In that day, I will restore David’s fallen sukkah. I will repair it’s broken walls and restore it’s ruins. I will rebuild it as in the days of old.

– Amos 9:11

Riders of the Lost Ark – A Yom Kippur story – Part Two

This is the second of a two-part newsletter about Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

 

I had an interesting childhood – attended Yiddish school, was involved with Yiddish theater and played in a Yiddish mandolin orchestra. Though at rare times I got suited up with my dad on the High Holidays and went to synagogue, my viewpoint was like that of my Yiddish-speaking communist parents: anyone who believed in God was both primitive and superstitious.

 

But I still knew that there was something different about Yom Kippur. Call it a nagging feeling, but I knew that many Jews felt that the Day of Atonement was the one Jewish holy day not to treat lightly. Jews who didn’t fast or try to feel repentant on that day might be cut off from the Jewish people forever. That’s what I understood Jewish tradition to say. For many of my friends, Yom Kippur was the only time they attended synagogue – ‘Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Jews’ were like ‘Christmas and Easter Christians,’ it seemed to me.

 

As a child, my father backed up Yossele Rosenblatt, considered the finest cantor of his time, in a synagogue choir in Manhattan. I still have my father’s Yom Kippur prayer book which he worked from as a cantor in the U.S. Army during WWII – complete with penciled-in notes as to who would sing what. I remember how his voice sounded when he sang Yom Kippur cantorial melodies.

 

I knew that the high point, the most decisive spiritual climax of the synagogue service, was the Ne’ila – the locking of the doors of Heaven, I was told.  These were the last possible seconds in the packed service where one’s personal repentance might actually accomplish something before the God of Jacob. The final blast of the shofar brought that drama to a close, and my father and I would slowly return home.

 

Only after I came to faith in Messiah Yeshua did I begin to sift through tradition and history, comparing them to what Moses and the Prophets taught. As a young Messianic Jew, I also tried to learn from older brothers and sisters in the Lord, but found that most of them knew even less than I did about these matters. This newsletter is a short summation of what I have learned since then, presented in five questions:

 

  • What went on in both the Tabernacle and the Temple on the Day of Atonement

 

  • What does the biblical term ‘to be cut off’ (associated with Yom Kippur) mean for us today

 

  • What rabbinic teachings shape most Jewish people’s understanding of the Day of Atonement

 

  • How can Messianic believers relate to Yom Kippur

 

  • What do the prophetic Scriptures say about Yom Kippur and the Jewish people’s destiny

 

 

A Day in the life

 

The Third Book of Moses (Vayyīqrāʾin Hebrew, Leuïtikón in Greek and Leviticus in English) describes the events of the Day of Atonement, step by step and hour by hour. Leviticus 16:1-34 presents the events from the perspective of what tasks the High Priest needed to accomplish, while Leviticus 23:26-32 addresses the common people of Israel and their commemoration of the Holy Day. Numbers 29:7-11 gives a complete list of the offerings and sacrifices (sin, burnt, grain, drink) commemorated on that day. Here are the five main stages of Yom Kippur:

 

  • The High Priest purifies himself and dons special linen garments
  • He cleanses the Tabernacle from impurities
  • He makes an atoning sacrifice for national sin
  • He sprinkles the atoning blood on the kapōret (the place of the atoning cover on the Ark of the Covenant)
  • He sends the scapegoat (the azazel) into the wilderness, a prophetic symbol of the total removal of Israel’s sin

 

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews [Messianic Jews] sums up this activity:

 

  • Therefore, even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Torah, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And almost all things are cleansed with blood, according to the [Mosaic] Teaching, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:18-22)

 

The Book of Leviticus 16:29-34 stresses the following heart attitudes and practices:

 

  • humble yourselves and do no work
  • a Sabbath of solemn rest in order to humble yourselves
  • a permanent statute once every year

 

The Book of Leviticus 23:26-32 adds:

 

  • a holy convocation
  • humble yourselves and do no work (mentioned 2-3 times)
  • “Any person who does not humble himself shall be cut off from his people. As for any person who does any work on this very day, that person I will eliminate from among his people”
  • a Sabbath of complete rest

 

Israel’s sobriety of heart and self-humbling of spirit were part and parcel of the national sin offering event. Yom Kippur was not exactly a happy festival; its somber nature eventually was connected to fasting, although that specific word is not used by the Bible in all of the contexts.

 

 

Cutting it close

 

YHVH entrusted the act of male circumcision on the eighth day to Abraham in Genesis 17:14. Disobedience on this point entailed being cut off from the Abrahamic Covenant and from the Jewish people:

 

  • “And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations . . .  So My covenant shall be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant. But as for an uncircumcised male, one who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people. He has broken My covenant” (Genesis 17:12-14)

 

The Hebrew term karath used in Genesis 17 means to cut down, cut off or destroy. It has a secondary meaning ‘to cut’ or to make a covenant. When the term is used with the sense ‘to cut off,’ it can refer to one of three possible meanings. Context is important in the interpreting which one of the three is being stressed. It should also be understood that these definitions are probably the maximum limits which judges could mete out, and not woodenly required in each situation:

 

  • to be cut off eternally from God
  • to be excommunicated on earth by men or by God
  • to be physically put to death directly by man or through God’s sovereign outworking

 

The following are 14 examples of activities which result in ‘being cut off,’ according to the Mosaic Covenant:

 

  • Kidnapping and slavery                                  Exodus 21:16
  • Being a false prophet                                      Deuteronomy 13
  • Blasphemy                                                        Leviticus 24:16; 1 Kings 21:10
  • Idolatry                                                             Deuteronomy 13:6-10
  • Occult practices                                              Leviticus 20:27
  • Adultery                                                           Deuteronomy 22:22
  • Adultery with an engaged woman               Deuteronomy 22:23-24
  • Incest                                                                Leviticus 20:11-14
  • Homosexuality                                                Leviticus 20:13
  • Bestiality                                                          Leviticus 20:15-16
  • Harlotry                                                            Deuteronomy 22:21
  • Premeditated murder                                    Exodus 21:12
  • Violating the Shabbat                                     Exodus 31:14-16; Numbers 15:32-36
  • Persistent/high-handed disobedience to God or to one’s parents (b’yad rama)
  •  Numbers 15:3-31; Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 21:20-21; Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2-3

 

Some of these judgments were capital offences, while other would involve exclusion from the community – either open-ended or limited in time (a ban). Numbers 27:14 refers to the rebellion at Kadesh, yet YHVH did not destroy Israel. Instead, His discipline entailed a national delay in entering the Promised Land – though most of that generation did die in the wilderness (Numbers 26:65).  When the Mosaic Covenant allows no atoning sacrifice for sin, and yet God graciously does not cut our people off, there is room for humbly rejoicing:

 

  • See then the kindness and severity of God: to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; for otherwise you too will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be uninformed of this mystery – so that you will not be wise in your own estimation – that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written: “The Deliverer will come from Zion. He will remove ungodliness from Jacob . . . This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” In relation to the gospel they are enemies on your account, but in relation to God’s choice they are beloved on account of the fathers – for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:22-29)

 

 

In 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 11:28-32 Paul points out how God can bring judgment on believers who highhandedly violate biblical commands. Though prosecutable evidence may escape human judges’ detection, God who sees everything may bring His justice about in His own time. The fear of the Lord is supposed to affect the community, so that all will know that YHVH will not tolerate hypocrisy and hidden sin in Israel’s public worship, praise and celebration (see Jude 1:12).

 

 

Messiah our Righteousness is cut off

 

There are two passages in the Scriptures which use the verb ‘cut off’ in connection with the Messiah: “Then after the sixty-two weeks, the Messiah will be cut off (yikaret) and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary” (Daniel 9:26). Isaiah adds a corresponding thought, using a similar Hebrew verb to karath  (‘nigzar’): “By oppression and judgment He was taken away. And as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off from the land of the living for the wrongdoing of my people, to whom the blow was due?” (Isaiah 53:8). God’s redemptive decision to ‘cut off’ the Messiah is the highest point in the history of atonement!

 

  • But YHVH was pleased to crush Him, causing Him grief. If He renders Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of YHVH will prosper in His hand. (Isaiah 53:10)

 

  • Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these things, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Messiah did not enter a holy place made by hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world. But now once at the consummation of the ages He has been revealed to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And just as it is destined for people to die once, and after this comes judgment, so Messiah also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:23-28)

 

  • But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and congregation of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Yeshua, the mediator of a New Covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)

 

  • But when Messiah appeared as a high priest of the good things having come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands, that is, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the Holy Place once for all time, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:11-14)

 

 

The Tashlich tradition – future sprinkling, washing and cleansing

 

A Jewish tradition from the late medieval period is based on Micah 7:18-20, where YHVH promises to cast (tashlich) all Israel’s sins into the depths of the sea. The forgiveness of the sins of the sons and daughters of Jacob is an oft-repeated theme in the prophets. This cleansing comes about as a result of Yeshua’s atonement:

 

Psalm 51:2                  washing and cleansing

Isaiah 44:22                wiping out sins

Micah 7:18-19            passing over the sin of remnant, casting it into the sea

Ezekiel 26:25              sprinkling clean water, cleansing

Jeremiah 33:8            cleansing and forgiving

Jeremiah 50:20          searching for Israel’s sins but they are not found

Zechariah 13:1            fountain of cleansing for House of David and inhabitants of Jerusalem

Ephesians 5:26           Messiah Yeshua cleanses us by the washing of water with the Word

 

  • But when Messiah appeared as a high priest of the good things having come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands, that is, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the Holy Place once for all time, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:11-14)

 

  • They will not teach again, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know YHVH,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, declares YHVH, for I will forgive their wrongdoing, and their sin I will no longer remember (Jeremiah 31:34)

 

  • For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the lands; and I will bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and bring it about that you walk in My statutes, and are careful and follow My ordinances (Ezekiel 36:24-27)

 

 

Cherries Jubilee

 

YHVH commanded that, once every fifty years, a national forgiveness of debts should be proclaimed across Israel. All debts would be wiped off the books – a joyous event indeed! Yom Kippur was the occasion for huge celebration among the Jewish people – a physical manifestation of a glorious spiritual reality:

 

  • You shall then sound a shofar abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonements you shall sound a shofar all through your land. So you shall consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family (Leviticus 25:9-10)

 

  • “Behold, I am going to engrave an inscription on it, declares YHVH of armies, and I will remove the guilt of that land in one day” (Zechariah 3:9)

 

 

A rabbinic Yom Kippur

 

Modern Orthodox Jewish perspectives on the Ten Days of Awe and the Day of Atonement have historical roots. After the Second Temple was destroyed by Imperial Rome, hopes for its speedy rebuilding did not materialize. Rabbinic Judaism then ‘rebuilt itself,’ bringing in non-biblical ceremonies of atonement which were not based on sacrifices on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. This required massive restructuring, and today’s Orthodox Judaism is that product – a step-child of Second Temple Judaism, one which has departed from the atonement-based foundations of Moses and Messiah Yeshua.

 

IN the 200’s A.D. Rabbi Judah the Prince (author of the Mishnah) brought forward a new and non-biblical concept regarding a staggered process: individual Jews are judged on the Feast of Trumpets but that judgment is only sealed on the Day of Atonement:

 

  • “Rabbi Judah says: All are judged on New Year and the separate dooms are sealed each in its time – on Passover in respect of produce, on Pentecost in respect of fruit, on Tabernacles judgment is passed in respect of rain, and man is judged on New Year and his doom is sealed on the Day of Atonement” (Babylonian Talmud [TB], Tractate Rosh Hashana 16a).

 

A few years after him, Rabbi Yochanan expanded on Rabbi Judah’s new teaching, adding embellishments of his own:

 

  • “Three books are opened (in heaven) on New Year, one for the thoroughly wicked, one for the thoroughly righteous, and one for the intermediate. The thoroughly righteous are forthwith inscribed definitively in the book of life. The thoroughly wicked are forthwith inscribed definitively in the book of death. The doom of the intermediate is suspended from New Year till the Day of Atonement. If they deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of life. If they do not deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of death” (TB, Tractate Rosh Hashana 16b).

 

This tradition has led to Rosh Hashana (the Feast of Trumpets) being described as Yom Ha-Din – the Day of Judgment.

 

Nearly one thousand years later, Rambam (Moshe ben Maimon or Maimonides) tried to explain the spiritual basis behind these not-biblically-based decisions. In his Mikra’ot Gedolot commentary on Leviticus, he stated:

 

  • “Now Scripture did not explain the reason for this commandment – why [we must do] the blowing [of the horn], and why we need a memorial before God on this day more than on all other days, and why He commanded altogether that this day should be a holy convocation. But because this day comes at the beginning of the month in which the Day of Atonement occurs, it would appear that on the New Year there is a judgment before Him, blessed be He, for by these He judges the peoples: on the New Year He sits upon the throne as the righteous Judge, and afterwards in the course of the next ten days He forgives the transgression of His servants.”

 

There we have it. Without biblical warrant, a whole new envelope was created and a whole new emphasis and understanding was given to these two biblical Holy Convocations. This transformed the biblical understanding and emphases of Yom Kippur into what is traditionally followed today.  From changing the biblical New Year to Eitanim/Tishrei, to a legally legislated Ten Days of Awe, to proclaiming that each and every individual Jew’s destiny is written down one year at a time in the Book of Life – these less-than-biblical emphases are traditionally embraced by many Jewish people.

 

 

It’s not easy being a Messianic Jew

 

For the remnant of Israel, we Messianic Jewish men and women who follow Messiah Yeshua, there are many scattered rocks and remains of broken buildings on our spiritual path to restoring the Jewish people in our Land – both physically and spiritually. Occasionally and poetically speaking, there is unexploded ordnance and even an active mine or two. Do pray for our fledgling community as we stride forward, laboring for the restoration of Jacob’s seed to the God of Jacob and to David’s Greater Son!

 

How can Messianic believers relate to Yom Kippur? Here are some foundational points:

 

Clearly, we are under the New Covenant and our atonement is through Yeshua.

 

We are not looking for our names to be written once yearly in heavenly books, for as Messiah Yeshua said: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (Luke 10:20).  “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time. And at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued” (Daniel 12:1)

 

If we choose to fast, it is in intercession for our people, that they would turn to Messiah Yeshua and receive His atonement – and not that our fasting would atone for our sins. These have already been atoned for by Yeshua. “But as for you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that your fasting will not be noticed by people but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:17-18).

 

It seems that the Apostle Paul was used to fasting on Yom Kippur: “When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the Fast was already over . . . “ (Acts 27:9).

 

We who follow Messiah are called to confess our sins before God on a daily basis, and to experience our personal Yom Kippur each day, as the blood of Messiah Yeshua cleanses us from all sin:

 

  • This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us (1 John 1:5-10).

 

 

How should we then pray? 

 

  • Pray for Jewish people to receive visitations and revelation about Messiah Yeshua our Atonement during this season
  • Pray for Messianic Jews and Gentiles to receive deepened understanding about the biblical and Messianic significance of this Holy Convocation
  • Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth

 

Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.

In Messiah Yeshua,

Avner Boskey

Donations can be sent to:

FINAL FRONTIER MINISTRIES

BOX 121971 NASHVILLE TN 37212-1971 USA

Donations can also be made on-line (by PayPal) through: www.davidstent.org   

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