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The Destination! - Yom Kippure - the Day of Atonement Fast on a Holiday?

Yom Kippure - the Day of Atonement Fast On A Holiday ? by Terri Gillespie


The Lord said to Moses, "the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement.  Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the Lord by fire.  Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God.  Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people.  I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day.  You shall do no work at all.  This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, where ever you live.  It is the Sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves.  From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your Sabbath."

Leviticus 23:26-32


Yom Kippur has long been considered the holiest day in the Jewish biblical calendar.  The name itself describes the history of the holy day for it was on this very day, once a year, that the high priest would enter the holy of holies to make atonement for the nation of Israel.  In a word, Yom Kippur illustrates rebirth for those who follow God's way of atonement.


Leviticus 16 goes into detail about the ceremony, which centers on the sacrifices of two goats.  One goat, called Chatat was to be slain as a blood sacrifice to symbolically cover the sins of Israel.  The blood of the slain goat was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest (Cohen) entered the Holy of Holies and only on Yom Kippur.


The other goat, called Azazel, or scapegoat, was not killed.  The priest would lay his hands on the head of the goat as he confessed the sins of the people.  Then the goat was set free in the wilderness symbolically taking the sins of the nation out from their midst.


God’s atonement was given to the people via an innocent sacrifice.


Rosh HaShannah (see Rosh HaShannah article) focuses on self-examination and repentance; we see that Yom Kippur’s natural next step is to atone for those sins. God’s specific instructions to accomplish this reconciliation between He and the Jewish people laid the groundwork for atonement only through sacrifice.


Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 are powerful explanations of God’s unfolding of His desire to connect with a sinful people and bring them into covenant with Himself. And that was God’s intent for the sacrificial system: a way to reconcile a sinful people with a Holy God through vicarious sacrifice. (Watch for future articles about the astonishing symbolisms of the Tabernacle.)


Jesus/Yeshua’s sacrifice was our eternal blood atonement. In 70 AD, the Temple was destroyed and most of the Jewish people dispersed throughout the nations. The priests and rabbis who did not believe that Jesus fulfilled the Yom Kippur mandate had a quandary—with the Temple destroyed the sins of the people could not be atoned for each year. Over the years, the rabbis substituted the blood sacrifice in the Holy of Holies with Tefilah (prayer), teshuvah (repentance) and tzedakah (charity). What a poor substitution for God’s command and Jesus’ fulfillment.


Today there are Orthodox Jewish sects who desire to see the Temple rebuilt and the reinstitution of animal sacrifices in Israel.  The "Temple Mount Faithful" are actively reproducing the holy vessels and priestly garments to prepare for the coming Temple.  They have attempted to replace the first cornerstone of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, strongly believing that such a structure will be rebuilt soon!


While the vast majority of Jews—most especially Messianic Jews (Jews who believe in Jesus)—see these things as an aberration, it nonetheless points out the need for atonement as spoken of in the Bible. 


Leviticus 23 states that on Yom Kippur, Israel is to humble their soul.  The Hebrew word is oni—to “fast".  Oni is also used in Isaiah 58:5 as individuals specifically going without food.


Yom Kippur stands alone as the biblical fast day.  Before sundown, when the fast begins, it is customary to have a holiday meal.  In fact, it is a requirement in order to truly set apart the fast day!  As with the other holy days, the table is set with the best linens and dishes.  White is still an appropriate color for linens and clothing.  It symbolizes the hope of the high holy days, the cleansing from our sins (see Isaiah 1:18).  The two candles are lit and the blessings are said over the wine in the challah bread.


After the festival meal, just before dark, Yom Kippur commences.  The fast continues from sundown on the ninth of Tishri until sundown on the 10th.  And, mind you, when Jews fast, it’s taken seriously!  No food, not even water.  Jews are encouraged to abstain from all luxuries for those 24 hours.  No unnecessary entertainment, etc.  Please note that the rabbis are quick to point out that the fast is only applicable to healthy adults past permits the age (13).  Anyone with health problems or who are pregnant or nursing is exempt from the past.


The prophetic fulfillment of Yom Kippur can clearly be understood in its name the Day of Atonement.  The New Testament takes on a special significant as we see Jesus/Yeshua our Messiah paying the price on the cross. 


Some believers question whether to fast since we are already forgiven in the Messiah.  While it is true that believers do not fast to obtain forgiveness, there are some benefits to fasting.


Jesus/Yeshua spoke of the blessings of the fast.  Although the question of salvation is already settled by faith in Jesus/Yeshua, believers are still in constant need of returning to a purer walk with the Father.  Fasting can sensitize our spirits to the heart of God.


Many Messianic Jews and Gentiles fast on Yom Kippur—but for another reason.  Yom Kippur is the one day of the religious year on which Jews around the world are packed into synagogues, what a perfect time to intercede for the salvation of Israel (Romans 10:1).


If you are unable to attend a Messianic congregation, why not plan your own service for your family and friends.  You have the greatest textbook for planning such a celebration: your bible.  Choose some songs in Scripture that emphasize the theme of forgiveness in Jesus/Yeshua.  Combined with the fasting and prayer, any group has the potential for an inspiring Yom Kippur service.


By the following day, the stomach is testifying that this is a serious time of seeking God.  For those who want the full Jewish experience, continue to fast, even without water, until sundown.  Yom Kippur Day is another time for worship services with the community of believers.  The theme is the same: repentance and—for believers—rejoicing in God's plan of forgiveness.


The afternoon might be spent at home resting and further meditating on the importance of the day, or intercession for family and/or friends’ salvation.  When the fast is over, celebrate your break-the-fast with sweet wine/juice and challah bread (see article on the Sabbath for recipe) and celebrate the redemptive power of Jesus/Yeshua’s blood atonement for us!


Blessed be the Lord God, who has secured us as His own in Yeshua the Messiah!  That is what Yom Kippur is all about for those who call in His name.


Read More About It: God’s Appointed Times, by Messianic Rabbi Barney Kasdan, Lederer Ministries, 1993, 2007. Celebrating Biblical Feasts—in Your Home or Church, by Martha Zimmerman, Bethany Books, 1981, 2004.




Oh, sorry. This is a day of fasting.



NEXT TIME: Sukkot—The Feast of Tabernacles. Let’s build a house!


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