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Day Of Atonement Article Bookmarks

Holiday Name And Meaning:

The biblical name given to this holiday is Yom Hakippurim (Lev. 23:27), meaning the day of covering or concealing. Other names for the holiday include The Day, The Day of the Fast, The Day of the Great Fast, or a Day of cleansing. Its most known translation is the Day of Atonement.Its Aramaic name is Yoma. In post Talmudic times, it has been known as Yom Hanora (Awesome Day). Yom Hanora is based on a post Talmudic Midrash on Joel 2:11.  Some have also referred to this day as Yom Hadin (Judgment Day).

To many, the word Kippur means "to cover." God "covers" Israel's sins through the sacrificial blood of the offering.(11) One of the possible roots for the word Kippur is "Kofer"  which can mean ransom. This use of the word is found in Exodus 21:30. The Day of Atonement is one of the holidays that God Himself names. It is also referred to as the Sabbath of Sabbaths.

Some prayer books also refer to this day as a day of friendship and love.(1)

This day is sometimes referred to as "the happiest day of the year."(2)

Scriptural Reference:

God gave very specific commands concerning this day. (Leviticus Chapter 16 and 23:27-32, Acts 27:9). Also see Hebrews 9:28.

The story of Jonah is usually read after the Torah portion due to its theme of grace. Both Jonah and this holiday include fasting and repentance along with salvation themes. The book of Jonah helps to teach that man can abandon his evil ways, accept responsibility for his actions, and return to God.(3)

Description Of Holiday:

Yom Kippur is by far Judaism's holiest annual observance. (Some do consider the Sabbath to be holier but that is not the majority view). The holiday is to be held on the 10th day of the 7th month (Tishri). Yom Kippur is seen by many as the climax of two other holidays. The first, Rosh HaShanah, comes ten days earlier. This is considered a new year for religious holidays. Rosh Hashanah begins what is known as the ten days of awe. These ten days should be used as a time of self examination concerning our relationship with God. At the end of the ten days comes Yom Kippur, where we pray that God will accept our cry for forgiveness and repentance and write us in the Book of Life.

Yom Kippur started out as a solemn holiday as we concentrated on our relationship with God and our sinful nature. It ends a joyous holiday because, if our repentance is sincere and our faith in God's promises sincere, we believe we have been forgiven for our sin and sealed in the "Book of Life."

It was also a joyous occasion because of the matrimonial dance. Women who wanted to get married would meet at selected places, often in the vineyards, dressed in borrowed white clothing (so none should be embarrassed), and take part in a matrimonial dance. Men would then show up, knowing that they could select a future bride from the dancers. While looking on the men would respond; Young man, lift up your eyes and choose wisely. Don't look only at physical beauty - look rather at the family - For charm is false, and beauty in vanity. A G-d fearing woman is the one to be praised... (Proverbs 31:30). This dance would also occur on the 15th of Av holiday.(4)

Another aspect of the holiday that was greatly celebrated was the announcement of the year of Jubilee with the blowing of the shofar (Lev. 25:8-12). Although this only occurred every fifty years, it was still looked forward to.(5)

One reason we have the rituals we do is to encourage us to purge evil from our life and appear pure in the sight of the Lord (Lev.16:30). We must purge evil because we are sinners. The Hebrew word for sin is chatah, which means to fall short. Some think of an arrow shot from a bow that lacks power to reach its mark. Paul uses this terminology in Romans 3:23. Some believe we are born already a sinner like Psalm 51:5 may teach us.

The main goal of Yom Kippur is to seek forgiveness from both others whom we have wronged and from God Himself. We seek forgiveness for our sins on an individual level, along will seeking forgiveness for sins for the nation of Israel as a whole.

For many, Yom Kippur consists of four parts based on Lev. 23:27-28. They are:

1) To hold a holy convocation such as a worship event (i.e. Temple service);

2) To humble or afflict your soul (usually done through fasting);

3) To present an offering (Christians celebrating this holiday should consider Romans 12:1 and offer their body as living sacrifices. Jewish people have made it a custom to offer charity); and,

4) A day free of regular work.

One of the main differences between this holiday and the rest of the feast is that the rest of the feast are considered by most to be joyous occasions that include eating and drinking and sometimes even dancing. Yom Kippur is considered a solemn time of confessing our sin and asking the Lord for forgiveness.

Culture And Tradition:

There was no day the same as Yom Kippur in Israel. This is the day the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies and to represent the entire nation of Israel before God.

Yom Kippur offers rituals that help people to reflect on their sinful nature and, ultimately, with the proper faith in the process of the substitute sacrifice, be seen as clean in God's eyes (Lev. 16:30).

The purpose of someone making a sin-offering was to make atonement for sins. There are two kinds of sin. Sin of commission (committing an unlawful act), and sin of omission (failing to obey God's decree).

Some have made it a custom to hammer in the first stake of the Sukkah (Tabernacle) as soon as Yom Kippur is over. The Feast of Tabernacles is five days after Yom Kippur. There is a sequence to these two holidays. Yom Kippur, which has a theme of repentance, occurs before Feast of Tabernacles, which has a theme of redemption, rejoicing, and thanksgiving. A person must have repentance before they can receive redemption. There could only be rejoicing and thanksgiving after and because of the forgiveness.

Some believe that Moses brought down the second tablets of the law on the 10th of Tishri, bearing a message of divine forgiveness.

The first day of the month of Tishri is considered a Sabbath (Rosh Hashanah) Lev. 23:23-25. Passover, Yom Kippur, and the Feast of Tabernacles also have declared days of rest as part of their observance.

There is a prohibition against work similar to the sabbath prohibition.

During the ten days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur, weddings are rare.

It is also a custom to light a Yartzite (memorial) candle for a loved one who has died. Some believe that through prayer and charity on this day, along with the lighting of a memorial candle, deceased loved one's souls may go to a higher level in paradise.

Sometimes, in order to concentrate on prayer at a higher level, worshipers make a fist and lightly tap their chest as they confess their sins. Not only is this custom still done today, but it was done at least 2000 years ago (Luke 18:13).

Since Yom Kippur is a Fast Day, it's become common to eat hearty the day before. The talmud teaches eating a festive meal the day before Yom Kippur (called Seudah Mafseket-final meal) is a good deed similar in value to the good deed of fasting the next day.

If you know of someone fasting on this day, one of the appropriate greetings would be "I hope you have an easy fast" (Tzome Khal). From another perspective, a new greeting, "I hope you don't have an easy fast" is emerging. The thinking behind this greeting is that the fast should not be easy but challenging, so that it can serve its purpose (of reminding us that we are dependant upon God) to the fullest.

Often, people go to the mikva (ritual bath) the week of the holiday.

Among the things prohibited on Yom Kippur are eating and drinking, washing (for pleasure), anointing with perfumes or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relation (Kitzur Shulhan Arukh 133). Sometimes exceptions are made.(6)

For more on culture and tradition visit The Temple Institute.


Chicken-Yom-KippurThere is an ancient custom that is still practiced today by a few Jewish people. It is usually performed on the day before Yom Kippur. It involves the transfer of sin from the sinner to another object. This would be an example of substitutionary atonement. This is used in place of the temple sacrifices. The sinner takes a white rooster if they are a man or a white hen if they are a woman. In some cases the sinners use money instead of an animal. The sinner then takes the object in their hand (bird or money) and waves it in a circle above their head (usually three times), thus transferring the sin from themselves to the object. The atonement occurs when the bird or its value is given to the poor. Only giving to the poor as part of the repentance process gives this ritual any significant meaning. Some people use a different chicken for each person while others use a single rooster for a group of men or a single hen for a group of women. A pregnant woman usually takes both a hen and a rooster. There are also a couple of related prayers to be said when going through this process. One of these prayers is similar to the following:

"This is your exchange, this is your substitute, this is your atonement. This rooster will go to its death (this money will go to charity) while we will enter and go to a good, long life, and to peace."(7)

The gold-plated lid of the Ark was known as the kaporet, or Mercy Seat. Kaporet comes from kaphar, which means “covering.” The English word “atonement” (i.e. a covering for sin) also is translated kaphar. Over the kaporet were the figures of two spread-winged, angelic figures known as keruvim (English, “cherubim").(8)

Flogging Tradition:

One tradition that is no longer practiced but was common in Eastern Europe in centuries gone by is the tradition of malkut, or flogging. The elders and pious men would come to the synagogue and prostrate themselves on the floor wearing a heavy overcoat, while a local poor man would symbolically flog them with a leather strap and recite a scriptural “sentence” for their sins from Psalm 78:38. “But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them; and often He restrained His anger, and did not arouse all His wrath.” 

This sentence, which contains 13 words in Hebrew, is recited three times, symbolic of the 39 lashes inflicted upon sentenced criminals in ancient times. The ritual was often carried out so quickly that the repentant person barely had time to confess his sins before his turn was finished. He paid a small fee to the flogger and left, having symbolically been punished for his sins.(9) 


The liturgy for Yom Kippur is much more extensive than for any other day of the year. The extensive changes in liturgy for this holiday require a special prayer book to be used just for the Day of Atonement. This prayer book is commonly known as a machzor.(10)

A lot of the prayers surround the sin of Lashon ha-ra (The Evil Tongue).

Kol Nidrei (All Vows) is the prayer that normally starts things off. It is an ancient Aramaic legal prayer that is designed to annul our previously made vows. It is customary for a cantor dressed in white to enter the room from the back that the congregation is in. As he slowly walks toward the front, he slowly chants this prayer using a melody that projects sadness. It is possible that this ancient melody has found its way into music written by Beethoven.(11) It is repeated two more additional times, each time a little louder than before so that latecomers can still have a chance to hear it. This increase in volume also represents our growing boldness in approaching the Lord with prayer. In this prayer, the cantor representing the congregation asks God to annul the vows that we made and were unable to keep. In some congregations, Torahs are removed from the ark and carried around giving the congregation a chance to touch them and even kiss them with a prayer book or prayer shawl.

The Kol Nidrei prayer expresses a deep consciousness of the inability of man to keep in full his vows, promises, bonds, and obligations in relation to God, and is always, no matter how conscientious, on the debit side of the ledger. Man can only face his Maker as a suppliant in need of forgiveness.(12)

As we ask for forgiveness, almost all the sins are confessed in the plural. An Example would be, forgive us for the sins that we have sinned before you.

There are two main prayers that are said asking for forgiveness. One of those prayers is called Ashamnu. When read in Hebrew, it roughly follows the alphabet starting with the letter aleph and ending with the letter tet. It is customary to strike the left side of the chest with the right fist while reciting each of the sins. (This custom of praying and lightly striking where the heart is can be found in Luke 18:13).

The other main prayer where we ask for forgiveness on the Day of Atonement is Al Chet. This prayer is believed to be based on a passage in Nehemiah 1:6. Chet means "missing the mark"  and is the closest we can come in Hebrew to the word sin. It is the larger of the two prayers, and it is also customary to strike the left side of the chest with the right fist while reciting each of the sins.

The concluding service is known as Ne'ilah. This is believed to be the name of the concluding ceremony during second temple times also. At the start of this part of the service, usually around 6 p.m., the ark where the Torah is kept is opened up and remains open. This usually lasts for around an hour. Since it is customary to stand when the ark is open, those who are able are obligated to stand the entire time. Those who are not able, usually children and elders, don't have to stand. This service is sometimes known as the closing of the gates, and there is an atmosphere of "last chance" as if to say this will be our last chance to convince God to write us in the Book of Life. This may lend a tone of desperation to the cantor's voice.

Sadly, even though Jews have fasted and prayed to be forgiven, due to the absence of blood in the Yom Kippur observance, there is no assurance that God has forgiven their sins (Leviticus 17:11). This is supported by both the Old Testament (Leviticus 17:11) and the New Testament (Hebrews 9:22).

Even though there could no longer be an avoda service (sacrificial rites in the Temple), some of the rituals were retained in the liturgy in verbal form.


YiskorYizkor (meaning may God remember) is considered a prayer for the dead. There are some Jewish traditions that teach a dead person's soul can be atoned for by what the living on earth do. (The Zohar teaches that the memory of the death of Aaron's two sons takes the place of the Yom Kippur sacrifices) Therefore, charity and good deeds in the name of the deceased are common. A yizkor service is also conducted on Passover, Pentecost, and the end of the Feast of Tabernacles. Along with prayer, it is customary to light a yizkor candle. These candles are specifically designed to burn for 24 hours. Memorial prayers and donations can be said for family, soldiers, or friends. Interestingly, the Zohar teaches that the memory of the death of Aaron's two sons takes the place of the Yom Kippur sacrifices.(13)

A Prayer no longer said:

There is an ancient prayer that has been removed from modern day Yom Kippur liturgy. For Jewish people who recognize Jesus as Messiah, it is still significant.

"Our righteous anointed is departed from us: horror hath seized us, and we have none to justify us. He hath borne the yoke of our iniquities and our transgression, and is wounded because of our transgression. He beareth our sins on his shoulder, that he may find pardon for our iniquities. We shall be healed by his wound, at the time that the Eternal will create Him (the Messiah) as a new creature."(9)

The Offerings:

Leviticus 16:2-30 describes Temple procedure for that day. Sweet incense had to be offered. A blood sacrifice (a bullock) was required first for the Cohen Gadol (high priest) and his family, and a second blood sacrifice (a goat) was to be offered for the sins of Israel. In addition, a living sacrifice (the scapegoat) was to bear the sins of Israel symbolically.(14)

The offerings on Yom Kippur were divided into three groups.

1) Continual burnt offerings. (These were offered in the temple twice a day).

2) Festive sacrifices. (For the high priest and priesthood).

3) Sacrifices specifically designed for the Day of Atonement. (Sin offering of the two goats).(9)

Sometimes these offerings were referred to as "purification offerings."

The Two Goats:

The sacrificing of the goat was not unique to Yom Kippur. It was mandatory on the first day of each month and on festivals (Num. 28:11-31;  29: 1-39).

The goat will bear upon itself all their iniquities ... (Leviticus 16:22)

Part of the worship on Yom Kippur included a tradition known as "two goats." One of the goats was sacrificed in the Sanctuary, the other sent away into the desert. It is believed to be around twelve miles from Jerusalem to the wilderness where the goat was sent.

Why were there two goats? The first one was to atone (pay) for the people's sins. The second was to remove those sins from their presence. The blood of the first goat brought forgiveness. The second goat brought cleansing and righteousness.(15)

We can read about this process in Leviticus, Chapter 16. Even though the High Priest randomly drew from an urn to decide how the animals would be labeled, it was considered a good omen if the lot marked "for the Lord" was drawn by the priest in his right hand. This good omen occurred less and less as the destruction of the temple came closer and closer. Some considered the lack of the omen one of the Four Signs Of The Coming Destruction Of The Temple. Understanding what the two goats represent helps us to understand how God can forgive our sins.

Maimonides (a Jewish Commentator) tells us that the "scapegoat ":...brings atonement on all the sins in the Torah, whether they be light or grave, whether the transgression was committed unintentionally or with deliberation, whether the sin is known to the perpetrator or whether it is not... (Laws of Teshuva 1:2).

The Talmud tells us that these two goats should look the same on the outside.

The two goats on Yom Kippur should be identical in appearance, size, and value, and the two shall be chosen together (Talmud - Yoma 62a).

Jacob And Esau:

There is more than one view on what these two goats represent. The most common is that because the goats are to look the same on the outside, they are to resemble twins. Since they resemble twins, we then look to the Torah to see the most famous twins, Isaac's twins, Jacob and Esau. The support that Jacob and Esau were physically identical twins comes from a Midrash.(16)

Esau was worthy to be called Jacob, and Jacob was worthy to be called Esau (Midrash Zuta Shir HaShirim 1:15).

The commentator Rashi added support for this view with this opinion that even at the age of 13 they still looked the same.

Even though the two goats were the same on the outside they served two different purposes. They were opposites on the inside.

The holiday origin of the two goats themselves are from Leviticus. Those who believe the two goats represent Jacob and Esau think that it may be possible to look to the twin brothers themselves for the origination.(16)

"Go now to the herd and bring me two good goats..." (Genesis 27:9).

Using this interpretation, Jacob's entrance to his father may be paralleled with the once-yearly entrance of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, into the Holy of Holies. Jacob prepared for this appearance with the two goats as his descendents would in the future.

This interpretation then makes out the Scapegoat to be Esau. There is a Midrash that supports this passage.

This goat (sair) refers to Esau as it is written: "...but my brother Esau is a hairy (soir) man (Genesis 27:11)." The Hebrew words sair, "goat," and soir, "hairy," are spelled identically.

[It is further written]: "The goat will bear upon itself all their inequities (avonotam). In Hebrew, this word avonotam can be split into two words: avonot tam, meaning 'the inequities of the innocent.'"

This is a reference to Jacob about whom it is written: "Jacob was a wholesome (tam) man (Genesis 25:27)." The word wholesome in Hebrew also being tam (Midrash - Bereishit Raba 65:15).

Azazel, traditionally translated as "the goat that escapes" (giving us the term scapegoat),  represents Esau, and somehow he is made to carry the sins of the Jewish people, the descendants of Jacob.

The passage in Leviticus 16:7-10 tells us that one goat dies and the other goat lives. It is the goat that is sent out into the wilderness that appears to be the less fortunate of the two goats.  That goat is the one which carries with it all the sins of the Nation of Israel. Even though it was Israel that sinned, it was the scapegoat that got the punishment. Laying hands on the scape goat was symbolic for the High Priest placing the sins of the Nation of Israel on it.

Other Interpretations:

Some people consider Azazel the name of the wilderness into which the goat was sent.

The name Azazel is derived from the hebrew words for strong and mighty, words that refer to the physical characteristics of the cliff that this goat wed led to then pushed off of.(17)

Others consider Azazel to be the name of a demon that carries with it the sins of Israel back to Satan. This probably comes from the Book of Enoch (8:1). Azazel is never associated with a demon is canonized scripture. The Septuagint refers to Azazel as the goat that departs. In Aramaic terms, Azazel is linked to "to banish or remove."

A parallel could be implied to Azazel. It is the ceremony of cleansing a cured leper (Lev. 14:1-9).(9)

Question-1What Else Can We Learn From The Goats?

We learn that the goat could not work out their salvation. Nothing the goats did would make a difference if they lived or died. The selection process was by drawing lots, and the requirement of using two similar goats shows us that all appeared to be equal until the lots were drawn. Some Bible scholars view this as a symbol of God's sovereign election. They believe that God alone, here represented by the successful lot, determines who is chosen (elected) to be part of His heavenly kingdom and live. The same way one goat lives and the other is sacrificed, they believe some live on in Heaven while others will die and go to hell.

The same way, Jacob was elected instead of Esau before they were born (Genesis 25:23).

Others can see their Messiah in this symbolism. See Messiah in the holiday notes.

It was taught on that day there was as much joy in front of God as the day of creation of heaven and earth (Talmud - Megillah 10b).

This was a tremendous celebration known as the Simchat Beit Hashoeva. This took place around one week after Yom Kippur.

It was said, "He who never saw the Simchat Beit Hashoeva, never saw joy in his life (Mishnah Sukka 5:1)."

Uniqueness Of Holiday:

Yom Kippur is different from most other holidays. It doesn't celebrate a harvest season or an important historical event that happened in history.

Many Jews consider this holiday the most important day of the year. This makes them more willing to attend some type of religious service, even if they don't attend services at any other time. Although many are sincere as they fast, pray prayers of repentance and ask God to write them in the "Book of Life," there is still a missing component to the biblical requirement for this Holy Day-the blood atonement.(14)

It is also the only Biblical fast day required under Mosaic Law. The regular Yom Kippur fast lasted from just before sundown to just after sundown the following day for a period of around 25 hours. This fast is an all-out fast, meaning no food or drink allowed, not even a glass of water. This is meant to afflict the soul so that while we begin to hurt from lack of nourishment, we are able to focus on God as our true source of nourishment. Children under the age of 9 are forbidden to fast and, from 9 to 13, they are allowed a partial fast such as skipping a meal. If a medical problem means that you cannot fast, then you are relieved of your obligation. This is the only fast day observed by reformed Judaism.

It has been said that fasting makes one like the angels who do not require food so that God can see piety in action.(18)

The incense offering was the only offering that could never be presented as a free will offering, neither by the community nor by any individual. It could be performed only as prescribed by the law, by the community as a daily offering, and by the high priest only on Yom Kippur (Menahoth 50a and b).(7)

It is considered a Sabbath of rest.

It is customary to wear white on the holiday, which symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that our sins shall be made as white as snow (Isa. 1:18). Some people wear a kittel, the white robe similar to the one which is wrapped around a dead body before burial.

To some, the kittle symbolizes their innocence from sin and represents a burial shroud to remind all to repent before the day of one's death.(18)

There was a tradition during the Second Temple period for the High Priest to immerse (similar to a baptism or mikva) himself five times on Yom Kippur (Yoma 19b).

Traditionally, leather clothing like belts or shoes are not worn.

At the meal before the start of Yom Kippur, the Hallah (Bread) is sometimes shaped like a ladder. This tradition came about for the symbolism of helping prayers ascend to heaven.

This is the end of the 10 Days of Awe that started with Rosh Hashanah. With Rosh Hashanah, the greeting is "may you be inscribed in the Book of Life." It is believed that when Yom Kippur comes around, your fate is sealed. Now the typical greeting changes to "may you be sealed in the Book of Life."

Yom Kippur has been a day where Israel's enemies have chosen to militarily attack, knowing its importance to Judaism. In the past Israel's armies would take the day off to worship but this is no longer a choice because Israel has already been attacked on Yom Kippur since becoming a nation in 1948. There is a war known as "The Yom Kippur War."

The definition of affliction is still open to debate. It is done today with fasting so the body is afflicted due to lack of food. On Yom Kippur, we afflict ourselves.

Traditional Jewish chronology says that on Yom Kippur, the Almighty yielded to Moses and gave Israel the second tablets of the law.(7)

There is reported to be a custom from the Babylonian Ge'onim of reading the first verse of Torah on the afternoon of Yom Kippur. It is because of the following legend.

Throughout the Ten Days of Repentance, Satan has been accusing Israel, arguing "Behold, the Torah which you have bestowed upon Israel- they have already finished with it!"

Now, when the Holy One hears them beginning again from Genesis, he immediately rebukes Satan saying "Look how, as soon as they complete it, they immediately start over again, so great is their love for my Torah!"

There is a tradition that Yom Kippur is partially based on the transgression of the golden calf.

Public fasts cannot be observed on Shabbat with the exception of Yom Kippur.

For the evening services, some adult males wear a Tallit (prayer shawl). This is the only time of the year when this type of garment is worn in the evening.

The Tetragrammaton was pronounced ten times during the twenty-four hour holiday. Three of those ten came during the Confessional Prayer Of The High Priest.

Some of the temple utensils used at Yom Kippur were gold. Not the regular yellow gold but a rare gold that was red in color. This is a comment reported do be in the Mishna.

A few people consider Hoshana Rabbah an extension of Yom Kippur.

The High Priest:

For a closer look at the rituals and how they were performed by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, there is a great book titled, The Feast of Israel written by Bruce Scott of Friends of Israel ministry.

The High Priest's obligations on the Day of Atonement can be found in Leviticus, Chapter 16. In addition to this, there are writings that are part of the oral law (Mishna) that describe his duties and methods he used to carry them out.

The High Priest was responsible for representing the Nation of Israel before the presence of God, inside the Holy of Holies.

This is the one day of the year that the High Priest was allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies, dressed in his ritual garments, preceded by incense (which represents praise) and shed blood (the sacrifice for sin).(14)

The High Priest was allowed to write much of his own prayer.

This was the highest political office in Israel, and sometimes there was corruption. For 44 years following the reign of Herod, the Romans usurped the right of appointing the High Priest. The right reverted to King Agrippa the Second during the last 20 years of the Temple's existence. This compromised the integrity of the office of High Priest with Judaism. Allowing men who worshiped Pagan gods to have influence over the position was certainly an abomination to the Lord.(7)

It is believed that most, if not all, of the High Priest, close to the time of Christ were Sadducees. Caiaphas was the High Priest in office until 36 A.D. He was a Sadducee. "Sad you see" (pun intended) because they only recognized the divine scriptures as the Torah and not the prophets. Nor did they believe in a resurrection. These views may be part of the reasons why Judaism wasso set on not accepting Jesus who resembled a Pharisee with His acceptance of the Torah and the prophets as the inspired wordof God.

According to a popular tradition, the High Priest had a rope tied around his ankle or waist, so that in case he were struck down by God, indicating that God had not forgiven His people-that the offering was unacceptable-he could then be pulled out from behind the veil.(19)

Preparation Of The High Priest:

The High Priest would move into the temple one week before the holiday, to review with the Sanhedrin the proper procedures and prayers. He was cleansed with the ashes of the red heifer twice during the seven-day period as a precaution (Numbers 19:13).

There was an understudy High Priest in case the original became ill or died.

The night before the Day of Atonement, the high priest was not allowed to sleep.

A second wife was prepared for the high priest in case the first one would die. This is because he needed to make a confession for "his house" and the rabbis decided that included his wife (Yoma 1).

Clothing Of The High Priest:

On the Day of Atonement, there was no need for the priestly garments to include the urim and thummin. This was because of the opportunity created by the high priest entering into the Holy of Holies. On this day,the high priest wore white linen garments for some of his temple duties.

The Veil Of The Temple Was Torn:

When Christ offered His own blood as out atonement or covering, the veil of the temple was torn in two, signifying that He had opened the way into the Holy of Holies. (The veil separated the Holy of the Holies from the rest of the temple). The tear was from the top down indicating it started with God and worked it's way towards earth (Matthew 27:51). We now have access to the Holy of Holies every day through Christ, our mediator and High Priest.

Destruction Of The Temple:

In A.D.  70, the Temple was destroyed. No longer could there be an animal sacrificial system.  The Rabbis faced with this problem changed the focus of the holiday. Judaism was at a crossroads. It was going to have to change one way or another. The Christian sect of Judaism (Messianic Jews) recognized and faithfully accepted that Jesus would be their sacrifice. Now the rest of Judaism needed something to hang on to. This is why the main changeover occurred from old Biblical Judaism to new Rabbinical Judaism. While Biblical Judaism had called for the animal's blood sacrifice to represent man's soul, (Leviticus 7:11) there could be none. Rather than accept what the Christian Jews embraced, Rabbinical Judaism began to focus on a different avenue of redemption.

Even though there could no longer be an avoda (sacrificial rites in the Temple service), some of the rituals were retained in the liturgy of prayer, in verbal form.

In his book The Biblical And Historical Background Of The Jewish Holy Days, Abraham P. Bloch writes about the Rabbinical focus after  the Temple's destruction.

The Rabbinical focus would now be on three keys that could bring you to redemption. Those three are prayer, penitence, and charity.

The chanting of Psalms in the Temple was considered an act of praying.

Rabbinical Judaism claimed that those people who gave charity were greater than Moses (Baba Batra 9a).  That charity delivered from death (Baba Batra 10a). Jerusalem would be redeemed only through charity (Shabbat 139a). See above how money is involved in the Kaparot tradition.

They believed that penitence had the effect of an immediate pardon for a transgression of a positive commandment while suspending judgment in the case of a violation of a negative commandment (Yoma 86a).(7)

Question-1Where did the authority come from to give these Rabbis the authorization to make rulings and writings that would be different from God's own words? The answer is, they gave it to themselves.

Consider the passage in the Talmud (Mas. Baba Bathra 12a), where the Rabbis consider themselves so wise that their wisdom supersedes the wisdom of a Divinely chosen prophet.

R. Abdimi from Haifa said: "Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from the prophets and given to the wise. Is then a wise man not also a prophet?" 12 — What he meant was this: Although it has been taken from the prophets, it has not been taken from the wise. Amemar said: A wise man is even superior to a prophet."

The prevailing view of the Sages was that they had superseded and taken over the role of the prophet:

These Sages went on to write Jewish literature known as the Talmud, Mishna, Gemara, and other Jewish writings. Today in Orthodox Judaism the Talmud supersedes the Divinely inspired word of God. This is the difference between Biblical Judaism and Rabbinical Judaism.

Also added was the importance of keeping peace. Some believed that forgiveness from God could only come after peace was made with man. While keeping peace is a great idea, even supporte by the New Testament, it may have its limits as far as what kind of influence it will have with God.

In a medieval Midrashic collection arranged according to the holiday cycle known as Pesikta Rabbati, we can see just how far this line of thought can get out of hand. Rabbi Eleazar is reported to have said," Great is peace, for even if Israel is worshiping Idols, if they keep the peace and are united,they will be spared the Judgment of the Almighty (Piska 50)."

Other modern day rabbinical customs for Yom Kippur not found in the Bible include visiting the grave of an ancestor, the lighting of a memorial lamp or candle, and Kaparot.

Judaism's Need For A Mediator:

There are several differences between Biblical Judaism and Rabbinical Judaism. One of those differences is the recognition for the need for a mediator. Some rabbinical Judaism theology, claims that the Jewish people never needed a mediator. They had a direct connection to God, so to speak.  Christians, however, believe Jesus Christ is their mediator. Therefore, some Jews end up rejecting Christianity on this basis alone.  An examination of the Torah would prove otherwise.

In Biblical Judaism, a mediator was needed as a kind of go-between for Israel to reach God. God also used a mediator to reach Israel. Moses was often the one who took God's message to Israel and who Israel depended on for understanding and knowing God's will. Moses represented Israel before God, and he represented the Lord before the nation of Israel.

God also used the tribe of Levi to make atonement for Israel (Num. 8:19).

God also used the High Priest to make atonement for Israel (Lev. 9:7).

The Torah teaches us that Israel was guided by a mediator. Men (and women) that God Himself chose to act as go-betweens. Sometimes it was a prophet, a king, or judge. Sometimes Israel listened and was blessed. Other times Israel was disobedient and suffered punishment.

A teaching that Israel never needed a mediator and doesn't need one now, is contrary to the Judaism that God Himself blessed and originated. It is contrary to what the Torah teaches.

Med-Messianic-SealOur Messiah In The Day Of Atonement Holiday:

Since this day is considered by most to be the holiest day of the year, we should be able to see the symbolism of the Messiah and how He fulfilled this holiday.

One of the reasons why God allowed the temple to be destroyed in 70 A.D. was there already existed another mediator, available in the form of faith in the messiah. God did not simply quit providing a way for us the sinners to have representation before Him. He did, however, give us the ultimate sacrifice, His Son, who now represents us (mediates) every day.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).

For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-- now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant (Hebrews 9:15).

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many....(Hebrews 9:28).

In reference to the two goats as the primary way of worship and atonement, consider this passage found in Isaiah.

Isaiah 53:6 "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

For more on this prophecy please read the Isaiah 53 Prophecy.

This passage is even found in the Day Of Atonement Prayer Book.

Here we see the Messiah (for Christians and Jewish believers it would be Jesus Christ), being both of the goats. Jesus becomes what the scapegoat symbolized, as He bears the burden of all of our sins, just like the Isaiah passage reads. In this case, the Messiah would literally fulfill this passage. Instead of the traditional interpretation of the goat bearing the sins only for the nation of Israel, they believe the goat was showing how symbolically, it bears the sins of those, both Jew and Gentile, who have faith in Christ. This group of people is sometimes referred to as "the body of Christ" or "the Church."  He is also the sacrificial goat (Azazel), where the blood that is shed is to atone for our sins.

During the Second Temple era, Rabbis recognized Isaiah 53 as a messianic passage. In an effort to refute Christian claims that this is a fulfilled messianic passage, modern day Judaism sees the goat as the nation of Israel. This is despite the fact that the grammar points to a singular rather than a plural sacrifice.

Since Jesus' sacrifice is eternal, there is no longer any need to have animal sacrifices, and this explanation would fit perfectly with wondering why God would allow the Temple to be destroyed in 70 A.D. Christians feel that God, in His sovereign grace, made the way for the replacement of the Old Testament laws concerning atonement, with the bringing in of the New Covenant that was predicted in Jeremiah 31:31.

Jesus is also the sacrificial goat similar to the Passover lamb, where the blood that is shed is to atone for our sins. Since Jesus is the eternal sacrifice, His atonement reached back into time and also ahead into the future. All people regardless of when they lived, if their repentance was sincere and if their faith in God's promise of acceptance with the substitute sacrifice was sincere, could be saved.

John knew this when he combined the meaning of the Passover Lamb with the Azazel goat.(9)

John 1:29 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Today, many believers in Jesus still use this day as a fast day, and an opportunity to give thanks to the lord, while spending time in prayer.

The Crimson String:

There was a ritual that involved tying a crimson string to the sanctuary. This string would change colors from crimson to white as a sign of God's forgiveness. For more on what happened to the string after Jesus' death please read Crimson Wool from the library.

Jesus As Our High Priest:

Out of all the ways that Yeshua (Jesus) can be seen in the Old Testament, His actions as high-priest our Cohen Hagadol (High Priest) are as important as any. The nation of Israel needed a High Priest to represent her on the Day of Atonement. This high priest would make intercession for Israel before God inside the Holy of Holies. Jesus Christ takes the place of our high priest. Judaism today no longer has a high priest because it no longer has a Temple. There is no high priest appointed by God to make intercession for Israel on a national level. There is, however, a place in the Yom Kippur service where symbolically the priest in the congregation comes up on the altar to recreate this event the best that they can. The rest of the congregation is forbidden at this time from looking at them. Most turn around or at least cover their head with a Tallit. Those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior also recognize that He is our high priest. The Book of Hebrews puts it this way:

"...when the Messiah appeared as Cohen Gadol (High Priest) of the good things that are happening already, then through the greater and more perfect Tabernacle which is not man-made (that is, it is not of this created world), he entered the Holiest place once and for all. And he entered not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus setting people free forever. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer restores their outword purity; then how much more the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal spirit, offered himself to God as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:11-14).

There are reasons why the Messiah's Priesthood Is Better Than Levitical Priesthood. The book of Hebrews helps to explain this.

Jesus priesthood is compared to that of Melchizedek.  Melchizedek's Priesthood Was Superior To The Levitical Priesthood.

In Jesus, the elements of the sacrificial system are found. He is the High Priest, the offering, and the altar itself. Jesus claimed to be the living temple.

For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; (Hebrews 9:24).

John 17 has been referred to as the "High Priestly Prayer." It is precisely for this reason that the Messiah, acting in His capacity as our High Priest, prays for Himself, His immediate family of disciples, and for the people of God - past, present and future. Instead of making an offering that must be repeated year after year, as the writer of the book of Hebrews stresses (Hebrews 7:26-27). Messiah offers His own body to be pierced for our transgressions, once and for all.(20)

Through Our Messiah We Are Reconciled:

Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:11).

Dr. Ruth Fleischer, Ph.D. writes, "The Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled ALL of the necessary conditions for 'Kippur'. His submission and obedience to God rose as sweet incense, as praise. He was the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek explained in Hebrews. He offered His life as substitutionary blood atonement made once and for all. He took upon Himself the sins of humanity and became anathema to his father for the sake of mankind. He rose to become the sacrifice that lived, a continuing reminder of His work for us. All that remains to complete the atonement process is for us to come to God as did the Israelites, in obedience and repentance."


Even for those who have put their saving faith in this High Priest Yeshua, there still are some actions we can take. It is good to acknowledge our sin before God daily with the help of the Holy Spirit's revelation. It is also good to pray for others who don't yet have a relationship with Jesus. This holiday is a great time to come humbly before God with prayer, fasting and thanksgiving.(14)

Unfulfilled Prophetic Significance:

In Zechariah Chapter 12 beginning in verse 10, we find an amazing prophecy yet to be fulfilled: "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son."(NIV) For more on this prophecy please read Look On Him Who They Have Pierced. Some day, Israel as a nation, will embrace her Messiah.

The prophecy goes on to state further that: "On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and impurity" (Zech. 13:1).

This is an amazing prophecy that foretells the national salvation of the Jewish People in Israel as they recognize Yeshua, the One they have rejected for almost 2000 years as the Messiah of Israel! That is another area of prophetic fulfillment, and it has yet to be fulfilled. Only when we see this happen will the great promise of Jeremiah 31:34: "And they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest," and Romans 11:26: "And so all Israel shall be saved," come to pass!(14)

For more on the prophetic role of Israel check out Israel In End Time Prophecy.

Med-Messianic_sealThis holiday may be partially fulfilled when individuals are forgiven by Christ blood providing the means of atonement. The full fulfillment may be found in Messiah's return when Israel is forgiven as a nation.(15)

Praise the Lord that there is no longer a yearly sacrifice needed any more.(15)

So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him (Hebrews 9:28).

Yom Kippur looks forward to the day prophesied by Isaiah, when "The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins" (Isaiah 59:20). Isaiah anticipated the Yom Kippur to end all Yom Kippurs. On that day the sins of Israel will be forgiven forever..."(15).

Share With Jewish Friends: yomkippur

One way to observe this holiday is to fast and pray with intercession, for those who don't know Jesus as their Messiah. The fast could be broken or finished at the same time as your Jewish friends at the end of the holiday. Show them that you too recognize that it is important to set aside a day where you reflect on your relationship with God. Then if they are willing you can share with them why Jesus Christ is your High Priest. Perhaps sharing a moment together to light a memorial candle at the beginning of the holiday (sundown) will offer the opportunity to think about just how temporary our lives on earth really are and what follows after death.

For a list of future holidays dates check the Master Calendar Table.


The scapegoat ceremony symbolized a transference of sin. Believers in Messiah also believe in a transference of sin.

A Connection between Purim and Yom HaKippurim: On Yom HaKippurim, (the full name of Yom Kippur), we strive for 25 hours to be like angels, suppressing our physical needs, and beseeching and praising G-d as do the angels. But strive as we may, we are not angels, and heaven is not our abode. Yom HaKippurim, in Hebrew can mean, a day like Purim. For Yom Hakippurim is as close as we can get to Purim itself! On Yom Hakippurim we begin with a festive meal before embarking upon our day long fast. On Purim, we begin with the Fast of Esther, and conclude with a day long celebration in which we hear the Megillat Esther, send charity to the poor, gifts of food to our friends, and enjoy a festive repast – a seudat mitzvah – literally a commanded meal.(21)

Because of the way the calendar is set up, Yom Kippur can not occur on the first, third, or sixth day of the week. This helps to deal with issues such as food preparation and burial issues along with the scheduling of the holiday Hoshanah Rabbah.(22)

Articles of interest include:


1). Arutz Sheva ( 10-8-2008

2). The Temple Institute. ( (10-2-2008 Newsletter).

3). Albert J. Kolatch, The Jewish Book of Why #2, pp.244-245. Quoted in source 11.

4). The Temple Institute. ( (7-30-2007 Newsletter).

5). The Feast of Israel by Bruce Scott of Friends of Israel Ministries.

6). Chabad of Peoria Jewish Art Calendar 5766.

7). Information from The Biblical And Historical Background Of The Jewish Holy Days, by Abraham P. Bloch is copyrighted material and was used with permission of the publisher. KTAV Publishing, 900 Jefferson Street. box 6249, Hoboken, NJ 07030-0102.

8). Messianic Perspectives published by the Christian Jew Foundation.

9). The Temple Institute. ( (7-30-2007 Newsletter).

10). Midwest Messianic Center (Chesterfield Mo.).

11). Music by Beethoven (The penultimate movement of the G Minor Quartet, opus 131).

12). Victor Buksbazen in his book The Feasts of Israel as referenced in source 11.

13). Artscroll Day of Atonement Prayer Book, The Complete Artscroll Mahzor p. 452.

14). Jewish Voice Today, September/October 2005.

15). A Rabbi Looks At The Last Days by Rabbi Jonathan Bernis p.175-176

16). The Complete ArtScroll Siddur published by Mesorah Publications, ltd. p.775.

17). The Complete Artscroll Machzor - Yom Kippur p.453.

18). Israel My Glory (A publication of Friend of Israel Ministries). Sept / Oct 2008 p.23

19). Christian Jew Foundation, Violette Berger, Messianic Perspectives Nov/Dec. 2004.

20). Chosen People Ministries Newsletter, September 2008.

21). The Temple Institute. ( (2-28-2007 Newsletter).

22). The Jewish Festivals by S.M. Lehrman p.186.

Also Contributing:

Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 5, p. 1384. Quoted in source 11.

Jews for Jesus Havurah newsletter, fall 2005.

Colossians 2:16-17

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