“Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God.”
— Leviticus 23:27–28
In 1973, the Jews of Israel faced enemies both north and south as Egypt and Syria made a surprise attack on the most holy day of the Jewish year. The day of reflection and confession was replaced by a long battle for survival. This year the situation is less dire. With the Gaza conflict temporarily resolved, the most serious things many American Jews are concerned about are whether to watch professional baseball or attend Homecoming dances which fall on the holy day. Yom Kippur begins at sundown this Friday, October 3, as the new day begins on the Jewish calendar. All day on the 10th of Tishri, Jews will take off work and fast for this holy and most solemn day of repentance and reconciliation.
The 2014 baseball season is moving toward its finale, and diehard baseball fans who are also Jewish are stressing because the first games of the playoffs fall on Yom Kippur and while television isn’t outlawed on the holy day, its use is supposed to be “minimized.”
“I just don’t know,” said Washington Nationals fan Linda Goldstein. “The whole point is to be contemplative and in prayer, and considering your sins, and reflecting. I’m just not sure if having the game on, even with the sound off, is really in the spirit. I’m not sure.” Goldstein clearly wants to watch her team play.
In Saline, Michigan, the high school eliminated the quandary for Jewish students by moving Homecoming to another weekend. The football game and dance will be held on the weekend of October 24–26 to present the fewest conflicts for students.
While the rocket attacks from Gaza have been stemmed, Israel is still in a more sober position than American issues of baseball and Homecoming can represent. Americans can drive from San Francisco to Washington DC in half a week and the biggest nuisance they have to deal with are some toll roads and long hours between gas stations. Israelis cannot drive through Syria, Iraq, and Iran for the fun of visiting new towns and regional neighbors, for trying new foods and learning local customs, ending up at Baku, Azerbaijan for a nice holiday on the Caspian Sea. Not if they value their lives and freedom.
This Yom Kippur, Israelis still have enemies on their borders. They will remember the recent beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, a Jew who was also an Israeli citizen. Five days after Yom Kippur, Jews will celebrate Sukkot, the Feast of Booths, when they remember their ancestors’ time wandering in the desert. They are not free to wander in the same desert.
The Messiah of Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur is a sober holiday. It was on this day — the only day — that the High Priest was able to enter the Holy of Holies, and then only after elaborate ceremonial washings, offerings, and associated rituals. This was also the day that two goats were selected, one for an offering and one as the “scapegoat.” As many aspects of the feasts were prophetic, the scapegoat is also Messianic. The ceremonial acts that were to be carried out by the High Priest on Yom Kippur are described in Leviticus 16 (see also Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 23:27–31, 25:9; Numbers 29:7–11). Since the loss of the Temple in A.D. 70, the God-centered observances of the Torah have been replaced with a man-centered, good works system of appeasement through prayer, charity, and penitence.
Yom Kippur traditionally ends with one long note of the Shofar, a musical instrument usually made from a ram’s horn. The significance of the ram’s horn is traditionally rooted in Genesis 22. Here God commands Abraham ”Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Abraham is called upon by God to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as a test of his faith. After God halts the sacrifice at the last minute, Abraham spies a ram trapped by his horns in a nearby thicket and offers the animal instead as a sacrifice.
It is interesting to note that this is the first instance in which the word “love” appears in Scripture. God commands Abraham to sacrifice “thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest.” In this passage Isaac is identified as Abraham’s only son, and Ishmael is not mentioned as Abraham acts out prophecy. This strange event foreshadowed Christ’s death on the cross as a substitutionary offering for our sins. In fact, it may have even taken place at the very same spot where the “only begotten Son” of God was later crucified.
God’s plan for the redemption of mankind is woven throughout the Old Testament feasts. Those of us who have placed our trust in Jesus Christ are able to enter behind the veil and stand in the Holy of Holies. We have forgiveness because of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. He is our scapegoat. His blood was sprinkled for our atonement, and because of him we are cleansed and made holy before God.
Violence and anger may reign throughout the world, but God has made a sanctuary of protection for us in the person of His Son. On Yom Kippur, Jews may mourn and repent of their sins, but the sacrifice has already been offered to pay for them. Jerusalem may be a cup of trembling for all nations, but it will one day hold the throne of the Messiah.
- What Israelis Can Learn from Steven Sotloff’s Life
- Saline High School Homecoming Activities Rescheduled Due to Conflict with Yom Kippur
- When Sounding the Shofar Was a Crime in Jerusalem
— Breaking Israel News
- Hamas’ Day of Atonement
— Israel HaYom
- What’s A Faithful Jew To Do?
— The Washington Post
- The Feasts of Israel
— Koinonia House Store