Yom Kippur | The Thriller?

By Jonathan Moore
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Posted in Jewish HolidaysYom Kippur on September 24, 2017

Cue the dark and mysterious music in your head. Dim the lights. A little more. Now whisper with me in grave tones…The Day of Atonement. It sounds like something out of a thriller movie. “The Day of Atonement (bum bumbummm)!”

So like any good Messianic Jew, we usually refer to it by the Hebrew name: Yom Kippur. For those of us who have “celebrated” this “holiday,” we still have come to feel the somber and even dark sense this holy day usually conveys. Most of us don’t celebrate—rather commemorate by fasting food and drink from sundown to sundown. Traditionally, we sing specific prayers special to the holiday, and we wear white clothes. We do no work whatsoever. And in Israel, only emergency vehicles are allowed to drive on the roads.

At the second sundown and the end of the prayers, we blow the shofar or ram’s horn. All these customs have meaning and, to be honest, multiple interpretations of meaning. The study of Jewish tradition and oral law is almost endless, so the following will only deal with raw scripture.

Even still, it is sometimes difficult to reconcile the commandments from Leviticus 16, Leviticus 23:26-27, and Numbers 29:7-11 with the realities we see in Yeshua and the early believing communities. Should we really still be “afflicting ourselves” as is mentioned in Leviticus 23:27? What about sacrificing of animals on altars? I do believe that if I saw my neighbor doing that in the town I live (outside Jerusalem), I’d probably call the police or at the very least be convinced he was in a cult.

If the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God and “all scripture is useful for teaching, for reproof, for restoration, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 TLV), then what purpose do the explanations have for me and you today?

We should understand first and foremost that at the center of God’s commands concerning Yom Kippur, there is a meeting between God and man in the Holy of Holies. We cannot easily imagine this scenario, but think something along the lines of the most spiritually intense place on earth—more intense than Luke Skywalker going into the scary tree in “Star Wars,” and more intense than any new age festival. It was legitimately the presence (Shekinah) of the Creator of the Universe that allowed only one select person from a select tribe from a select nation to enter once a year to meet with the most powerful being in all of history. Wow!

The second most important element is the forgiveness of sin. The fairly elaborate explanation of how this is done has plenty of nuggets that we can extrapolate into our own lives. At the most simplified level, animals are sacrificed and their blood is displayed publicly in order to “make atonement…for all Israel.” There is one bizarre element in this ritual in which the High Priest is instructed, “lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities of the Israelites and all their transgressions, all their sins” (Lev 16:21). Then the goat is sent into the wilderness because “the goat will carry all their iniquities by itself into a solitary land” (Lev 16:22). What?

Let’s repeat our mantra until we calm down… “All scripture is useful… All scripture is useful… All scripture is useful…”

Somehow a stain that cannot be removed and has been killing us since the fall of Adam is drawn out of us and put into a poor little goat. I picture this as a dark, oily liquid virus that gets in our blood like leukemia killing our bodies. Then the doctor of all doctors comes and gives us a supernatural blood transfusion which sucks up all that dark, oily blood and puts it into a goat leaving us with pure blood once again.

For anyone with ears to hear, this sounds a lot like Yeshua, who took our sins upon Himself to give us life. He was the ultimate sacrifice which was made once and lasts forever (Hebrews 10:12). This connection gives fullness to the meaning of the goat that is slain, but also the goat that is sent away. It is deep and can be meditated on for hours and hours. I suggest a thorough reading of the Yom Kippur verses alongside of Hebrews chapters 4-10.

We cannot avoid the concluding statement in Hebrews 10:17-18 which states, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more. Now where there is removal of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.”

When we have declared Yeshua as our Savior, when we follow him and are filled with the Holy Spirit, why do we need Yom Kippur?!

Let’s bring all that we’ve discussed together. First, believers can still meet with God on this special day just like we meet with him every Shabbat or on other holidays. God is omnipresent and can speak to us at any time or at any place. Why then do we bother to set aside quiet times with God? For that matter, if you love your spouse and are committed to him/her, why celebrate anniversaries?

Just because we are forgiven daily when we confess our sins, there are special times that God sets aside for us to meet with him on various topics. Yom Kippur provides a set time that we can use to do a deeper dive into where God still wants to work in us.

The most amazing part of Yom Kippur is the sundown, which closes it. I’m not only talking about the amazing meal many of us share to break the fast, but the feeling we have that God has truly forgiven us of everything we could possibly think to confess. No matter the depth of lust, pride, anger, envy, or greed, even the most shameful of wrongs…are gone. God dealt with it, and we get to walk in freedom once again.

Let’s repent every day of our sins so that every day we can experience the post-Yom Kippur joy. Let’s approach all of life with the freedom of Yom Kippur closing evening.

So even though Yom Kippur starts with the dark mysterious music and dim lights—perhaps on the pathway to a thriller movie, it ends with the thrill and beauty of a new dawn, a fresh spring breeze at your back, and heavenly music cheering you on.

Jonathan Moore co-leads Ahavat Yeshua Congregation in Jerusalem, Israel. He successfully married up to Simcha Naomi (Juster) Moore in 2008, and they have three young children. Jonathan has been called to bring business and ministry together and also leads a consulting practice helping Israeli startups connect to investors and other entrepreneurial initiatives connecting believers to Israel. Jonathan has a passion for leadership, home groups, discipleship, and professional sports of Washington, D.C. (his hometown).

For an authentic Purim recipe from Yiddish Mama’s Kitchen, click here: Yiddish Mama’s Kitchen