Friday, October 7, 2011 is the date in which most American Jews will take time to observe Yom Kippur. For many Christians, Jewish traditions are very foreign even though Christianity finds it’s roots in Judaism.
Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement. It is considered the holiest day of the year for most Jews. In the Torah, Yom Kippur is called Yom HaKippurim. In the book of Leviticus, chapter 23 and verse 27, it forbids work on Yom Kippur.
Held on the tenth day of the seventh month, called Tishrei, Yom Kippur is traditionally known as the date when Moses received the second set of Ten Commandments. It happened after the completion of the second 40 days of God’s instructions. It was at this time that the Israelites were granted atonement for building the golden calf to worship. Therefore it is known as the Day of Atonement.
At the time the Temple was in Jerusalem, the High Priest was mandated by the Torah to apply a very detailed set of required services and sacrifices for Yom Kippur to become a Day of Atonement. These were considered to be the most sacred of services performed by the Jews. They would provide atonement to all Jews and the world.
During the service, the Kohen Gadol(High Priest) would enter the Holy of Holies in the very center of the Temple. This was the only time throughout the year this occurred. Before going in, he went through five immersions in a ritual bath and four separate sets of clothing in order to be purified and prepared.
There was a precise list of things that had to be done by the High Priest on Yom Kippur. Among those ritual acts were the regular morning offering, the sacrificing of a Bull for the sins of the High Priest, and the sacrificing of a goat. All of the services were meant to pay for the sins of the people and point to the coming messiah.
Today, Yom Kippur is still the Holiest day in modern Israel and throughout the world for Jews. Radio and Television stations cease to broadcast, airports are completely closed, no public transportation is available, and most shops and businesses do not open throughtout Israel.
Photo 1: A Painting depicting Yom Kippur Observance
Photo 2: A Photo of Israel’s Highway 20, on Yom Kippur with no vehicles in site.