Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur): At One With God

By Richard ‘Aharon’ Chaimberlin, Litt. D. This article has been reproduced with permission from Petah Tikvah (Door of Hope Ministries).

Yom Kippur: “At-One-Ment” With God

Those of you who have believed on Yeshua as yom kippur (atonement) have the assurance of salvation that can never be known by those who have not trusted in Yeshua. The word kippur is related to the verb kaphar which means “pardon, cleanse, or forgive,” and to the word kophar which can mean “coating, ransom, or satisfaction.”[1]

In the English language, kippur (atonement) can be broken down to mean “at-one-ment,” hence the title you see above. Usually a blood atonement was required for “covering” sins in the Tanakh (O.T.), although not always.[2] Moshe Rabbenu (Moses) wrote, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood by reason of the life (or soul) that makes atonement.”[3] For this reason, it was forbidden by both Jew and Gentile to ever eat blood.[4]

Yom Kippur is the annual Day of Atonement. It is mentioned briefly in Leviticus 23:26-32 as one of the High Holy Days to be observed as “a perpetual statute throughout your generations in ALL your dwelling places.”[5] Then Scripture tells us, “It is to be a Sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls.” Like all Holy Days, it begins at sunset and ends at sunset 24 hours later. For instance, if Yom Kippur is observed on October 6th, this means that it begins on October 5th at sunset and ends at sunset on October 6th. Orthodox Jews expand this into a minimum 25-hour fast.

“And you shall do no work in that same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before YHWH your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.”[6]

From this we learn that this is a day of rest, which is pretty obvious. However, verses 27 and 29 tell us to “afflict” (KJV) or “humble” our souls. This isn’t quite as obvious. What does it mean to afflict or humble our soul?

The Psalmist said, “I humbled my soul with fasting.”[7] It quickly became the Jewish tradition to fast Yom Kippur, which we do to this day. According to various polls, almost two-thirds of all Jews in Israel fast on Yom Kippur, including most secular Jews. According to Acts 27:9, Rav Shaul (Paul) also observed this as a day of fasting. Also, Jews who rarely darken the doors of any synagogue at any other time of the year usually show up for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

Isaiah wrote,

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and YHWH has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”[8]

This is a rather radical concept. Torah gives us many examples of animal sacrifices for the sins of Israel. However, Isaiah wrote of a human Redeemer/Savior. Early Rabbinic commentaries up through Talmudic times are unanimous in proclaiming that Isaiah 53 speaks about the Messiah that would come to Israel. We, of course, believe that this entire passage (which really begins in Isaiah 52:13 and ends with Isaiah 53:12) speaks about Messiah Yeshua. Read it for yourself and tell me who you think it is about. Amazingly, this was written in approximately 712 BCE, over 700 years before Yeshua was even born!

Modern non-Messianic rabbis will assert that this passage is actually about Israel. However, this interpretation came about as a response to Christian anti-Semitism, as well as Christian attempts to “convert” Jews to Christianity, using Isaiah 53 as a hammer to convince Jews that Christianity is the only true religion. Of course, our readers know that Yeshua remained a loyal son of Israel, and never converted to any other religion. We also know that all of the early Jewish talmidim (“disciples” or students) of Yeshua remained Jewish. The concept of “converting” to another religion to follow their own Jewish Messiah never occurred to them. However, in later centuries, Christians came to believe that Jews should “convert” to Christianity, a concept that was engraved into the Council of Nicea in 325 CE.

The Midrash Tanchumi commentary on Isaiah 52:13 relates this passage to Messiah: “He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. He was more exalted than Abraham, more extolled than Moses, higher than the Archangels.”

On page 660 of Midrash Rabba of Rabbi Moses, we read:

God hath from the beginning made a covenant with the Messiah and told him, “My righteous Messiah, those who are entrusted to you, their sins will bring you into a heavy yoke; your ears will hear great shame; your mouth will taste bitterness, and your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth (Psalm 22:5), and your soul will be weakened in grief and sighing. Are you satisfied with this?” And He (Messiah) answered, “I joyfully accept all these agonies in order that not one of Israel should be lost.” Immediately, the Messiah accepted all agonies with love, as it is written in Isaiah (53:7), “He was oppressed and afflicted.”

The Zohar says, “In the Gan Eden there is one palace of the sufferers. When the Messiah goes into this palace and calls to all the sufferers and grieving ones, all the agonies of Israel come upon him. If the Messiah would not relieve Israel from the agonies and take them upon himself, no one else could suffer the punishment of Israel for the transgression of the Law (Torah). As it is written in Isaiah (53:4): ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs.’ ”

My friends in the Jews for Judaism tell me that Judaism does not accept the premise that the Messiah would or could atone for the sins of Israel. In this area, they are at odds with their own traditions which have been handed down for centuries. Also, to the dismay of many Jews, many of the Lubavitcher Jews (the Chabad sect of Judaism) use Isaiah 53 as a proof-text that Rabbi Menachem Schneerson is the Messiah. Even though he died back in 1994, many Chabadniks are expecting their Rebbe to rise from the grave as King Messiah of Israel. Perhaps for this reason, the Chabad movement has never chosen a successor to lead their movement.

Even though I disagree with the use (misuse?) of Isaiah 53 to ‘prove’ that Rabbi Schneerson is the Messiah, I find some small comfort in knowing that some Orthodox Jews do indeed recognize Isaiah 53 as being a prophecy of the Messiah. In Israel, you can still encounter giant posters with the words “King Messiah” underneath a picture of Rabbi Schneerson.

In Siphre D-Bay, we read, “Thus saith Rabbi Jose of Galilee, ‘Come and learn the merits of the King Messiah who grieves for our transgression, as it is written in Isaiah (53:5): But he was wounded for our transgressions.’ ”

All of passages mentioned thus far are a confirmation that our early rabbis believed that Isaiah 53 was a description of the coming Messiah. However, many from Rashi (1040-1105) onwards taught that Isaiah 53 referred to Israel, which makes no sense in context, but they needed a response to the cruel and ungodly “Christians” of that era who insisted that Isaiah 53 referred to the Christian Jesus. As I see it, these so-called Christians believed in a Jesus that was so far removed from the Jewish Messiah Yeshua that the Jews were absolutely correct to reject him. They didn’t reject their Messiah; they rejected a Jesus that had been transformed into a Greek god.

There is an amazing Yom Kippur Musaf prayer referred to as Az Milifnei B’reisheet that used to be included in all Machzorim (High Holy Day prayer books) that included liturgy for Yom Kippur, but it is no longer found in most of the current Machzorim. This prayer is almost 2,000 years old, has withheld the test of time, and yet can no longer be found in most of the Machzorim produced by most Jewish publishing houses. However, it can still be found in the Machzor L’Yom HaKippurim (Prayer Book for the Day of Atonement) © 1928 published by the Hebrew Publishing Company, 77-79 Delancey St, New York, NY. This prayer is undeniably Messianic. Parts of it are a paraphrase of Isaiah 53. Read the following prayer, and judge for yourself who you think is being described by this prayer, found on pages 287-288 in the Machzor L’Yom HaKippurim:

In the Hebrew, this prayer is even more Messianic than in the English translation. The words “righteous anointed” are a translation of Mashiach Tsidkenu. Whereas most Jews are looking for the Messiah to come, this prayer says, “Our righteous anointed is departed from us, and we have none to justify us.” It sounds to me like the Messiah has come before, a Messiah who could have justified the Jews. This Messiah paid the penalties for Israel’s sins: “He hath borne the yoke of our iniquities. We are healed by his wound.” This all sounds suspiciously like Isaiah 53:4-5.

According to this prayer, the Messiah is coming back again, when “the eternal will create him (the Messiah) as a new creature. O bring him up from Seir, to assemble us the second time on Mount Lebanon by the hand of Yinnon.” Yinnon is one of the names for the Messiah, according to rabbinic interpretation of 72:19.

Sanhedrin 98b (Talmud) says, “His name is Shiloh, for it is written, until Shiloh come. The school of R. Yannai said His name is Yinnon, for it is written, ‘His name shall endure forever: er’r the sun was, his name is Yinnon.’ The school of R. Haninah maintained: His name is Haninah, as it is written, ‘Where I will not give you Haninah.’ Others say: His name is Menachem, the son of Hesekiah, for it is written, Because Menachem (‘the comforter’), that would relieve my soul, is far.”

However, of far more importance than the name is the recognition that Messiah has come in the past, and is coming back in the future. As a scientific aside, it is interesting to note that the ancient rabbis didn’t believe in a flat earth, but recognized that God would bring the Messiah up from the “circle of the earth.” All in all, this prayer from an Orthodox Jewish prayer book sounds like it is talking about a Messiah that sounds remarkably like Yeshua.

What purpose has the Day of Atonement?

We have an entire chapter in the Tanakh devoted to Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16). In the Scriptures, it is actually called Yom Kippurim, or “Day of Atonements.” Why do we need a day set aside for atonement? After all, Leviticus 1 to 7 describes the elaborate daily rituals for the daily sacrifices for sins. The reason for the need for Yom Kippur lies in the distinction between intentional sins and unintentional sins. Torah tells us that the regular sacrificial system covered only unintentional sins, or ‘sins of ignorance.’[9] However, sins done intentionally (lit., those done with a high hand ) were not covered by the regular sacrifices.[10]

On Yom Kippur, the Kohen HaGadol (High Priest) would lay hands on the scapegoat (the goat for Azazel) and “confess over it all the sins of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins once every year.”[11] If not for the Yom Kippur sacrifices, there would have been no sacrifices to make atonement for the many intentional sins committed by Israel. Yeshua came as the fulfillment of the scapegoat, as all the sins of Israel (and the entire world!) were laid on Him. He then carried his own execution stake out of the city (Jerusalem), where He was pierced for our transgresssions.

Yom Kippur is the climax of the Days of Awe (Yamim Nora’im), the ten-day period of repentance that begins at Rosh HaShanah. These days teach us about self-examination and spiritual regeneration. The concept of repentance is a bright gem among the teachings of Judaism. We would be most unfortunate if we had no way to escape from sin. No one can sink so low that he cannot find his way back to God. The Hebrew word for repentance is teshuvah, which literally means “turn back,” or “return,” as in “turning back to God.”

Although I certainly do not regard Talmud as the inspired word of God, there are valuable teachings and much useful information contained within its pages. We should be grateful to the Rabbis for preserving the many volumes that make up the Talmud. In addition, Talmud presents additional evidence that Yeshua is indeed the Messiah, as seen by some of the quotations on these pages, and as follows:

Forty years before the Holy Temple was destroyed, the following things happened: The lot of the Yom Kippur goat ceased to be supernatural; the red cord of wool that used to change to white (as a symbol of God’s forgiveness) now remained red and did not change, and the western candle in the sanctuary refused to burn continually, while the doors of the Holy Temple would open of themselves. Tractate Yoma 39b

According to the Talmud, this was all evidence that the Shechina glory (visible presence of God) had departed from the Temple. The events described above all began occurring forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple, which was destroyed by the army of Titus in 70 CE. What event took place forty years earlier that might have brought about these changes? I would submit to you that our Messiah Yeshua was crucified on a hill outside of Jerusalem in 30 CE (AD). After the sacrifice of Yeshua, no further sacrifices for sins were acceptable in the Temple, which is why the red cord that was attached to the goat for Azazel no longer changed to white, symbolic of God’s acceptance of the sacrifices each year. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as wool (Isaiah 1:18).”

Some Jews recognize the importance of blood sacrifices, and perform the tradition of Kapporot, in which chickens are killed and waved over the heads while a prayer is said.

 

Endnotes:

[1] As per Strong’s Concordance.

[2] Christians sometimes have the mistaken notion that a blood sacrifice was always required for atonement. Blood sacrifice is indeed the most important means of atonement, but it is not the only means of atonement. Those who were poor could substitute grain offerings for animal sacrifices (Lev. 5:11). Hosea tells us, “O Israel, return unto YHWH your God; for thou hast fallen by your iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to YHWH: say unto Him, ‘Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips (Hosea 14:1-2).’” There is no mention whatsoever of the use of blood sacrifices to take away sin in these verses. Likewise, Isaiah wrote, “You have bought me no sweet cane with money, neither have you filled me with the fat of your sacrifices: but you have made me to serve with your sins, you have wearied me with your iniquities. I, even I, am He that blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember your sins’ (Isaiah 43:24-25).” Again, this is atonement without

[3] Vayikra (Leviticus) 17:11.

[4] Leviticus 17:10,12; Acts 15:20.

[5] Leviticus 23:31.

[6] Leviticus 23:28-29.

[7] Psalm 35:13.

[8] Isaiah 53:5-6.

[9] Leviticus 4:2,22,27; Numbers 15:24-29.

[10] Numbers 15:30-31.

[11] Lev. 16:34.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here