Today is Yom Kippur, the most holy day observed by our Jewish brothers and sisters. It actually began at sunset last evening and will end just after sunset today. Christianity is rooted in Judaism so I thought I'd share some interesting notes about Yom Kippur, which, by the way, is pronounced Yome KipPOUR.
Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement and it always falls ten days after Rosh Hashana, which is the Jewish New Year. The dates of the holidays float, but both holidays take place in September or October.
It's possible that Jesus himself celebrated Yom Kippur! Many scholars place Yom Kippur in Leviticus 16:29-34, Leviticus 23:27-32 and Numbers 29:7-11. Simply click the links to read the passages.
This is a reflective day of righting one's relationship with God and it is observed with fasting, prayer, and by attending religious services. In a sense, the solemnity and the focus on relationship with the Divine are similar to the Christian observation of Lent.
Just as you wouldn't wish someone “Happy Lent”, you wouldn't say “Happy Yom Kippur” but rather, “have an easy fast”. At the end of the holiday, the Shofar (hollow rams horn) will be blown and observant Jews will break the fast with a meal.
During the observation, the Book of Jonah will be read in synagogues. The significance is that no one is out of the reach of God's influence and no one, nor any community, is foresaken by God. God always calls us back into relationship.
We learn the origin of the term “scapegoat” in Leviticus 16:1-34. In verses 20-22, we see that the sins of the community were spoken over a live goat and he was then led away from the people and into the wilderness.
The days leading up to Yom Kippur give people the opportunity to look back, take stock, and make adjustments to behaviors moving forward. At Yom Kippur, participants are getting back into right relationship with God. The end goal is to have one's name inscribed the Book of Life. Below, you'll find New Testament passages that reference the Book of Life.
As Christians, we may believe that through substitutionary atonement, Christ Jesus has opened eternal life unto us; however we still have an ongoing responsibility to be in right relationship with God, each other, and all of creation. In our Communion liturgy, we often share a Prayer of Confession before taking the sacrament. We will admit aloud that we have, in some ways, fallen short of God's hopes for us. We usually confess that we have somehow missed the mark and we typically ask God to help us do better moving forward.
Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.
Together, we can bring Christ's word and work to the world.