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  Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement  

September 22, 2011

     Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year and is called the Day of Atonement.  The Biblical name is Yom Kippurim, meaning the day of covering, canceling, pardon, reconciling.  Yom Kippur was the only time when the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and call upon the Name YHVH to offer blood sacrifice for the sins of the people.  This “life for life” principle is the foundation of the sacrificial system codified in the Mosaic Law and marked the great day of intercession made by the High Priest on behalf of Israel.

            The entrance of the High Priest into the Holy of Holies reveals the High Priestly work of Messiah Yeshua, or Christ Jesus, as our High Priest after the order of Mechesidek (Heb 5:10, 6:20).  It also foreshadows three closing events of God’s work in the world: 1) the restoration of Israel, when its people are washed from their sins and given a new heart (Ezek 36:24-28), 2) the Savior’s second coming, when Jesus descends as King of kings to reign on earth, and the final judgment of the world.

            In rabbinic Judaism, Yom Kippur marks the climax of the ten-day period of repentance called the Days of Awe or yamim nor’imErev Yom Kippur begins in the Hebrew calendar at nightfall on Tishri 9 (which is October 7 this year) and continues 25 hours through the next day, Tishri 10, (October 8) until nightfall.  It is a day marked by complete fasting, prayer, and additional services.

            According to the Jewish sages, Moses came down from Sinai on Tishri 10 bearing the second set of tablets—the tablets given after God had forgiven Israel’s worship of the Golden Calf.  Orthodox Jews observe the 40 days that Moses was on the mountain receiving the second set of tablets.  It is called the season of Teshuvah. Beginning on Elul 1, it lasts 40 days, ending on Yom Kippur.  This year, Elul 1 is August 31.

            During the Season of Teshuvah, orthodox Jews make every effort to repent, or “turn [shuv] toward God.”  In Jewish tradition, these days are called Yemei Ratzon, or Days of Favor; for it was during this time that God showed favor toward Israel, forgiving the Hebrews for the sin of the Golden Calf.  Moses had interceded, requesting the Lord to “forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (Ex 32:32).

            Moses’ intercession prophetically foreshadows Jesus’ intercession for Zion, whose daughters “dwellest with the daughter of Babylon” (Zech 2:7).  Despite their transgressions, their light treatment of “the things you have received, which vanity and unbelief hath brought the whole church under condemnation” (D&C 83:8a) – their “jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires” by which “they polluted their inheritances” (D&C 98:3a) – Jesus will intercede “according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, for ever and ever.  In all their afflictions he was afflicted.  And the angel of his presence saved them; and in his love, and in his pity, he redeemed them, and bare them, and carried them all the days of old” (D&C 108:10a-b).

            On August 31, believers across this nation and around the world, gathered on first day of fasting, just as Moses did on the mount and just as orthodox Jews have done for millennia.  They come to turn toward God, to rend their hearts, to weep for their transgressions and to forsake their sins, that they might forsake them, become one and receive our Savior’s redeeming goodness and loving kindness.  On October 9, they will complete that time of fasting by laying their burdens on their Lord, their Messiah, who will redeem them according to His word.

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