From several minutes before sunset on October 7, until just after nightfall on October 8, the Day of Atonement, known as Yom Kippur in Hebrew, is observed by the Jewish People around the world. The holiest and most somber day on the biblical calendar, even non-religious Jews often attend synagogue services and consider the meaning of Yom Kippur. The more observant will fast to fulfill the commandment to “deny himself.”
Yom Kippur is the climax of the Yamim Noraim, the ten Days of Awe that began with Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets. These days are considered a time for introspection and teshuvah—repentance, turning from sin, and making restitution—preparation for the Day of Atonement.
The Jewish People seek forgiveness from God for their sins and to have their names written in the Book of Life for another year on Yom Kippur. Some Orthodox Jews, understanding that according to Leviticus 17:11, a blood sacrifice is needed for atonement, add a kaparot service, in which a chicken is sacrificed while asking forgiveness. This is similar to the biblical Scapegoat: “on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins” (Leviticus 16:30).
In the days when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the High Priest would pronounce the Divine Name of God, which was otherwise never heard, and the people would prostrate themselves. He would then enter the Holy of Holies. This was the only day when the High Priest could enter this most sacred place to offer sacrifice for the entire community of Israel.
Although Messianic Jews have received the eternal atonement through the death and resurrection of Yeshua, and we know our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, we generally fast along with all Israel and find this to be an extremely important time of intercession. Jewish hearts are turned toward God, seeking and contrite during this day as no other time during the year.
This is a very pivotal and critical year for Israel. There is much unrest within—anti-government demonstrations, strikes, and civil division. Threats from without surround Israel also. Both the final status of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital and Israel’s right to defensible borders are being challenged by nearly all world powers. Israel has lost nearly all key allies in the Middle East as radical Islamic regimes take hold and virulent anti-Semitism rises throughout the world.
Yom Kippur is a very vulnerable time for Israel as the entire country shuts down for a high Sabbath. On Yom Kippur in 1973, Egypt and Syria led a massive surprise attack on Israel, nearly devastating this tiny nation. Israel is once again surrounded by hostile enemies during this holiest of Sabbaths.
How You Can Pray During Yom Kippur:
- Pray for God to draw Jewish hearts to Himself during Yom Kippur, and to reveal Himself to those who are seeking Him. The Bible promises, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13) and “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me” (Proverbs 8:17).
- Pray for Jewish People to develop a “divine discontent”—to cry out to God for more than a yearly covering of sin, that He would grant true atonement that only Messiah can bring.
- Pray for opportunities to share the Messiah with Jewish People who are hurting or have open hearts during this time.
- Pray for divine protection over Israel through Yom Kippur.
- Pray for Israel’s leaders to stand strong against world pressure to divide Jerusalem and the Land of Israel.