Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)

Posted by Chris on August 2, 2008

This is part of a series. See the description and introduction and glossary.

My cultural and informal knowledge of contemporary Jewish practice is very limited. Thus, I try not to say too much in these opening remarks about the way these festivals are celebrated in our culture. One difficulty with understanding Jewish festivals is the difference in beliefs amongst Jews themselves. Orthodox Jews will differ greatly in the significance they attach to Yom Kippur from that of reformed Jews. But all would agree that Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is significant because of its themes of atonement and repentance from us, before God. We can see a parallel in that “liberal” and “conservative” Christians would explain the purpose of Jesus’ life and death differently, but all those explanations would include the ideas of atonement and forgiveness.

All that being said, I am going to try and understand the Day of Atonement as it was given by God to the Hebrews in the Law. The most important thing to understand is that this day, the 10th day of the 7th Hebrew month (see Timeline), was the only occasion for entering into the Most Holy Place (MHP) of the Tent of Meeting (ToM, later the Temple) (Lev 16:2). And only the High Priest (HiPt) could enter. One person, one time per year. That’s it. This restriction reflected the holiness of God and the separation of God from sinful people.

Purpose: to atone for the people and the holy things

  • High Priest and his household: the Bull SinOfg, Burnt Ofg
  • Israel: their Sin and Burnt Ofg’s
  • MHP & ToM: the Goat SinOfg (from the community)
    • For that reason, no one else is to be in ToM at this time
  • Altar: both the bull and the goat’s blood together sprinkled; the fat of the bull and goat burnt

Offerings to prepare

  • HiPt was contribute the following for offerings before entering (Lev 16:3,6,11)
    • Sin: young bull
    • Burnt: Ram
  • From the community (Lev 16:5, 8-10)
    • Sin: 2 male goats, one to atone for people and one as scapegoat
    • Burnt: Ram

How to conduct the offering

  • Bull: (Lev 16:12-27) process similar to sin ofg for anointed priest
  • Scapegoat: presented alive before Lord and sent into desert (Lev 16:10); takes with it the sins of Israel and is released in a remote area (20-22)
  • Sin Goat: same as Bull (Lev 16:15-19)
  • Rams: sacrificed after HiPt exits the MHP (Lev 16:23-24)

Other rules for the Holiday

  • Fasting (Lev 16:29,31; 23:27,32; Num 29:7)
  • Do not work (Lev 16:29,31; 23:28,31-32; Num 29:7)
  • Hold a sacred assembly (Lev 23:27; Num 29:7-11)
    • Same ofg as monthly ofg (except only 1 bull for burnt)
  • Called a “Sabbath rest” (Lev 23:32)

Consequences for Improper actions/offerings

  • If one did not fast, they were to be cut off from the community (Lev 23:30)
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