Shabbat Yom HaKippurim (Day of Atonement) Leviticus 16:1-34
Maftir: Numbers 29:7-11
Haftarah: Isaiah 57:14-58:14
Minchah: The book of Jonah
Because this Shabbat is the Day of Atonement, the normal Torah reading is postponed to the following week and the reading for this special festival day is read. The entire 16th chapter of the book of Leviticus is about the work of the high priest and him securing atonement for the people. There are many different and important aspects to this festival day, but for this article we shall only focus on one of these— access. By means of the work of atonement the high priest receives access to the holy of holies where he is able to present to HaShem an incense offering. Often when discussing the many different things that the high priest is called to do on this day, the incense offering is forgotten. There is a tendency to focus almost exclusively on the blood service.
The reason for this is obvious, for it is with blood and not the incense that atonement is made. Nevertheless, it is the incense offering that reveals why one should desire atonement to begin with. The incense is seen has a gift to HaShem and, like the incense offerings that are made throughout the year upon the incense altar (See Exodus 30:1-10), it is a sweet aroma to the L-rd. The key idea here is that the incense offering is intended to be pleasing to G-d. In other words, the high priest first makes atonement for himself so that he can have special access to the holy of holies whereby he first and foremost makes the incense offering. After this, he begins the second part of his work which is achieving atonement for the people. Although we usually focus on this aspect, it is the incense offering that teaches the reader what atonement allows man to do. First, it allows man to present to the L-rd a gift and second to be used by Him in regard to some aspect of the establishment of His Kingdom.
Although forgiveness is an integral part of the Day of Atonement, one must pay special attention to the purpose of forgiveness. The reason why one should want to receive forgiveness from HaShem is so that one can behave in a way that is pleasing to Him. The Day of Atonement brought about a transformation to the individual so he can approach the living G-d in a manner that he may glorify HaShem.
In the same way that without the high priest the purposes of Yom Kippur could never be fulfilled; so too is our dependency on our Great High Priest Messiah Yeshua. Through His work of atonement and even redemption, the believer experiences not only forgiveness, but the very anointing of the Holy Spirit which equips the man of faith to become an instrument which HaShem will want to use for His purposes.
Shabbat Shalom and Yom Tov.
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