Why Does Yom Kippur Matter?

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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:

“This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble yourselves and not do any work, whether the native, or the stranger who resides among you;  for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is to be a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, so that you may humble yourselves; it is a permanent statute. So the priest who is anointed and ordained to serve as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement: he shall put on the linen garments, the holy garments, and make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar. He shall also make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.Now you shall have this as a permanent statute, to make atonement for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year.” And just as the LORD had commanded Moses, so he did.
Leviticus 16:29–34

One of the most interesting things about these verses is the phrase, “permanent statute…” What are the implications of these words? Why should I, a Jewish follower of the Messiah, who believes that He already made the sacrifice for me, not just once a year, but forever, continue to follow the instructions from Leviticus 16:29–34?

I believe that the answer is found in the scripture above. In these verses, it is clear that the gathering and the sacrifice are not for individuals, but rather for the entire people. It is a collective atonement, which is echoed in other prophecies in Scripture. There is a prophetic element running through Scripture that speaks of a time when all of Israel will collectively be saved. One of the most striking examples is in the book of Zechariah, where the prophet tells of a time when Israel will collectively recognize and receive her Messiah in a moving display of mourning:

And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and of pleading, so that they will look at Me whom they pierced; and they will mourn for Him, like one mourning for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
Zechariah 12:10–12

Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) also refers to this important theological idea of collective atonement when he writes to the Romans:

For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be ignorant of this mystery - lest you be wise in your own eyes —that a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;  and in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer shall come out of Zion. He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.
And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”
Romans 11:25–27

Even our Messiah spoke of a collective salvation and redemption of Israel. While still on earth, Yeshua spoke prophetic words over Jerusalem and her future redemption, which I personally believe may be connected to Yom Kippur:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who have been sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS THE ONE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'
Matthew 23:37–39

It is important to clarify that individuals are still responsible for their lives, and for the choices that each one makes. This does not take away from the fact that each person will give an account of him or herself on Judgment Day (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12). It is possible that there will be many Jewish people who, even after experiencing what the prophet Zechariah writes about, will still reject Messiah Yeshua. But the incredible move of the Spirit in that moment will be so compelling, that I wonder if it will be harder to reject Him than to accept Him.

My dear bothers and sisters, there is only one time a year when Israel, as a whole, gathers together for a time of fasting and prayer in repentance for our sins, which ends with the blowing of the shofar ("trumpet"). While we seek the LORD for forgiveness for our iniquities, the truth is that, as we find in the verses from Leviticus 16 and others, God’s requirement for the atonement of sin has always included a blood sacrifice. This is exactly what He ultimately provided for us in His Son.

Please join me and the entire assembly of Israel as we reflect, pray, and repent before the Almighty, not just as an act of obedience but also as an expectation for the coming redemption of Israel.


Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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