Yom HaKippurim— The Day of Atonement
Torah portion is from Acharei Mot: Leviticus 16
Maftir: Numbers 29:7-11 Haftarah: Isaiah 57:14-58:14
Many authorities state that the Day of Atonement is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Perhaps this is because dealing with the problem of sin is of the utmost importance. This year we have been focusing on the prophetic passages that are read in the synagogue each Shabbat. This week, Shabbat has an added significance, as Yom Kippur falls on a Shabbat. Normally when a fast day falls on Shabbat we postpone the fast to the first day of the week as was done with the fast of Gedaliah this week; but not so for Yom HaKippurim—when the Day of Atonement falls on Shabbat we still fast.
In the prophetic passage that is read on Yom Kippur there is an important phrase. This phrase speaks about HaShem and states,
“For thus says the One Who is exalted and lifted up and dwells forever Holy is His name…”
This passage was chosen for the Day of Atonement because it reminds us that there is a great distance between us and the Holy G-d. Later on in this same verse one reads,
“…I dwell with the contrite and lowly in Spirit to make alive the spirit of the lowly and to make alive the heart of the contrite one.”
It is in the second half of this verse that one learns that man is unable to close the gap between himself and this Holy G-d. Rather he must recognize his spiritual condition and trust in the Merciful G-d to deal with his sin. This is what the Day of Atonement is about. It is not a difficult message to comprehend, but truly being one that is humble / lowly in spirit and having a contrite heart is not easily achieved. If one reads the rest of the haftarah, which I strongly recommend, he will see how over and over the emphasis of this passage is on the individual to fast and to afflict himself properly. Merely saying the prayers and denying oneself food and water is not the sum total of what HaShem desires.
In Isaiah chapter 58 (See verses 4-12) one sees how fasting properly can bring about a great change in one’s behavior and attitudes toward others. When you fast this Shabbat, pay attention to the following week and check if your fasting impacted you in the week to follow and hopefully indefinitely. Fasting has a goal— to weaken the flesh so that the Spirit may work in one’s life, manifesting the character of Messiah to others.
Traditionally one wishes others a “tzom kal” (may you have an easy fast). I hope you have an effectual one.
Shabbat Shalom and Yom Tov
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