The “ten days of repentance” include Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the days in between, during which time Jews contemplate repentance and ask for forgiveness from anyone they have wronged. The Ten Days allow each Jewish person to mend her ways to balance the scale of good and bad deeds in life.
Yom Kippur is a fasting holiday and considered one of the most holy days of the Jewish calendar. It falls on the Hebrew calendar on the ninth of Tishri. As all Jewish holidays, it begins at sunset on that day and continues until nightfall. It is a day to “afflict the soul” and to make right the sins of the past year.
Jewish people fast and attend synagogue for most of the day. They walk to the synagogue, wear all white, and do not wear leather on their feet. Fasting means they do not eat or drink water. The white clothing is a symbol and reflection of the Scripture from Isaiah 1:18 that although our “sins may be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
On Yom Kippur sins committed against another cannot be covered until one has tried to make things right with the person that has been wronged. It is customary to visit friends or family that have been wronged in the past year and ask forgiveness. Stolen objects must be returned and gossip must be confessed. Things need to be made right. A ritual bath called mikvah is used on Yom Kippur. It is a symbol for rebirth and for repentance or Tushuvah.
There is also a ceremony called the kaparot that symbolizes atonement. A chicken is taken and waved over one’s head while reciting proscribed verses found the Yom Kippur special prayer book (machzor). Then the chicken or kaparot is redeem for money and given to the poor.
Today there is a phenomenon occurring globally that some people cut themselves with knives or whatever, just to draw blood. The pain inside the human heart is so great that it seems reasonable to some to let blood. This is twisted but stems from our foreboding intuition that our sin must be covered. Emotional pain and sin are often inextricably bound together. Just like pain signals sickness in the body, so pain signals “soul sickness” in the spiritual realm.
When the Temple was destroyed in AD 70, it became impossible for the Jewish people to make sacrifice for their sins with the blood of bulls and goats, etc. It became impossible for them to send a scapegoat out into the wilderness to carry their sins. In the Diaspora, rabbis developed new rituals for covering sin–good works, good deeds, seeking restitution on Yom Kippur. All of these things are good, but do not bear the load of sin.
Life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11).
“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:22).
Chicken blood doesn’t lift the stain and burden of sin, but Lamb’s blood does. His blood was shed once for all sin and all men.