The Significance of Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. It is the most sacred and solemn day in the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur is a day of fasting, the day is spent in the synagogue, where attendees hold prayer services.

On Yom Kippur the High Priest would perform a specially prescribed service, which includes offering incense in the Holy of Holies (where the ark was housed) and the casting of the two goats—one of which was brought as a sacrifice, the blood to be offered on the Mercy Seat; the other being sent out to the wilderness (Azazel) and cast down a terrain.

While the High Priest generally wore ornate golden clothing, on Yom Kippur, he would immerse in a mikvah and don plain white garments to perform this service.

Neither the Jews for Judiasm nor Rabbi Tovia Singer has any writup on what the Significance of Yom Kippur is.

Leviticus 23

26 And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, — On the tenth day of the seventh month the day of atonement was to be observed by a holy meeting, by fasting from the evening of the ninth till the evening of the tenth, by resting from all work on pain of death, and with sacrifices; 

27 “Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. — there shall be a day of atonement … and ye shall afflict your souls; an unusual festival, at which the sins of the whole year were expiated. It is here only stated that the severest penalty was incurred by the violation of this day.

28 And ye shall do no work in that same day, for it is a Day of Atonement to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God. — Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath; no work can be performed on that day. It is well-known that you are supposed to refrain from eating and drinking (even water) on Yom Kippur. 

29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. — any member of the community who does not fast on this day God himself will punish with death, except those who through old age or sickness are unable to endure it; or a child under nine years of age, were not obliged to fast on this day.

30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. — that doeth any work; that is, engages in any kind of work whatsoever, since this is the most solemn festival which is to be kept like the sabbath.

31 Ye shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. — ye shall do no manner of work; which is repeated and to show how strictly God required this day should be kept, and how careful men should be of breaking the command in this respect, and how much he should resent it if they did:

— it shall be a statute for ever, throughout your generations, in all your dwellings; unto the coming of the Messiah, who, by the atoning sacrifice of himself, would foreshadow Christ’s death; and after his death, an memorial of his sacrifice as would be other sacrifices, Ezekiel 40-48.

32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls. On the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening unto evening, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.” — from even to even; the day of atonement began at the evening of the ninth day and continued till the evening of the tenth day;

— ye shall celebrate your sabbath; this particular sabbath is called your sabbath, possibly to denote the difference between this and other sabbaths; for the weekly sabbath is often called the sabbath of the Lord. 

Leviticus 16

And the Lord spoke unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the Lord, and died;

and the Lord said unto Moses, “Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the Holy Place within the veil before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, that he die not; for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. — that he come not at all times; Moses is therefore to warn his brother Aaron, the high priest, that if he wishes to escape a similar fate, he is not to presume to enter the Holy of Holies except on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement.

Thus shall Aaron come into the Holy Place: with a young bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen miter shall he be attired. These are holy garments. Therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on. — the white clothing was both intended to symbolize humility and penitence, for white is the colour in which penitents are naturally dressed;

— also it was symbolical of the purity and holiness which the ceremonies of the day symbolically affected, and which was specially needed to be exhibited in the person of the high priest.

And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. — and he shall take of the congregation; on this occasion the high priest himself had to officiate, by virtue of his being the chief mediator between God and His people.

And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself and for his house.

And he shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. — both two goats were presented before the Lord; 

And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats — one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat (5799 לַעֲזָאזֵֽל la·‘ă·zā·zêl). — One lot for the Lord; to be sacrificed to him upon his altar. Both this and the other goat ă·zā·zêl typified Christ; that is, these two goats signified the two aspect of Christ our Messiah; One as the Son of God, the other as the Suffering Servant of Man;

— Rashi: And Aaron shall place lots upon the two he-goats: He would place one [he-goat] on his right and one on his left. Then, he would insert both his hands into an urn [which contained two lots, one bearing the inscription “to the Lord” and the other “to Azazel.” These lots were mixed up, and Aaron, with both hands inside the urn] took one lot in his right hand and the other in his left hand, and he would place them upon them [the he-goats]: [The one] upon which [he placed the lot] with the inscription “to the Lord,” would be for God, while the one upon which [he placed the lot] with the inscription “to Azazel,” would be sent off to Azazel. — [Yoma 39a]

Azazel: This is a strong and hard mountain, [with] a high cliff, as the Scripture says [in describing Azazel] (verse 22 below),“a precipitous land (אֶרֶץ גְּזֵרָה),” meaning a cut-off land [i.e., a sheer drop]. — [Torath Kohanim 16:28; Yoma 67b]

And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. — the one which was “for the Lord had a red woollen thread tied around its neck, whilst the one “for Azazel” had the scarlet thread tied on the head or on the horns;

— this seems a probability, that the goat upon which the Lord’S lot fell represents the Son of God;

10 But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him and to let him go as a scapegoat into the wilderness. — and the one “for Azazel” represents the Son of Man; he was sent into the wilderness where he would be pushed over a cliff and to die there; he represents the Suffering Servant of Man as in Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12.

11 “And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself.

12 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it inside the veil. — and his hands full of sweet incense; having provided himself with two handfuls of the finest incense, and holding the censer with the fire in his right hand, and the cup with the incense in his left, he now entered for the first time through the second vail into the Holy of Holies, advanced to the ark of the covenant, and deposited the censer between its two staves;

— during the second Temple he stepped forward to the stone which was the substitute of the Ark, and placed the censer upon it.

13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not. — standing before the Ark, he deposited the censer of coals on the floor, emptied the plate of incense into his hand, poured it on the burning coals; and the atmosphere was filled with fragrant smoke, which was the Lord’s throne.

14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. — the high priest having done this, perfumed the sanctuary, returned to the door, took the blood of the slain bullock, and, carrying it into the holy of holies, sprinkled it with his finger once upon the mercy seat “eastward”—that is, on the side next to himself; and seven times “before the mercy seat” that is, on the front of the Ark.

The same use is made of the blood, which is once sprinkled by Aaron on the mercy-seat and seven times on the ground before it, as in the former case. 

15 Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. — leaving the coals and the incense burning, he went out a second time, to sacrifice at the altar of burnt offering the goat which had been assigned as a sin offering for the people; and carrying its blood into the holy of holies, he made similar sprinklings as he had done before with the blood of the bullock.

16 And he shall make an atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions in all their sins; and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. — for the second times, he went out of the Holy of Holies and killed it outside the Sanctuary on its north side, and then returned to the Holy Place and the altar of burnt offering; and in like manner sprinkled seven times with the blood of the bullock and the goat.

— Rashi: He shall do likewise to the Tent of Meeting: i.e., just as he had sprinkled from [the blood of] both [the bull and the he-goat] inside [the Holy of Holies, with] one sprinkling above and seven below, so shall he sprinkle from [the blood of] both [the bull and the he-goat] on the dividing curtain from the outside once above and seven times below. — [Torath Kohanim 16:43; Yoma 56b]

17 And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the Holy Place until he come out, and has made an atonement for himself and for his household and for all the congregation of Israel. — while the high priest was thus engaged in the most holy place, none of the ordinary priests were allowed to remain within the precincts of the tabernacle.

18 And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord and make an atonement for it, and shall take of the blood of the bullock and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. — and he shall go out unto the altar; the authorities during the second Temple took this to denote the golden altar, or the altar of incense which stood in the Holy place over against the Holy of Holies, as this was the altar for which expiation was made once a year on this day; hence it was cleansed next.

19 And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. — and for the third times he shall sprinkle; he then sprinkled with his right finger, seven times, the middle or top of the altar, the coals and ashes having been previously removed so effectually, that the gold appeared. 

20 “And when he hath made an end of reconciling the Holy Place and the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, he shall bring the live goat. — and when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place; that is, the holy of holies, by carrying in the blood of the bullock, and of the goat there, and sprinkling them as before:

21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. — and Aaron shall lay both his hands; with the imposition of “both his hands,” a phrase which only occurs in this ceremony, the high priest indicated in the most solemn manner possible that the animal was intended both for the priesthood and for the laity.

— both goat were sacrificed as a sin offering, and this other led away into a solitary land. Putting them upon the head of the goat; by this imposition of hands and the confession, the high priest transferred the sins of the nation to the goat. He then turned to the people, and declared, “Ye shall be clean.”

— Matthew Poole: the Jews write that this goat was carried to the mountain called Azazel, whence the goat is so called, Leviticus  Leviticus 16:10; and that there he was cast down headlong; and that the red string by which he was led turned white when God was pleased with the Israelites, otherwise it remained red; and then they mourned all that year. And the ancient Hebrews write, that forty years before the destruction of the temple, which was about the time of Christ’s death, this red string turned no more white.

22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.

— According to Ellicott’s commentary:

During the second Temple, however, the authorities decreed that the animal must be destroyed. Accordingly one of the priests who was appointed to execute this mission led the goat to a rock called Zuck, in the wilderness, situate about twelve miles, or ninety furlongs, from Jerusalem.

Between the holy city and this steep rock, ten booths were erected at intervals of one mile, and persons were located in every booth to accompany the messenger to the next tent, which was distant a Sabbath day’s journey. From the last booth to the rock, which was double this distance, the messenger had no companion, but he was carefully watched by the occupants of the last booth to see that he performed the ritual according to the prescribed order.

On his arrival at the mountain he divided the crimson thread, which was the badge of the goat, into two; one half he fastened to the rock, and the other he tied between the two horns of the victim, and then pushed the animal down the projecting ledge of the rock, when it was dashed to pieces before it reached the bottom. Hereupon the persons stationed at the last booth to watch the proceedings waved linen cloths or white flags, thus signalling from station to station to the priests in the court of the Temple the arrival of the goat at its proper destination.

23 “And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there; — shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation; better, shall come into the tent of meeting;

— this was the fourth time that the high priest entered into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. The object of his going into the most Holy was to fetch the censer and the incense cup which he had left between the two staves, Leviticus 16:12. To do this he had again to bathe which always accompanied the change of garments and to put on his white robes.

24 and he shall wash his flesh with water in the Holy Place and put on his garments, and come forth and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself and for the people. — bathing in the holy place, that is, in that part of the sanctuary set apart for that purpose; and put on his garments and come forth; put on his golden garments, and come out of the place where he had washed himself, to the court, where was the altar of burnt offering: 

25 And the fat of the sin offering shall he burn upon the altar. — and the fat of the sin offering; that is, the fat of the inwards of both the bullock and the goat.

26 And he that let go the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp. — both he who led away the goat, and he who burned the parts of the sin-offerings had to purify themselves. They who went out of the camp during a religious solemnity incurred uncleanness; hence, the need of purification.

27 And the bullock for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall one carry forth outside the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins and their flesh and their dung. — as the blood of the bullock and the goat which had been offered in the special sacrifices of the day had been carried within the sanctuary (verses 14, 15), their bodies had to be burnt outside the camp;

— the fact of Christ’s having “suffered outside the camp” serves as an indication that his blood had in its atoning effects been carried into the holy of holies, to be presented before the Mercy Seat, before the Father.

28 And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp. — the man who took the goat into the desert and those who burned the two sin-offerings outside the camp, had also to wash their clothes and bathe their bodies before they returned to the camp, because they had been defiled by the animals laden with sin.

29 “And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country or a stranger who sojourneth among you; — was to be observed as a solemn fast, in which “they were to afflict their souls” it was reckoned a sabbath, kept as a season of “holy convocation,” or assembling for religious purposes;

— any person who performed any labor on Yom Kippur were subject to the death penalty.

30 for on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. — for on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you to cleanse you; by offering the sin offering for them; typical of the sacrifice of Christ, whose soul was made an offering for sin whereby atonement is made for it, and whose blood cleanses from all sin;

— that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord; which is a general phrase; as Christ by his blood and sacrifice has cleansed all his people from all their sins of every sort, so that they stand pure and clean, unblamable and unreproveable, before the throne of God, and in his sight.

31 It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. — directions for the yearly celebration of the day of atonement; it was to be kept on the tenth day of the seventh month, as an “everlasting statute”

32 And the priest, whom he shall anoint and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest’s office in his father’s stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments; — and the priest, whom he shall anoint; better, and the priest who shall be anointed. Not only is Aaron to make atonement on this occasion but in future the priest who shall be consecrated by the proper authorities as his successor to the pontificate shall perform this act of expiation on the Day of Atonement.

33 and he shall make an atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests and for all the people of the congregation.

34 And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you: to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year.” And he did as the Lord commanded Moses. — this shall be an everlasting statute unto you. It lasted as long as the earthly Jerusalem lasted, and until the heavenly Jerusalem was instituted, when it had a spiritual fulfillment once for all.

~ by Joel Huan on June 21, 2022.

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