Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one of two Jewish High Holy Days, follows 10 days after the first High Holy Day, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). In 2013 this solemn occasion begins at sunset Sep. 13 and continues through sunset Sep. 14. The purpose of Yom Kippur is to bring about reconciliation between people and between individuals and God. Ariela Pelaia points out that on this day God decides the fate of each human being, according to Jewish tradition. The observance of Yom Kippur involves three elements: Teshuvah (Repentance), Prayer and Fasting.
The ten days preceding Yom Kippur are known as the Ten Days of Repentance. As the longest Jewish observance, the service on Yom Kippur begins in the morning and lasts until nightfall. Many prayers are said but one is repeated at intervals throughout the service. Known as Al Khet, this prayer asks for forgiveness for sins that may have been committed during the year. According to Jewish tradition only offenses committed against God can be forgiven on Yom Kippur. Thus it is important for people to make an effort to reconcile with others before participating in Yom Kippur services. During this period Jews are encouraged to seek out anyone whom they may have offended and request forgiveness in order to begin the New Year with a clean slate.
For the Christian believer, the New Testament book of Colossians offers this reminder:
Therefore don't let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a sabbath day.
These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.
Although Christians we may not commemorate Yom Kippur or any of the other holy days in the Jewish tradition, but believers can certainly learn and grow in the understanding of their significance. Followers of Christ believe that whatever things were written beforehand in the Old Testament, were written for their learning, as they increase their knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures and our appreciation of our relationship with Jesus Christ, whose presence is foreshadowed in the Old Testament and revealed throughout the New.
Forgiveness is likewise an important concept in Christianity, being exemplified in Jesus Christ who often spoke of forgiving others that they might be forgiven as well. Among his last words were “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
Prayer and fasting continue to be notable elements in the Christian faith. In addition, Jesus Christ, as high priest performed an essential role, in that he was both the “sacrificer” as well as the perfect “sacrifice” that provided atonement for the sins of the world. Yom Kippur, of course, brings his sacrifice to mind on the Day of Atonement.
Click here to read a previous article on forgiveness: Forgive: What do you mean?
Another article discusses National Forgiveness Day and relates some of the benefits of forgiveness. Click here to learn more about forgiveness as a two-way street, forgiving others and being forgiven yourself.
The accompanying video provides commentary on Yom Kippur, one the High Holy Days of Judaism.