Even the date when YOM KIPPUR takes place is significant.
It takes place on the 10th day of the 7th month of the Jewish religious calendar.
The 7th month is the Sabbath month and the 7 Biblical feasts take place over a period of 7 months.
In the 1st month we have Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits.
In the 7th month, we have ROSH HASHANAH which is followed by YOM KIPPUR 10 days later which in turn is followed by SUKKOT 5 days later.
YOM KIPPUR lasts for 10 days.
This is significant because 10 is considered to be the number of completion.
It was well understood that the national cleansing that took place on YOM KIPPUR was critical because if the defilement of the people was not taken care, the Lord could not dwell with Israel.
Remember that only the CLEAN can come near to God and only the CLEAN are eligible to become HOLY.
YOM KIPPUR was absolutely necessary if Israel wanted to have peace with YHVH.
So important was this day that it eventually became nicknamed the “the Great Day” or sometimes shortened to “THE Day”.
Let’s take a quick look at the differences between what Scripture really says concerning how to observe YOM KIPPUR and how tradition has changed it.
HOW TRADITION HAS DEPARTED FROM SCRIPTURE IN THE OBSERVANCE OF YOM KIPPUR
After the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., the Rabbis over a period of time instituted the following changes:
-YOM KIPPUR changed from a national event to an individual one.
-It change from a day of cleansing to a day of judgement.
-The Rabbis teach that on YOM KIPPUR, a worshipper’s fate is sealed. A person’s sins are either forgiven and thus their name is written in the Book of Life or a person’s sins are not forgiven and thus his name is not written in the Book of Life.
-During the 10-day period from ROSH HASHANAH to YOM KIPPUR, the Rabbis instruct that the people of Israel are to enter into a period of deep reflection and repentance. This is a period of great sobriety and no joyous occasions are to be held during this time.
It is interesting to note that although YOM KIPPUR was a solemn time, it was also considered joyous because it was understood that if the High Priest did his job properly, all of Israel’s sins would be forgiven.
A tradition developed that was practiced even during the time of Yeshua when Jewish female virgins of marrying age would wear all-white garments and go to the vineyards to dance together.
They would later be joined by single men who would show up in the hopes of picking up a future wife.
Let’s move on to…
WHAT DOES THE SCRIPTURE REALLY SAY CONCERNING THE OBSERVANCE OF YOM KIPPUR:
In contrast to tradition, here is what the Scripture actually says concerning the observance of YOM KIPPUR.
-Worshippers are to “afflict” themselves during this time which meant to fast and abstain from normal pleasurable activities like sex or drinking alcohol. The people had to humble themselves before God. This was a reminder to them that the Lord was their Creator and Sustainer.
-At the beginning of the ceremonies, the High Priest had to offer one sacrifice for himself and one for the people of Israel. This tells us that the Priesthood of the Law was NOT perfect simply because those who officiated in it were not perfect. Even the High Priest needed to have his sins atoned for and on this day only he wore special all-white garments which symbolized purity before the Lord.
-Although many sacrifices were offered on that day, the most peculiar one was the Scapegoat ritual. Two goats were chosen and then lots were drawn. One goat was designated to be sacrificed on the Brazen Altar, the other was chosen to be sent off to into the wilderness carrying with it all the UNCLEANNESS and sins of Israel.
-A mature bull was offered up for the sacrifice of the priesthood. The High Priest would lay his hands on the bull signifying a transfer of all the guilt and sin of the priesthood including himself onto the bull.
-Later the High Priest, carrying a vessel filled with blood from both the bull and the slaughtered Scapegoat, would enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement. This would happen three times. The High Priest would sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat and before the Ark. The High Priest had to be very precise when he performed this part of the ritual. With his index finger, he would sprinkle blood towards the ark upward and then downward exactly 7 times. If he sprinkled one time too many or once too few, the ritual was a failure. The PAROKHET (the curtain separating the HOLY PLACE from the HOLY OF HOLIES) was also sprinkled with blood along with the furnishings of the Holy Place.
Understand that when the High Priest went inside the Holy Sanctuary to make atonement, there was always great suspense in the air.
Because they weren’t sure whether this would be the last time they would see him or not.
If the High Priest messed up in how he performed the rituals, the Lord might have killed him for his transgression.
If the High Priest was struck dead by the Lord, this meant that the sacrifices had been rejected and the people would have to live with their sin until next year at this same time.
Hence, a big sigh of relief was breathed every time the priest reemerged unscathed after making atonement.
Although both the lay worshippers and regular priests were unable to watch the High Priest make atonement in the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, they were able to witness the latter half of the Scapegoat ritual.
The High Priest would tie a scarlet cloth between the horns of the goat for AZAZEL and stand it up in front of the people in the Temple courtyard.
He would then lay his hands on the goat and chant something like the following:
“OH YAHWEH, THY PEOPLE HAVE SINNED!
I PRAY THEE, COVER THEIR SINS,
AS IT IS WRITTEN IN THE LAW OF MOSES,
“FOR ON THAT DAY, THEIR SINS BEFORE
YOU SHALL BE FORGIVEN
AND THEY SHALL BE MADE CLEAN”.
The innocent goat, now loaded up with all the sins of Israel was lead out from the Eastern Gate and taken to the Mount of Olives.
From there, the goat would be taken out into the desert wilderness located somewhere in the southern part of Jerusalem.
What’s interesting is that a tradition developed whereby a gentile was assigned to lead the goat out into the wilderness to a cliff where it would be pushed off the ledge ensuring its death and thus it could never return to trouble Israel with its sins again.
Okay, here’s the thing.
While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with tradition per say, a lot of the customs that developed simply do NOT reflect what is written in the Scriptures.
-Nowhere do the Scriptures command us to push the Scapegoat over a cliff to be killed!
-Nowhere was Israel commanded to designate a gentile to lead the scapegoat out into the wilderness!
-Nowhere in Scripture does it say that person’s name is either written or deleted from the Book of Life from one year to the next.
-And here’s the most important point of all: YOM KIPPUR or any of the Biblical Feasts for that matter cannot be properly observed minus the Holy Temple and the Priesthood, period!
Hence, it is downright ridiculous to belittle others for how they go about celebrating the Biblical Feasts and leveling accusations for not observing Torah properly.
Here’s another interesting point you may want to consider.
We can know for a fact that for a full 500 years within the existence of the Temple, YOM KIPPUR was not properly observed.
How do we know this?
Because the Ark of the Covenant went missing during the Babylonian Exile.
During that time, when the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies, it was empty.
There was no Ark inside!
No ark equals no mercy seat equals no presence of God.
It is a known fact (that’s right, we have records of this!) that during those final five centuries, the High Priest was actually sprinkling blood on an empty floor where the Ark used to be.
The only conclusion I can draw from this is that during that time Israel, as a congregation, did NOT have their sins atoned for.
Now after having said all that, don’t get me wrong.
In terms of celebrating the Biblical feasts, I am not implying that we shouldn’t do what we can do minus the Temple and the Priesthood.
I find it tragic that the church has abandoned God’s appointed times.
I believe it is up to us to do all we can to reestablish God’s Biblical feasts for they all point to the redemptive work of Messiah.
Rest assured that the fulfillment of these feasts will take place in the season they were ordained to happen.
The first four festivals that take place in the spring and summer have already been fulfilled.
We now await the fulfillment of ROSH HASHANAH, YOM KIPPUR and SUKKOT.
Well, this closes Leviticus Chapter 16 which was all about YOM KIPPUR-The Day of Atonement.
But I can’t close without reiterating the awesome GOOD NEWS!
YOM KIPPUR has been transformed and fulfilled by Messiah Yeshua.
Unlike both Moses and Aaron, He was the perfect mediator and sinless High Priest.
Unlike all the High Priests that came before Him, He never had to have His sins atoned for.
His sacrifice not only atoned for every and all sin, it was so perfect and complete that it only had to occur ONCE, never to be repeated again.
NEXT TIME WE BEGIN LEVITICUS CHAPTER 17