Yom HaKippurim/Yom Kippur
~Day of Atonement~
“On the tenth day of the same seventh month you shall observe a sacred occasion when you shall practice self-denial. You shall do no work. (Numbers 29:7)
“Mark the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: you shall practice self-denial, and you shall bring an offering by fire to the LORD; you shall do no work throughout that day. For it is a Day of Atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before the LORD your G-d. Indeed, any person who does not practice self-denial throughout that day shall be cut off from his kin; and whoever does any work throughout that day, I will cause that person to perish from among his people. Do no work whatever; it is a law for all time, throughout the ages in all your settlements. It shall be a sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall practice self-denial; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall observe this your sabbath.” (Leviticus 23:27-32)
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is a High Holy Sabbath, the holiest day of the year. It occurs on Tishrei Ten (September/October). It is a day of humbling ourselves before our Holy G-d. Yom Kippur is also referred to as Yom Hakippurim that means “day like Purim.” The Book of Esther is the story of redemption. The term Yom Kippur derives from “Yom” which means day and “Kaphar/Kofer” which means to atone for as in covering, protection, redemption, and ransom. Kaphar/Kofer (pitch) was used on Noah’s Ark as a covering to keep the water from seeping in. Pitch was also used on the basket (little ark) that Moses floated in down the Nile among the reeds—another connection. Kaphar/Kofer was the pitch used to not only cover, but to conceal and keep it protected from damage and leaks. This teaches us that the sacrifices on Yom Kippur atone for by covering, protecting, and concealing Israel for another year. The Day of Atonement was a day of grace and compassion. Hashem would give the Israelites a “New Beginning” as a covering for their sins.
This is the sixth festival of the appointed times. It is the last day of Teshuvah, a beautiful time for people to draw nearer to G-d in repentance. We celebrate in humbleness with fasting for twenty-five hours. (Leviticus 23:27-28) People generally dress in white on this day to resemble purity.
There are seven festivals, and Yom Kippur is the sixth holiday. At the concluding season of repentance, Elul One begins on the first of the sixth month. It is the only day the High Priest was permitted to enter into the Holy of Holies; encountering Hashem face-to-face by calling upon The Name–HASHEM. The High Priest would make blood sacrifices for the sins of the people. A bull and two goats were offered for the atonement. The bull would be the atonement for the Mishkan; while the two goats would be chosen by drawing lots which one would carry away the sins of the people. (Leviticus 16)
L’Adonai would be offered to the Hashem, and the other goat, Azazel, would have the sins of the people confessed (through the laying of the hands from the High Priest) upon that goat and carried away into the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:21) If G-d accepted the sacrifices and atonement from the High Priest, the bloody garments that were hung up turned white, according to tradition. We are reminded if our sins are like scarlet; they will be white as snow through forgiveness. (Isaiah 1:18) This is the day we will see Hashem face-to-face; prophetically on a future Day of Atonement.
The Heavenly doors are opened during this ten day period; however, the doors will be closed on Yom Kippur as Yom Kippur is Judgment. The “Ten Days of Awe” is the time to reflect on ourselves for teshuvah. The Day of Judgment will be the day that atonement is executed. Do we look at it as a big judge in a courtroom wearing a long, over-sized black robe; ready to pass the death penalty on us? Or would we look at it as a day of rejoicing and praising Hashem for His redemption? We can find joy knowing that we are Hashem’s Chosen people—signed—sealed—and delivered!
Beast and man were created on Day Six. When Adam and Eve (Chavah) sinned, they needed atonement, the sixth feast. The sixth spirit is Knowledge, or “Da’at”. This isn’t head knowledge; rather it implies intimacy and maturity in Hebrew. It is a type of knowledge or knowing that loves something or someone enough that they will give their life for the other. When a man neglects the Knowledge, his fallen state becomes more extreme and he identifies more with the beast he hunts. The Spirit of Knowledge patiently works and builds understanding in the relationship. The Spirit of Knowledge is a deep mature love that exhibits the awareness of the needs and desires of another. It is a spirit that moved on the sixth day of creation to inspire the creation of Adam & Chavah (Eve)—the mother of all living.
It is interesting to note that the Hebrew letter “VAV” is also the number six (in Hebrew), and means to attach. When man sinned, they could no longer continue living in the Garden, nor could they dwell with the Father as sin separated them. Through the mercy of Hashem, He will bring our redemption.
As we mature and grow in Torah, we can abide in:
✡ Mercy and Grace (A husband should protect his bride)
✡ Covering of sins (Hashem brings redemption, compassion, covering)
✡ Healing (loving one another with loving kindness)
✡ Restoration of relationships (restoration)
✡ Repents & seeks forgiveness
Hashem has established the perfect plan for us to come back through His Love and Mercy.
Hashem has established the perfect plan for us to come back through His Love and Mercy
Let’s look at the Story of Jonah for some more connections. Let’s consider Jonah’s actions when disobedience comes into play.
Yonah was called by Hashem to go to Nineveh with a message from G-d to repent from their sins or they would be destroyed. But he ran away to Tarshish, instead. Why did Jonah run from Hashem? Can anyone really hide from the King of the universe?
When Jonah knew Hashem was giving Nineveh a chance to be forgiven, life no longer mattered to Jonah. He wanted them to pay for their evilness. Jonah was the son of Amittai (Truth). Yonah saw his dreadful journey coming true after Hashem told him to go to Nineveh and accept their apology.
Looking back at the story while Jonah was on the ship, he was on the lowest level; sleeping in the height of the storm. Jonah ignored Hashem when He called out to him. The sailors cast lots. He told them to throw him overboard. He didn’t know Hashem had a whale ready for action. After the sailors tried to help Jonah, they threw him overboard, regretfully. While he was in the belly of the whale, Yonah still wanted to die, but Hashem had different plans.
Jonah’s Prayer of Distress:
“The LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the fish’s belly three days and three nights. Jonah prayed to the LORD his G-d from the belly of the fish. He said: In my trouble I called to the LORD, And He answered me; From the belly of Sheol I cried out, And You heard my voice. You cast me into the depths, Into the heart of the sea, The floods engulfed me; All Your breakers and billows Swept over me. I thought I was driven away Out of Your sight: Would I ever gaze again Upon Your holy Temple? The waters closed in over me, The deep engulfed me. Weeds twined around my head. I sank to the base of the mountains; The bars of the earth closed upon me forever. Yet You brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my G-d! When my life was ebbing away, I called the LORD to mind; And my prayer came before You, Into Your holy Temple. They who cling to empty folly Forsake their own welfare, But I, with loud thanksgiving, Will sacrifice to You; What I have vowed I will perform. Deliverance is the LORD’s! The LORD commanded the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon dry land.” (Jonah 2, Sefaria)
While Jonah was in the belly of the whale he thought he would never see dry land again. He was in the whales belly for three days and three nights. After Jonah delivered the message, Nineveh repented and Hashem relented the ra’ah (evil) that would have destroyed them with Hashem’s burning wrath. Jonah, in his disappointment and anger, prayed for Hashem to take his soul because it would have been better for his death than to have lived. (Jonah 4:8) Hashem remained quiet and gave him a lesson with the worm instead.
Yonah (Jonah) sat up on the hill; overlooking the city of Nineveh in hopes Nineveh refused to repent so that Hashem would destroy them (Nineveh would probably be what ISIS is like in today’s world). He made himself a Sukkah (booth/tent) to sit under for shade. The question is, if Yonah had shade already, why did Hashem place a kikayon plant over (covering) Jonah’s sukkah? Ra’ah was first mentioned when Hashem wanted to send Yonah to Nineveh because they had done evil (ra’ah) in the sight of Hashem and were going to be destroyed. They made a teshuvah! Elokim relented the ra’ah He was going to place on Nineveh. It’s interesting how the role of events play out when Yonah (Jonah) felt a dreadful ra’ah coming his way and he needed Hashem’s protection. Yonah became very angry towards Hashem because he already knew that Hashem would change His mind, which only partially answers why Jonah ran from Hashem. The Book of Jonah states, “I knew that you are a gracious and merciful G-d, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and relent from doing harm.”(Jonah 4:2)
Hashem revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy to Mosheh (Moses) on Mount Sinai after the sin of the golden calf. It was Hashem’s grace and mercy that saved the Jews and mixed-multitude from destruction. Looking back in the Book of Jonah, it is revealed that Jonah’s father’s name is Amittai (root word is Emet, truth), son of Truth. Was Jonah looking for Divine Justice on Nineveh? Go back to Jonah sitting in his sukkah and the plant created for extra shade (covering) even though he knew that Elokim had spared Nineveh. Yonah found great joy in the plant that provided shade over his head. He felt loved. Then the worm ate the roots of the plant, and when the plant faded and died, Yonah (Jonah) once again wanted to die; stating that he was “grieved to death.” (Jonah 4:9, Stone Edition, Tanach) Why was Yonah upset over the plant dying? What did the plant represent?
The plant demonstrated Hashem’s lovingkindness and mercy given so that Jonah could see His Compassion. So if the plant giving shade is the countenance of Hashem’s compassion, what is the face of the worm? Justice.
Hashem was trying to show Jonah that there’s a conflict between having compassion, and applying justice. Jonah needed to learn G-d is a G-d of Mercy—Forgiveness given undeserved. Hashem caused a plant to grow from nothing in a world it didn’t belong, and Jonah had compassion for it.
Nineveh belonged in the world—G-d’s creation; yet, Jonah wanted them to be destroyed without mercy. Nineveh was very evil indeed, but because they had Teshuvah, who didn’t deserve Hashem’s compassion and forgiveness, we can appreciate what we can become with a changed heart! Yes, their sins were forgiven. They couldn’t change their past actions, but they could change their future. We are also given that same opportunity because He loves us. Our heart defines our character when others (who have hurt us) need forgiveness.
As we enter Yom Kippur we need to acknowledge that even though we can’t change our past we can reflect on our past, and reevaluate our impending changes for the future; giving all Glory to Hashem. We need to seek Hashem for forgiveness (Teshuvah) for our sins, ask Him to help us have Chesed (loving kindness) for others, to be forgiving of others (even if they don’t deserve it), to honor Torah, and to follow G-d’s way.
When we love Hashem’s Creation, we can nurture it, have unity, and restore healing.
“Remember us for the sake of Life, A King Who desires Life, Inscribe us in the Book of Life For Your sake O’ G-d of Life. Who is like You O’ Father of compassion, Who remembers his creatures for Life with compassion.”
How to observe Yom Kippur:
- Self-reflection—acknowledge your sins
- Fast for twenty-five hours—drink plenty of water the day before.
- Tashlich ceremony—a beautiful tradition for family to go out to a body of moving water such as a stream or river and toss in bread crumbs, or tiny rocks, if it’s not on the Sabbath. This is done on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, but can be celebrated during Yom Kippur. This reminds us of G-d’s forgiveness by casting our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)
- Teshuvah (Repentance)—Seek Hashem for the forgiveness of sins. There are also five prayers that are recited:
- Kol Nidre—to annul all vows.
- The Shema
- Avinu Malkeinu—“Our Father, Our King,” (It’s a prayer during a time of fasting).
- Minchah (Leviticus 18) – while this is read in the synagogues, the Midrash explains that we shouldn’t uncover the “nakedness” of others, just as Hashem didn’t uncover the “nakedness” of Israel. It is also a reminder that sexual immorality is a sin, but can be forgiven.
- Viduly—prayer of confession upon the sins made.
- Neilah—closing the gates (Day of Atonement).
- Seek Forgiveness—if you have acknowledged your sins, it is time to approach those you have hurt, offended, or transgressed against with sincerity and honesty to ask for forgiveness. If they are resentful and do not accept your apology then it’s in Hashem’s hands. Sometimes we have to wipe the dust from our shoes and turn it over to Hashem. But we must try first.
Practice the customary restrictions that remind us of humility:
- No perfumes or oils on body,
- Baths and showers are skipped.
- No animal products (leather shoes) are worn.
- Fast from foods and water for twenty-five hours—this can be omitted for those with medical issues, pregnant, nursing, young children, or elderly.
- Donate money—if it isn’t plausible, donate your time to those less fortunate.
- Attend Shul or a synagogue if possible.
- Nosh—after the sun goes down on sunset on Yom Kippur, it’s time to break the fast and eat! The first meal is the pre-fast meal—the meal of separation. The second meal is after the fast. Both meals are to be prepared before the fast.
- G’mar Hatima Tova (Say to others): May you be sealed in the Book of Life!
- G’mar Tov (Say to others): May you have an easy fast!
 Numbers 29:7, Sefaria
 Leviticus 23:27-32, Sefaria
 Jonah 4:2, Sefaria