A Rabbi Looks at Yom Kippur

By Jonathan Bernis,
CEO of Jewish Voice

Rabbi Jonathan Bernis

Rabbi Jonathan Bernis

The holiest day of the Jewish Year is Yom Kippur—a solemn time of acknowledging sins and seeking God’s forgiveness and mercy. In Hebrew, the word Yom means “day” and Kippur means “covering or atonement.”

Also known as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur was the one time of the year when the High Priest was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place of the Temple to atone for sin—his own as well as those of his family and the entire Nation. Further, he was required to sacrifice both a bull and a goat and then sprinkle the blood of these animals on the mercy seat. Next, a scapegoat was brought to the leaders of Israel. They were to lay hands on the animal, symbolically placing the sins of the Nation on it, and then drive it into the wilderness, where it carried the Nation’s sins.

Why two goats? The first one was to atone (pay) for the People’s sins. The second was to remove those sins from their presence. The blood of the first goat brought forgiveness. The second goat brought temporary cleansing and righteousness. As another year drew to its conclusion and the People reached another Day of Atonement, they once again needed a sacrifice as they were covered in the filth and grime of their sinful nature and desperately in need of another sacrifice.

Yom Kippur anticipates the day prophesied in Isaiah 59:20. . . .

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