Yom Kippur

The Jewish High Holidays: Yom Kippur

3 October 2022

6.3 MINS

Yom Kippur is a time for fasting and repentance. The High Priest’s sacrificial offering of the scapegoat as an atonement for sin prefigures the salvific sacrifice of Christ on the cross, Who took on the deathly punishment due to our sins, setting us free for eternal life.

The Jewish High Holy Days are of supreme importance to the Father’s Beloved Chosen People and thousands of Jews stream into Jerusalem at this time, one of the appointed times of the Lord — Moedim. We saw this for ourselves in 2017 when we, together with hundreds of others were queued up at Immigration at the Ben Gurion airport.

Leviticus 23 (ESV)

26And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

27“Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord.

28And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.

29For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people.

30And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people.

31You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places

32It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”

You may also wish to read my previous articles about the High Holy Days: (1) (2)

This year I would like to focus on Yom Kippur (4th-5th October) to see what the Lord is saying to us specifically at this time.

In recent weeks, according to the Hebrew calendar, we have come through the Dire Straits which included the fast of Tisha B’Av — the day when Solomon’s Temple was destroyed as well as the Second Temple/Herod’s Temple. It is a time when many Jewish disasters have occurred on this date.

After the Dire Straits, symbolically we come into a large expanse. Books are opening and I believe many of us will come into new arenas of influence that the Lord will open to us.

After Tisha B’Av comes the month of Elul when it is said that the King is in the field, and He is accessible.  Today, we believers know that the Lord is accessible every day because of the finished work of Calvary. It is a time when the blowing of trumpets commences in preparation for the High Holy Days.

Elul, as I said earlier, is the month of repentance.  It is the month which leads to the Lord’s Feast known as the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Ha Shanah). It ushers in a Feast where God shows great mercy to those who trust in Him and have truly asked for forgiveness.

The trumpet blasts commence in Elul and culminate in the Feast of Trumpets.

This year, Rosh Ha Shana / Yom Teruah is 25th–27th September.

Leviticus 23:24 (HNV) — “Speak to the children of Yisra’el, saying, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest to you, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.'”

It is the Jewish New Year, and the feast is celebrated by eating apples dipped in honey saying Shana Tova U Metuka — May you have a good and sweet year.  It is a time of preparation and repentance before Yom Kippur.

Fast and Repent

My focus this year is on Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement.

Because it is a day of prayer and fasting for the nation of Israel and driving is frowned upon although not prohibited — the streets are strangely quiet, and it is a time when children will freely ride their bikes on the mainly deserted roads.

Dr Jürgen Bühler, ICEJ President, stated that even though all the Jews in Israel are not necessarily practising Judaism, he estimates that 80% of Jews do fast at this time.  It is a very solemn occasion on the Jewish calendar.

In Leviticus 23:27, the word “afflicted” is used. Today the Jews take it to mean fasting, but the Hebrew word “ana” ענה means to humble, be afflicted, be bowed down and fasting is a way to humble ourselves before the Lord.

In the New Testament Jesus, Paul, Barnabas, and the church leaders and elders at Antioch show us fasting is still for us today.

The High Priest’s Sacrifice

Rosh Hashanah is called Yom Ha-Din (יוֹם הַדִּין), the “Day of Judgment,” whereas Yom Kippur is called Yom Ha-Rachamim (יוֹם הָרַחֲמִים), or the “Day of Mercies,” which suggests that God is first revealed as our Creator and Judge before He is known as our merciful Saviour.

Leviticus 16:21 ~ “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.”

As we read the scriptures about Yom Kippur, we notice that it is the High Priest who does all the work and the congregation, the people, not so much. In Leviticus 16:29-31, we see that work of the High Priest is described by 81 verbs, whereas for the reader, there are only 4 verbs about what must be done.

In the Old Testament, the atonement was received by faith in regard to the finished work of the High Priest.

In Hebrews, we read that Yeshua, our Messiah, our High Priest, obtained eternal redemption for us through His blood, and we too received the finished work of the High Priest Yeshua by faith. Our sins through Yeshua are not just covered but completely obliterated.

Hebrews 9:12 ~ He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (HCSB)

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement — Kippur means covering or atonement — this was the only day of the year when the High Priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies. It was on this day that he sprinkled the blood on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant.

The Day of Atonement is a day when Jewish people do not do any work as commanded in this scripture.  For the Jewish people, it is their annual reset button.

Even though I love the Father’s Beloved Chosen People and pray for their full salvation like it says in John 3, when Nicodemus visited Yeshua,

John 3:3 (CJB) ~ “Yes, indeed,” Yeshua answered him, “I tell you that unless a person is born again from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

I am so grateful for the full salvation we have today because of Yeshua’s complete sacrifice on our behalf.

Leviticus 23:28 (CJB) ~ You are not to do any kind of work on that day, because it is Yom-Kippur, to make atonement for you before Adonai your God.

For practising Jews, starting at sundown, Yom Kippur is observed for a 25-hour period. The five prohibitions are:

  • eating and drinking
  • anointing the body with moisturiser or oil
  • bathing
  • sexual relations and
  • wearing leather shoes.

Atonement (Old Testament) and Yeshua’s redemption (New Testament) come to us at no cost to ourselves.  The Lord does the work, and we receive it by faith.

The top of the ark of the covenant, the lid, or covering, is called the kaporet in Hebrew, and the high priest was required to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice upon this cover. The blood now stands between God’s holy law which was kept inside the ark, and the people are made acceptable to God despite their sin. Though the law is there, the sin is covered, atoned for.

From the Heart

The Jews keep Yom Kippur because it is their desire to have their names inscribed in the Book of Life. “May your name be inscribed in the Book of Life” is the most common greeting for the Jewish New Year season.

As we turn our thinking to the New Testament, we know that righteousness is of the heart —

Romans 10:10a ~ For with the heart one believes unto righteousness…

Romans 4:3 ~ For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Our journey with the Lord is a heart journey and not just about saying religious prayers. It is a turning away from one’s own ways and turning one’s face to the Lord and following Him.

Religious duty, going to a church or following traditions do not save one’s soul. True belief, true faith connects one’s heart to Father God through Yeshua and one is transported from the death of separation from God to one of connection to His life. We become new creations.

Some believers keep Yom Kippur as a point of identification and intercession for the Jewish people so that they too will know the finished work of the cross through Yeshua.

We will close our meditations on Yom Kippur for now and understand that Sukkot, the Feast of Booths, is approaching.

The Feast of Booths commemorates the time in the wilderness but also foreshadows the Lord tabernacling with us in the Millennial Kingdom, the New Heavens, and the New earth.


Father God, we give thanks to You today for Your Beloved Son, Yeshua. the spotless Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.

As we place our faith in You and the finished work of the cross, we are eternally grateful that you have accepted us into Your family and pray that all Israel shall be saved.


Image: Maurycy Gottlieb, “Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur” (1878) / Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Kym Farnik 3 October 2022 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Thanks for this!

  2. Ian Moncrieff. 3 October 2022 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Thank you Nel.
    So well written, and a grand revelation of the beauty of the Old, Super-abounding in the New.

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