gratefully acknowledge Beth
Adonai for allowing us to use this material
the close of Rosh Hashanah begins the Ten Days of Awe, the ten day
countdown to Yom Kippur. These
awesome days emphasize our relationship with G-d, His holy nature
and our sinful nature. Approaching
Yom Kippur we concentrate on how to reconcile the gulf of sin that
separates us from Him. Traditionally
Yom Kippur is when the books of life and death are sealed, and
Jewish people will receive their coming judgment.
This is seen in the traditional greeting for this holiday,
"G'mar chatima tovah!", or "May you be sealed
in the Book of Life for a good year!".
At this time, the rabbis have commanded the people to begin
the process of repentance in the ten days between Rosh Hashanah
and Yom Kippur by turning, or returning, to the Lord.
Talmud says: “Remake yourselves by repentance during the ten
days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and on the Day of
Atonement, I [God] will hold you guiltless, regarding you as a
newly made creature.” As
believers in Yeshua, we know only the Messiah can make us new
creatures, and that we cannot remake ourselves.
What, then, is supposed to strike such “awe” at the
coming of Yom Kippur? Let's
Kippur is commonly known as the Day of Atonement.
Yom means “day” and Kippur means a “covering” or
related Hebrew word, "kapper", means "to
cover", as in the covering of sin G-d provides for His people
when they come before Him with the appropritate sacrifice.
G-d has spelled out what this sacrifice is to be:
the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you
on the alter to make atonement
yourselves; for it is the blood that makes atonement because of
the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.”
the Talmud agrees (Yoma 5a): “There is no atonement except
idea of sacrifice as a means of atoning for sins shows G-d's grace
and His willingness to forgive a sinful nation without them having
to die. G-d sees the person presenting the sacrifice has having
paid the price for their sin, covered with the blood.
This is the essence of the idea of the substitute
sacrifice, the death of what is innocent for that which has
sinned. It points to
the heart of the Brit Hadasha:
. . . the Messiah died for our sins . . .”
gave His life to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.
was to be set apart from all sin, and this was spelled out in the
Mosaic Law. The core
of this law is the sacrificial system.
This is evidence that God knew that Israel would not be
able to keep the law. The
Law was given to the nation of Israel to keep them holy.
The word holy, "kadosh" in Hebrew,
is used more than eighty different times in Leviticus
alone. It means
"separate", or "set apart".
you people are to be holy for me, because I, Adonai, am holy; and
I have set you apart
other peoples, so that you can belong to me.”
B'rit Hadashah refers to the Torah as good.
This good law is the same one that brings sins into the
the Torah is holy; that is, the commandment is holy, just and
we are aware of our sins we can come to the L-rd with the
substitute sacrifice, and in His mercy He will forgive us.
The sacrificial system is the core of the Torah, and is a
foreshadowing of the grace that would be given to us through
Elements of Yom Kippur
us the commandment to observe Yom Kippur:
LORD said to Moses, 
"The tenth day of this 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, wherever
you live.  It
is a 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."
this we have the date for Yom Kippur of the tenth of Tishri, the
seventh month. Its
observance is to be perpetual, in all dwelling places, pointing
out that it still has significance for us today.
We are to hold a "holy convocation", G-d's people
called together for His purposes.
calls for our undivided attention.
are also commanded to "deny ourselves", or "humble
our souls" under the penalty of being excommunicated if we do
not obey. What is the nature of this "denial"?
translate this humbling to mean “affliction of the soul.”
Not eating for twenty-four hours is seen by some as this
type of affliction. (...for some of us just skipping lunch is an
affliction!) The rabbis interpret this verse to mean that we must
restrain from our earthly appetites...take time out from our daily
ritual of meals. They reflect that we are meant to feel that the
natural course of life is suspended, as if we are dead, so as to
better embrace life. The
fast is so important to this day that it is also refered to as
“The Day of the Fast”, or simply “The Fast.”
35:13.connects fasting with humbling oneself:
when they were ill, I put on sackcloth
myself with fasting. The same idea is seen in
have we fasted,' they say, 'and
you have not seen it?
have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'
More important to G-d is our heart attitude than merely the act of
on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
exploit all your workers. G-d
prescribes a fast that reflects our proper attitude:
not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
the oppressed free and break every yoke?
is the way to get His attention...then He will hear our cry on Yom
you will call, and the LORD will answer;
will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“Sabbath of Sabbaths”
commandment that God gives us during Yom Kippur is that we must do
no work. It is said
to be the “Sabbath of Sabbaths.”
We are not to mix our daily routine with this holy day.
The punishment for not obeying this commandment is death!
God takes this holiday very seriously and He wants it to be
His day alone!
next commandment that God gives us is that we are to present Him
an offering. There
are to be many offerings during the day.
The whole chapter of Leviticus
16 is dedicated to describing these offerings.
It is also mentioned in Numbers
sacrifices are required because, during the time this feast was
implemented, it was the only way to access God.
He could not look upon sin, so an offering had to be made
to atone for the people’s sins before they could enter into His
Presence. The High
Priest was used as the mediator between the people and God.
It was no easy task to be a high priest because there was
much training and preparation involved.
Unfortunately, during the time of the Second Temple, the
system became corrupt and the Romans let the wealthy families
compete for the honor of becoming the High Priest.
the first High Priest was given a warning from God.
His instructions were that he was not to enter in to the
Holy of Holies except on the day of Yom Kippur or he would face
the punishment of death. Inside
this most holy place was the Ark of the covenant and the Mercy
Seat. Above this was
the Shekinah Glory, the visible presence of G-d in a cloud.
my face,’ he continued, ‘you cannot see, because a human being
cannot look at me and remain alive.’”
order of the High Priest's duties has been passed down through the
centuries, and is reflected in the order of service used today in
focus on the Yom Kippur ceremony was centered around the
Tabernacle. There was
much symbolism associated with the Tabernacle.
The original tent-like structure was made of cloth and
skins that would be carried from place to place as the nation of
Israel wandered in the wilderness and later in the Promised Land.
The floor plan of the temples built by Solomon, rebuilt at
the time of Ezra, and also constructed under King Herod followed
this same structure except they were much more opulent.
contents of the Tabernacle are as follows:
Located in the middle of the
Tabernacle was the courtyard.
This courtyard was surrounded by a fence and only had one
Directly in front of the
gate, on the inside of the fence, was a brazen alter.
This alter was used for sacrifices and burnt offerings.
that there was only one way to God, and that was through the
sacrifice of an innocent animal that would bear the guilt and
shame of the people.
Inside the Tabernacle was a
candelabra of God’s design.
The light shed from this candelabra illuminated the
services of all of the Holy Priests.
This single light is symbolized that only God can provide
illumination for the understanding of divine truth and worship.
Also inside the Tabernacle
was an alter of incense. The
Priests would burn this incense to symbolize the people’s
prayers. The fragrant
aroma from the incense would drift into the back third of the
Tabernacle that was also known as the Holy of Holies.
This paints a picture of our prayers continually coming
into God’s presence.
The Holy of holies was
separate from the rest of the Tabernacle by a heavy veil or
curtain. The burning
incense was thrust through the veil and this was to symbolize the
bathing of this place in prayer in order to prepare the way into
His holy presence.
Inside the Holy of Holies was
the Ark of the Covenant. Details
on the construction of this ark can be found in Exodus
37. It was
basically a wooden chest overlaid in gold.
Two angelic figures, called cherubim, were placed on the
lid facing one another. Their
wings spread out to cover the top of the ark, also called the
The significance of what was
contained in the ark is described in Hebrews
The stone tablets were the second set of the Ten
Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai.
(The first set was broken when Moses came down from Mount
Sinai and found the people in gross sin and worshipping a golden
calf. This can be
found in Exodus 32:4, 35.)
A pot of manna was put there to remind the people of their
complaining when God provided heavenly food for the in the
Aaron’s staff was also placed in the ark.
This staff had miraculously sprouted leaves. (Numbers
miracle occurred when a group of rebel leaders had tried to take
over leadership of the nation from Moses and Aaron.
God performed this miracle to show the people why they
should not reject His chosen leadership.
inclusion of these three items in the ark may be seen as man’s
utter rejection of God. They
first rejected the giving of His moral Law on the tablets.
Then they rejected His attempt to give them daily
provisions of food or manna.
Finally, Aaron's rod reminds us that they rejected His
word “transgression” in Leviticus
16:16, 21 reflects this idea of rejection.
This is the only place in all of Leviticus where this word
appears. The Hebrew
word for transgression, “Pesha,” has the implication of revolt
or rebellion. This is
the gravest word for sin that can be used.
is why sacrifices had to be made.
They covered the sins from God’s eyes.
For this reason, the lid of the ark was named the Mercy
Seat, in Hebrew "kippore", or "propitiation".
The Mercy Seat was the seat of atonement.
one came in faith with the atonement that God had prescribed, only
then could God display His mercy.
This all prefigured the atonement that would be provided by
Yeshua. In order to
see this more clearly, we must examine what the Priests did in the
Tabernacle. The blood
of sacrificed animals had to be used.
As mentioned earlier, Leviticus
17:11 tells us that the life of the animal is in the blood and
that it was given to us, on the alter, to make atonement for our
sins. Notice that God
specified that the blood was given on
the alter, the place He specified.
atoning for the sins of the people, the High Priest had to make
atonement for his own sins. Even
the High Priest Aaron was not above cleansing himself and his
family first before any redemption of the people could take place.
He brought a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for
the burnt offering.
Before the blood could be applied to the alter, Aaron
donned himself in special linen garments.
These did not include the breastplate with the urim and
thummim he and the other Priests to follow would wear on other
days. Those were instruments of communication between God and the
people. Only on Yom Kippur did the High Priest communicate with
God in His very presence on the Mercy Seat.
High Priest was to sacrifice two young goats for a sin offering
and a ram for a
offering. The two
goats were brought before the door of the Tabernacle.
were cast to determine which goat would be the one designated for
called "chatat", and which goat would be the scapegoat,
called "azazel", to
be led away to die in the wilderness.
entering the Holy of Holies, the High Priest would burn incense.
The smoke created from this incense shielded him from
actually seeing God’s presence, and symbolized the sweet aroma
of the people's prayers ascending to G-d.
then sprinkled the blood from the sacrificed goat, chosen by the
casting of lots, onto the Mercy Seat.
The blood of both the ram and the goat were sprinkled onto
the Mercy Seat. This
act made atonement for the Holy of Holies, the Tabernacle, and the
alter itself. Even
these inanimate objects had to be atoned for because they had
become filthy with the sins of the people.
these acts had been performed, the highlight of the Yom Kippur
service occurred - the ceremony of the scapegoat.
(This was the goat that was not immediately sacrificed
during the casting of the lots.)
is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over
it all the wickedness and
rebellion of the Israelites--all
their sins--and put them on the goat's head. He shall send the
goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the
task.  The goat
will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the
man shall release it in the desert.
High Priest would lay his hands on the animal and this would
symbolically transfer the sins of the people onto the scapegoat.
This is the substitute sacrifice, or "akedah", as
mentioned in the story of the "binding of Isaac" read on
two goats were considered as one offering.
This is seen in Leviticus
the Lord said “He is to take from the community of the people of
goats for a sin
offering . . .” The
slaughtered goat showed the congregation
God’s wrath was appeased, that their sins were covered.
live goat or scapegoat was sent into the wilderness bearing the
sins of Israel
showing the congregation that their sins had been removed.
Later in time,
were known to take this goat to a cliff where it was to be pushed
off to its
benefits of the elaborate Yom Kippur ritual were short-lived...it
was only effective as long as the Israelites remained completely
obedient to the Law, which unfortunately could not have been very
long. So each year
the sacrifices had to be offered again and again.
This is in bold contrast to the sacrifice of G-d's only
Son, Yeshua, done once and for all.
two goats were foreshadowing Yeshua’s sacrifice.
He paid the penalty of death for us as with the first
slaughtered goat, covering our
sins. He also removed our
sins as seen by the second goat, the scapegoat:
. . . Look! God’s
lamb! The one who is taking
way the sins of the world.”
was the final payment and sacrifice for sins, covering and
removing them so that we do not have to make atonement year after
Kippur in Yeshua’s Time
celebrated the holiday of Yom Kippur during the time of Herod’s
temple. There were
many striking differences during this time…
The Ark of the Covenant was
missing. It had been
carried off by the Babylonians and was never recovered.
(II Kings 24:13, II
Chronicles 36:7). The
elaborate ritual was still followed for the service, but minus the
ark and the Mercy Seat; therefore, the Lord’s presence no longer
filled the Holy of Holies. One
may wonder why the ceremony continued without this key
element...(it doesn't sound kosher to me!)
The High Priest had also
become corrupt at this time.
He had been appointed in Rome during the time of Herod and
won his office by treachery and bribes.
The High Priest actually had to stay up the night before
Yom Kippur for a crash course to insure that he would not make a
mistake! (It was no accident that Yeshua appeared on the scene at
this time to demonstrate the true
There were also a few
traditions that were added to the scapegoat ceremony.
According to the Mishna, lots were drawn to decide the fate
of both of the goats. The
lot for the sacrifice said “for the Lord” and the lot for the
scapegoat said “scapegoat.”
The people considered it a good omen if the lot “for the
Lord” came up in the Priests right hand.
Also, a red sash was tied to the scapegoats horns and a
portion of it was also tied to the door of the temple.
The sash on the temple turned from red to white as the goat
met its end in the wilderness, signifying to the people that God
had accepted their sacrifices and their sins had been atoned for.
This idea came from Isaiah
1:18 which says, “Even if your sins are like scarlet, they
will be white as snow . . .”
stated in the Mishna as well as the Talmud, four events occurred
during the forty years before the destruction of the temple which
foreshadowed its doom. (This
wouldhave started at the time when Yeshua was sacrificed once and
for all.) For forty
The lot that said “for the Lord” did not come in the
Priests right hand...this was considered a bad omen.
The portion of the red sash that was tied to the temple
door stopped turning white with the death of the sacrifice.
The westernmost light of the temple candelabra would not
burn. This was
crucial because this was the “shamish” used to kindle the
The temple doors opened by themselves.
The rabbis saw the ominous fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah
11:1 that says, “Open your doors, Lebanon, so that the fire
can consume your cedars.” In
fact, fires did consume the cedars of Lebanon that may have
adorned the inside of the temple.
the destruction of the temple animal sacrifices were not possible
as G-d had prescribed since the altar and High Priesthood were not
present. The rabbis
had to develope a “non-sacrificial” approach to God.
Moses Maimonides, an ancient sage, wrote that “repentance
atones for all transgression.”
The synagogue ritual by itself was performed in place of
the animal sacrifice. To
fill the gap of the missing blood atonement the rabbis substituted
the "three T's": “Tefilah,”
(prayer), “Teshuvah,” (repentance) and “Tzedakah”
these are admirable practices they cannot replace G-d's plan of
performed through fasting and other depravations came to
include a tradition of flogging, called "Malkut".
which contains 13 words, was recited three times while a person
receives thirty-nine lashes.
This is mostly symbolic because the person usually wore a
heavy coat. (It is
interesting to note that the thirty-nine lashes is the same
punishment that Pilate gave Yeshua.)
echo of temple sacrifices is also seen in the Yom Kippur custom of
this ceremony, a rooster for males and a hen for females was waved
over the head three times while declaring that these animals were
substitutes for people. The
bird was then slaughtered and given as charity.
In more modern times money is placed in a handkerchief,
waved overhead, and given to the poor. The study of the Torah and
Talmud are also seen as a substitute, as well as special prayers,
"Shlicot", offered at midnight the month prior to Yom
must note that God has never changed!
He still requires sacrifices.
Man implemented these customs and traditions to fill the
gap when the ritual system was done away with by Yeshua’s
has developed many other elaborate methods of atonement as
recorded in various rabbinic commentaries. However, the fact
remains that traditional Jewish people still ache for the day when
the temple will be rebuilt and sacrifices will be restored.
In Israel, plans are already under way for this new temple,
complete with a restoration of the High Priesthood and the
may be joyous at Yom Kippur because we do not have to wonder if
our repentance has been adequate.
put Yeshua forward as the kapparah for sin through his
faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death.
and its Greek equivalent, "propitiation",
are both used to translate “Mercy Seat.”
When we receive atonement through Yeshua, we have a
right-standing with God - even better than any brought about
through the sacrifices of bulls and goats.
book of Hebrews portrays Yeshua as the fulfillment for Yom Kippur.
portrays Yeshua as the perfect High Priest.
He is innocent, undefiled by sin, and does not need to make
atonement for his own sins like the temple High Priests had to do.
priesthood was to last forever, but with the destruction of the
temple, Aaron’s descendents could not be traced.
tells us that Yeshua is to abide forever and hold the permanent
that Yeshua is ministering in the true, heavenly tabernacle and is
continually in the presence of God.
This is a much more majestic sanctuary than any that had
been constructed on earth. Hebrews
9 and 10 as well as Psalm
40:6-8 tell us that the sacrificial system in Leviticus was a
foreshadowing of Yeshua. The
blood of bulls and goats merely covered people’s sins, but the
blood of Yeshua removed them from us.
average person could never approach the Holy of Holies and the
High Priest could only approach it once a year.
When Yeshua was sacrificed, the heavy veil in front of the
Holy of Holies was torn. This
was symbolic that those who trust in Him can have a true Yom
Kippur experience and may be shown God’s mercy.
We can rejoice in God’s plan of forgiveness!
us how to approach Yom Kippur as believers in Messiah:
let us approach the Holiest Place with a sincere heart, in full
assurance that comes from trusting - with our hearts sprinkled
clean from a bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure
Kippur Compared to Rosh Hashanah
can now see the relationship between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The shofar blast on Rosh Hashanah is a call to repentance
("t'shuvah"), or a turning from a sinful way of life.
This change of heart must take place first before the
redeeming sacrifices of Yom Kippur can be accepted.
God gave the Israelites ten days, the Days of Awe, to
consider their ways and turn their hearts towards Him.
you do not want sacrifices or I would give them; you do not take
pleasure in burnt offerings.
sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; God, you won’t spurn a
broken, chastened heart.”
Yom Kippur animal sacrifices were only effective when presented
with this repentant heart. This
is what was promised through Yeshua in the New Covenant.
The law was to be written on our hearts:
is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
that time," declares the LORD." I will put my law in
write it on their hearts I will be their God, and they will be my
next of the fall feasts is Sukkot (or the Feast of Tabernacles).
This is traditionally called the “season of joy.”
As it is true with all of us, the children of Israel could
only rejoice once they were redeemed and their sins had been
order can be seen in our fall feasts:
Rosh Hashanah brings repentance.
Yom Kippur brings forgiveness.
Sukkot brings joy.
Nidre, one of the most emotional chants of the Yom Kippur service,
is translated as “all vows” and is in the form of a legal
formula. It is
required to be recited in a "court" of three witnesses,
traditionally two people holding Torahs standing on either side of
the person reading. It's
words are Aramaic and express a consciousness of man's inability
to keep in full his vows, promises, and obligations to G-d.
It formally renounces any oaths or vows that have been made
under duress or unwittingly.
This is not a plea for cancellation of legitimate vows
between man and man, but it recalls some of the sad episodes in
Jewish history when, because of religious persecution, Jews were
forced to renounce their faith in G-d.
It recalls the times in history when the Jewish people have
not always been free to worship as Jews.
I tell you this, on the Day of Judgment people will have to give
account for every
word they have spoken.”
don’t swear by your head, because you can’t make a single hair
white or black. Just
be a simple ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be a simple ‘No’;
anything more than this has its origin in
any of us say we have perfectly kept all of our promises from last