Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement)

Yom Kippur is probably the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish customs will refrain from work, fast and/or attend synagogue services on this day. The name Yom Kippur means “the Day of Atonement.” On this day, the rabbis teach that God seals our fate for the coming year and thus, the entire day is spent fasting and praying to God for forgiveness and a good year.

However, the rabbis also teach that Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and God. In order to atone for sins against another person, one must first seek reconciliation with the other person. These things must be done before Yom Kippur. It is customary in the days before Yom Kippur for Jews to seek out friends and family whom they have wronged and personally ask for their forgiveness.

In Leviticus 23:27-32, God describes Yom Kippur as a day of “complete rest.” Observances include not working, refraining from eating and drinking (even water) for 25 hours beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur. Additional restrictions (found in the Talmud) include: washing and bathing, wearing leather shoes, and anointing one’s body (with perfumes, cosmetics, etc.).

Recently, Yom Kippur cards have been introduced. So, if you missed sending your Jewish friend a holiday card, the opportunity still exists. Go to www.hallmark.com or www.americangreetings.com for ideas.

The Messianic Implications in the Prophets

An important aspect of Yom Kippur is the implications of this particular day in the Prophets. The two main passages which provide these implications can be found in the Book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 contain the two main concepts of the Day of Atonement: substitution and atonement. The Messiah will undergo a substitutionary suffering; He will die a substitutionary death on behalf of the people of Israel. The Messiah also bears our iniquity and is an offering for our sins.

Based on the previous passage, we can draw six deductions. First, the Messiah would be rejected by His own people Israel and He will be despised among the Gentiles. Secondly, the Messiah would die as the Day of Atonement sacrifice. Thirdly, the Messiah will bear the sins of the believers. Fourthly, after being rejected by Israel, He will be a light to the Gentiles. Fifthly, after being a light to the Gentiles, He will be accepted by His own people. And lastly, as a result of Israel’s acceptance, the Messiah will return to set up His Kingdom and set up Israel.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is probably the most effective witnessing tool in the Bible. Ask your Jewish friend if you could read him or her something. Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and then ask, “Who was that about and where is it found?” Invariably they will answer that it is about Jesus from the New Testament. They will be very surprised and hopefully impressed when you show them that it was written about Jesus by the Jewish prophet Isaiah some 700 years before Jesus came. And that is why you believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and Savior.