YOM KIPPUR: FEAST OR FAST?
By Rachmiel Frydland
According to Jewish tradition and the Talmud (Tractate Ta'anith 26b), Yom Kippur has been one of the great Jewish Feasts celebrated annually. In ancient times the people would joyfully dress in white, anticipating their purification from sin. It was only once a year, on this day, that would allow the High Priest to enter behind the veil into the innermost court of the tabernacle. And this could be done only after sacrificial blood had been shed to cover his own transgressions as well as those of the Jewish nation. In the Holy of Holies, he could then approach the mercy seat and receive assurance, that God had sanctified the sacrifice for sin. We read in the Hebrew Scriptures:
And there shall be no man in a tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the Holy Place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household and for all the congregation of Israel. And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times and, cleanse it, and hallow it; from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. For on that day shall the Priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. Leviticus 16:17-19,30
If Yom Kippur was at
one time one of the most significant feasts, why is it still not so today?
as their forefathers once did?
The Talmud states that toward the end of the Second Temple period, certain distressing signs began to appear:
Our Rabbis taught: At first they used to bind a shining crimson strip of cloth on the
outside door of the Temple. If the strip of cloth turned into the white color, they would
rejoice; if it did not turn white they were full of sorrow and shame. (Tractate Yoma 67a)
Hence, the problem: The people began to realize more and more that the sacrifice of Yom Kippur did not have the power to cleanse their sinful hearts. They no longer experienced the release of sin's heavy burden that the Psalmist King David wrote about: Blessed ("Happy" in Hebrew) is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed (Happy) is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is not deceit. Psalm 32:1,2
It seemed that God no longer found the sacrifice acceptable. However, God will never go back on His word. He has not canceled out the Torah principle of atonement for sin by blood. Leviticus 17:11 states: For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
Jewish people who observe Yom Kippur will take either a rooster for a male or a hen for a female and turn it about the head. They hope to obtain pardon as, they recite: "This is my substitute. This is in exchange for me. This chicken will die instead of me, so I may obtain life instead of it." Also a part of the Yom Kippur prayer is these words: "And may the diminishing of my blood and fat as a result of the Yom Kippur fast be accepted by God as though I would have offered it upon the altar of God in Jerusalem."
The people are left with apprehension and serious doubts as to whether God had indeed accepted their sacrifice. The rest of the day is spent in sorrow and fasting. If they knew beyond a shadow of doubt that they were forgiven, there would be no further need for tears. Instead, the hearts would be overflowing with joy for answered prayer.
Jewish tradition has also taught us that the reason for using a ram's horn or shofar on the Ten Days of Fear and on Yom Kippur is to remind God of Isaac's willingness to be a sacrifice when his father Abraham bound him to the altar an Mount Moriah. As we read the account in the Tanakh (Genesis 22), we realize that God honored the faith of Abraham and the obedience of Isaac. Abraham said, "God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." They both rejoiced for a ram was found in a near by thicket! God wanted to spare Isaac's life; He still has the same desire for each of us today. Blood must be shed before there can be remission of sins, yet animal sacrifice is no longer pleasing to the Lord. Since God is faithful to His word and will not leave us without help, who will be our sacrificial lamb?
THE VOICE OF ISAIAH
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the one who will give his life for us in chapter 53:7-10:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth:
he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from, prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people was he stricken . And he made his grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit
in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when
thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong
his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
THE NEW COVENANT
About 2,000 years ago, while our Jewish people were under Roman domination, Yeshua HaNotzree (Jesus of Nazareth) came to the people claiming He was the Messiah, the one sent by God to provide salvation. The moment Yeshua died, the veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50-51) The earth quaked beneath men's feet. The Talmud says that forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the gates opened of themselves. This event is of utmost importance because it establishes Yeshua as being the new High Priest and Lamb of God. No longer must there be an annual offering for sin on our behalf; instead, He has made restitution for us once and for all. It is now possible for each of us to have direct access to God through the blood of Yeshua HaMoshiach.
But Messiah being come an high priest of good things to come,
by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say,
not of this building: Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood
he entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the, ashes of an heifer sprinkling the
unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood
of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit (Ruach Hakodesh) offered himself without
spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
In the same chapter, he further describes the holy place as being heaven itself where God dwells. Messiah is now at the right hand of God and continually makes intercession for us. The Lord has made a new covenant with the house of Israel.
I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people. For I will forgive their
wickedness and will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:10, 12; Jeremiah 31:30-33
The choice is now left to each of us: Should we follow after sacrifices no longer prescribed by God or follow Yeshua HaMashiach, the eternal Yom Kippur Lamb and High Priest?
Here is the account of a Jewish man, one of the earliest and closest believers in Messiah, who still celebrated Yom Kippur in the traditional manner of having a feast of true simcha and gratitude:
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold
that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you
from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Messiah, a lamb
without blemish or defect. He was chosen before t e creation of the world,
but was revealed in these last times for your sake. I Peter 1:18-20
Yeshua invites you to receive Him and the new life He has to offer you.
We encourage you to search your own heart and ask yourself,
"Where is my atonement of sins? Is it in prayer and fasting alone?
Is animal sacrifice sufficient? Or is it true that the blood of Yeshua the Messiah
cleanses from all sin?" Once you discover God's Lamb, He will give you His joy and peace
which passes all understanding as your Yom Kippur fast truly becomes your Yom Kippur feast.
with permission of The Messianic Literature Outreach
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