer turned white.

Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [For the Lord] [sic] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the westernmost light shine; and the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves, until R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: Hekal, Hekal, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself?5 [Babylonian Talmud Tractate Yoma 39b, Soncino Press]

If the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, forty years prior to that date puts the cessation of this miracle circa 30 CE, which is when many scholars believe Yeshua died for our sins, and was raised again the third day.

The Talmud contains many different sorts of entries, some of which seem factual, and many of which seem controversial. However, if this particular miracle as recorded in Talmud is to be believed, it seems it could only have been a sign from Yahweh, showing His people that Yeshua really was their Messiah, and that the blood of mere bulls and goats would no longer be enough to cause Him to forgive His people’s sins.

And while Scripture does not specify, there are others who believe that the Day of Atonement is above all a day when we are to make sure we are in right standing before Yahweh our Elohim. It is a day when we are to release others from debts, whether financial, emotional, or spiritual. If our hearts are hard towards anyone for something evil that he has done towards us, it is a day for releasing those old debts, in forgiveness, no matter how fresh the present hurt.

Scripture does not say whether the fast of Isaiah 58 pertains directly to Yom Kippur or not, but many draw parallels to this passage.

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 58:1-12
1″Cry aloud, spare not;
Lift up your voice like a trumpet;
Tell My people their transgression,
And the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek Me daily,
And delight to know My ways,
As a nation that did righteousness,
And did not forsake the ordinance of their Elohim. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching Elohim.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’
“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers.
4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate,
And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day,
To make your voice heard on high.
5 Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to Yahweh?
6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of Yahweh shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and Yahweh will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
“If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
11 Yahweh will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
12 Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.”

Clearly, it is important to search ourselves every day, to see where we can improve before Yahweh. However, if there is any one calendar day that it is “most important” to humble ourselves before Yahweh, and see where and how we can do more righteousness, Yom Kippur would be that calendar day.

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