Friday, September 24, 2004

Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Spoken of in Leviticus 16, this is the traditional day for the Jews where atonement is made for sins of Israel that have caused a ritual impurity or separation from God or their own people or sins committed in ignorance. Nadab and Abihu are mentioned here, perhaps because the presence of their rebellion and death brought a ritual impurity that required ritual renewal.

In ancient Judaism, two goats, a bull, and a ram were to be brought to the tabernacle (or later Temple) courts. The bull would be for a sin offering of the priest and blood would be sprinkled on the "mercy seat" of the ark of the covenant. The ram would be completely burned as a "whole or burnt offering." The two goats were brought, hands were laid upon them, and one was released into the wilderness as the scapegoat. The Chicago Cubs did not make up this concept, though they continue to practice it! The scapegoat is a misnomer, developed out of the idea of "the goat who escapes" but the word, Azazel, is not that easy to translate. Another example of how it's been translated is something like "spirit of the wilderness or the edge" The idea is that one goat is for the Lord and the sins of the people and the other carries the sins of the people to the edge, outside the camp.

Jews in America do not sacrifice goats and bulls but practice Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which begins a period of reflection and repentance and giving of forgiveness for sins against one another, even those committed in ignorance. Yom Kippur is the end of ten days of repentance and various forms of fasting. Honey cakes are baked, candles are lit the night before Yom Kippur to symbolize the hope of the human soul being light in the world. Often, white garments are worn to symbolize forgiveness, purity, atonement. A ram's horn, or Shofar (same thing blown before Jericho walls fell), is blown to end Yom Kippur and Saturday will be a special Shabbat and feast.

I do not practice these Holy Days but study them and observe them, so if you know of a mistake I've made, please point it out, because I want it to be accurate and I'd like to learn more about the Jewish faith and practice that has been the foundation for our Christian faith, the tree into which we are graphed (Rom 9).


At 6:43 AM, Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball said...

Sounds like an interesting study!

Ever since my Advanced Intro. to the Old Testament here at ACU, I have longed for (perhaps too strong a term) a deeper understanding of our Hebrew heritage. I think we as Christians lose a lot when we think of "our story" as beginning in Matthew with the birth of Christ. Truly, this is a monumental occurance, but hardly the beginning of our story. Our narrative is shared with today's Jews. It was OUR people that were held captive in Egypt. It was OUR ancestors who wandered in the desert, and who inherited the Promised Land, and consequently forgot the covenant, and defiled the land. It is OUR people that the prophets led home from exile.

I'm reading Walter Brueggemann's "Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism" for class this semester, and it has only reaffirmed my desire to see more "Jewishness" in our church. How much more might we understand our connection to the past if we were to practice "Boothing" (which I am thinking about doing with my family), or if we were to celebrate a Passover meal, as Christians?

Good thoughts today...thanks for sharing

At 6:57 PM, Blogger Greg Taylor said...

I asked you for corrections but I discovered one corrective to what I wrote this weekend in talking to a Jewish friend. He said Yom Kippur actually starts on Friday, yes, but at sundown, so the major Day of Atonement ceremonies take place late Friday and Saturday.

Jill ran into a student of hers in J.T. Moore Middle School, a Metro Nashville public school, and the student, named Micah, was having a Bible study with his family in the park. The father said, "We thought we'd have a Bible study on the Day of Atonement." They are Christians who wanted to understand our Jewish heritage better.


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