Why I Observe Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is the most solemn day on the Hebrew calendar.  It exists as a direct fulfillment of God’s command to the ancient, wandering Israelites after they were freed from slavery in Egypt:

“And this shall be a permanent statute for you:  in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls, and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you: you shall be clean from all your sins before the LORD…” Leviticus 16:29-30

The Day of Atonement was intended to be a yearly gathering of the people called “Israel”; it was intended to serve as a collective reminder of the forgiveness of sin as a nation.  It did not replace the need for forgiveness of sin on an individual level.  God always required the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin (Leviticus 17), from the time of the earliest sacrificial system in the desert Tabernacle to the ultimate sacrifice of the perfect Lamb, Yeshua, on the tree.

Today, while the majority of Jewish people do not recognize the atonement of sin through Yeshua (although this is changing…), they do understand that sin requires forgiveness, and this is why Yom Kippur exists to this day.  Today, there is no Temple in which to make the required sacrifices, so there is no shedding of blood.  This is definitely problematic.  The Jewish people instead have sought the forgiveness of sin through a day of fasting, solemn reflection, and prayers crying out to the LORD for forgiveness.  Jewish believers in Messiah understand, however, that the final payment for sin was made two thousand years ago when Messiah suffered and shed His blood for the ultimate atonement of our souls.

So why, then, do I, a Jewish believer in Yeshua, who has accepted and submitted myself to the atonement He made, choose to observe Yom Kippur?  First of all, God established this day as a permanent statute.  That means it’s forever, unchangeable.  While I accept my personal forgiveness of my sin through Yeshua, I am still a part of the Jewish people, and we have been commanded to take a Sabbath day on the 10th day of the 7th month to humble [our] souls before the LORD as a nation.

My personal conviction is that I can join with the other Jewish people on this day, and collectively recognize our sin against God Almighty as a people.  While I may have a different understanding of the forgiveness of sin than other Jewish people who have not accepted the atonement of Yeshua, we are still part of the people “Israel”, and we are not exempt from God’s teaching in Scripture. Observing Yom Kippur is not a means of salvation for my soul; Yeshua’s blood is the only acceptable atonement for me.   Do I believe that fasting food and drink (including water) for one day will forgive my sins?  No.  Do I believe that prayers can substitute the shedding of blood for atonement?  No. I do believe, however, that obedience to God’s commands, out of love for Him and being led by His Holy Spirit, can only bring blessing and so I choose to obey.

Again, it is the issue of corporal versus individual forgiveness of sin; one does not necessarily negate the other.  I believe that the individual atonement for sin has already been given through Messiah’s shedding of blood.  But what can we say about the corporal forgiveness of sin?  What of the entire nation of Israel, God’s beloved?

This is yet to be fulfilled, in my opinion.  As all the other biblical feasts and appointed times, Yom Kippur is prophetic.  Zechariah 12 speaks of Israel’s physical and spiritual salvation in the final days.  The first part of the chapter (verses 1-9) foretells how God will physically defend Jerusalem against the nations who came against her.  The second half of the chapter (verses 10-14) foretells of the spiritual salvation of the entire nation of Israel:

“And I will pour out of the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced: and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born…” Zechariah 12:10

I cannot help but read these verses with intense emotion filling my heart.  There are no words to adequately express the moment when Israel collectively recognizes her Messiah!  This will not be a time of rejoicing, but of mourning, because Israel will finally recognize the One whom they have pierced…the Promised One that they initially rejected, but who in His grace and intense love, did not reject them.  Israel’s collective recognition of Yeshua, the Anointed One, will come during a time of intense suffering and trial.  But the Kingdom of Messiah will be established shortly thereafter (Zechariah 14), and finally, peace will reign on the earth.  And as Paul wrote in the book of Romans, chapter 11:15, “…For if their [Israel’s] rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”. (emphasis mine)

So how will I be observing Yom Kippur this year? I intend to join the people of Israel – the Jewish people and those who have chosen to align themselves with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – in “humbling my soul”, fasting both food and drink from sundown to sundown, reading Scripture, and confessing my shortcomings to the LORD, all the while interceding for Israel’s salvation in Messiah Yeshua.  I will also take time to rest, and be with my family, as it is after all, a day of rest in the LORD.

And so it is with this hope for true salvation and forgiveness for the nation of Israel that I can sincerely say “G’mar Hatima Tovah”. May your name be inscribed in the Book of Life, in Messiah Yeshua.

By M. Rosenblit

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