The LORD said to Moses, "The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 23:27

Yom Kippur - preceded by Yom Truach

Mid morning on Yom Kippur at one of Jerusalem's busiest junctions.

Mid morning on Yom Kippur at one of Jerusalem's busiest junctions.

Number five and number six of the Moedim (Appointed times of )

Yom Truach     (  The Feast of Trumpets  

Falls on the day generally celebrated as Rosh Hashanna - or the Jewish New Year     ( 1st Tishrei )

Leviticus 23 v23 onwards says, 

"The LORD said to Moses,  "Say to the Israelites: `On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.  Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.' " 

Trumpets falls on Rosh Hashanna (literally the head of the year).  This is the start of the civil year, not the start of the religious year which is the first of Nisan (14 days before Passover)

Rosh Hashanna  is a time for prayers and good wishes for  the coming year.   Customs include eating apple dipped in honey for a sweet new year and eating the head of a fish, with the wish that they be the head - not the tail.   Because Rosh Hashanna coincides with Trumpets (see below) the Jews start each new year with self examination and repentance.  An excellent idea!


Yom Truach  ( literally The Day of Blasting )   (known as Trumpets)

Trumpets falls on the first day of Tishri (the seventh month)

Trumpets calls the people to prepare for Yom Kippuror the Day of Atonement.

The ten days from Trumpets to the Day of Atonement are known as "the days of awe" and the people consider very carefully what sins will be held against them when GOD reckons up.    Jewish tradition says that on this day GOD enters the righteous in the book of life and the wicked in the book of death.   For  those in between , the verdict remains open until Yom Kippur.   Incidentally , Trumpets falls when the zodiac sign is the scales.

There is a one day feast (two days outside Israel) but it is rather subdued , as each one searches his conscience and prays.   Trumpets call for repentance while there is still time.       There is a ritual involving shaking out ones pockets over running water, while reciting psalms and prophets.   These days are also a time for righting wrongs done to others, paying debts and charitable giving.   Jews are well aware of the need to forgive and be forgiven by others before seeking forgiveness from God.

Trumpets also speaks of Sinai,   Exodus 19 v16-19,   

"On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.   Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently,  and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him."

In Numbers  10,  GOD instructed the people to make two silver trumpets.   (Silver symbolizes redemption, and the two symbolize Jews and Gentiles.)    The two trumpets had different purposes

One was for breaking camp and moving out and the other to sound the alarm for warfare.    The return of Jesus will be heralded by trumpets  (Rev 8 v6 & 13).   In prophetic terms this could mean one trumpet for the rapture of the church  ( Rev 4&5 )   while the other trumpet  is for the Jews for warfare for the restoration of Israel and the seven year tribulation  ( Rev 6v18 , Joel 2 v1,  Zeph 1 v14-18 )

See also Matt 24v29-31 and Rev 19 v11-16    See also Musical Instruments

Yom Kippur

The LORD said to Moses,  "The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire.  Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God.  Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people.  I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day.  You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.  It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.""

Yom Kippur falls on the tenth of Tishri, following the ten Days of Awe that were instituted by the blowing of Trumpets.

The Day of Atonement is the central holy day in the Autumn season of Tabernacles.   It is the most solemn day of the year.   It was instituted in Leviticus 16 see also Lev 23 v26-32 and Num 29 v7.   The people had to be prepared for Yom Kippur as it was the day of national cleansing and repentance and is also known to the Jews as the Day of Judgment.    (Each Jubilee year ( release of captives) started on Yom Kippur. )       (see Lev 25 v8-54 &  Is 61 v1-2  which Jesus quoted in Luke 4 v16-19) )

The Atonement process

(See Big words for a definition of atonement.)

Leviticus chapter 16 makes clear that GOD set up the Day of Atonement to protect his people from coming into his holy presence in their sin and being destroyed as Aaron's two sons had been.   You will notice all the cleansing that the high priest had to go through to be able to enter GOD'S presence.   It is sometimes said that the Jews were in such awe of this occasion that the priest went in with a rope around his waist so that they could pull him out if he was struck down. However, it has not proved possible to verify this story from  reliable sources, so it may have originated in fanciful preaching.

There were several animal offerings to deal with the sin of the priest, his family and the people.   The High Priest had to wash and put on the sacred garments.   Even then he could not go before the Atonement cover without filling the place with incense smoke to obscure the atonement cover so that he would not die.        See also The Temple, the Tabernacle and the Glory of God

Then one of two goats was selected by lot and sacrificed as a sin offering.   The priest had to take the blood of the sin offering behind the curtain to sprinkle it on the Atonement cover to make atonement because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites.    The second goat became the scapegoat.  The priest was to lay both hands on the goat's head and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the people.   It was then taken out into the desert and released, carrying all the sins of the people.

Note that none of the animals sacrificed on the Day of Atonement was a lamb.  Yeshua's sacrifice was as the Passover lamb, although He has made Atonement for us.

The Talmud, the Jewish sacred writings second only in importance to the Tanach, record that one of the sacrificial animals had a scarlet cord tied around its neck, which turned white when GOD had accepted atonement for the people.   This miracle occurred every nearly every year for around 1500 years but did not occur again from the year Jesus was crucified until the Temple was destroyed and all Temple worship ceased.   (Talmud yoma 39a)

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the only day GOD commanded a fast.   "You shall afflict your souls and make an offering."    There was to be no work or conjugal relations.  


Devout Jews wear a funeral shroud ( white for purity, repentance and forgiveness )

It is customary to give increased charity on Erev Yom Kippur as charity helps to repeal any evil decrees. (See the Kaparot section below).

Sins committed against another person cannot be atoned for until one has first sought forgiveness from the person he/she has wronged.

The last meal before the fast is a good square meal, but one that is easily digestible.

Kol Nidre

The evening with which Yom Kippur commences is called Kol Nidre although Kol Nidre is only one part of the service. Kol Nidre is well known for the beautiful, haunting melody to which it is chanted - youtube . Also, Max Bruch wrote a beautiful arrangement for cello - youtube

Kol Nidre means all vows and is the section of the service in which prayers are made asking forgiveness for all unfulfilled promises.    Kol Nidre dates from the Inquisitions when Jews were forced to accept Christian baptism and renounce their Jewish faith or face death.  They had to maintain their Jewish observances in secret, and seek God's release from the vows extracted under duress. "Kol nidre" refers only to vows between the person making them and G-d, but this prayer is often held up by anti-Semites as proof that Jews are untrustworthy

Perhaps the most important addition to the normal liturgy is the confession of the sins of the community, which is inserted into the Amidah prayer. All sins are confessed in the plural (we), emphasizing communal responsibility for sins.

The evening service of which Kol Nidrei is a part consists of the Half-Kaddish, the Shema, the Amidah, the Al Chet confession of sins, and special additional prayers (piyyutim) which are said only on the night of Yom Kippur.

Daytime Services

The daytime services of Yom Kippur are characterized by their emphasis on the two major themes of forgiveness from sin and teshuvah, or repentance. According to the traditional Jewish prayers, God immediately forgives us for the sins that affect no one else other than our relationship with God. For sins that affect and harm others, we must first apologize and seek forgiveness from those whom we have hurt. Only then are the prayers of Yom Kippur considered effective in absolving our sins. Teshuvah is the process by which we recognize our sins, feel regret for having committed them, and then resolve not to do them again and make restitution for any harm we may have caused. All of the major prayers of the Yom Kippur liturgy focus on these themes.

Torah Service

The Torah portion read on Yom Kippur morning is taken from Leviticus 16, which details the ancient biblical Yom Kippur rituals

The Haftarah, or additional biblical reading, is taken from the book of Isaiah, Chapters 57 and 58, in which the prophet criticizes the empty, superficial religious rituals of the ancient Israelites when the rites are not accompanied by acts of righteousness, charity, and morality.

Viddui or confession. In these prayers, the community literally recites an alphabet of different transgressions it has committed, from Aleph to Tav, the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The language of the prayers is all in the plural; the point being that no one single person has committed all of these sins, but rather we, as a community, are collectively responsible. When reciting the lists of sins, it is traditional to gently beat on one’s breast over the heart in a symbolic act of self-remonstration.

Musaf or additional service includes many ancient and medieval religious poems included over the centuries to continue to heighten the spiritual experience of the day.

The Martyrology is a long medieval poem that describes in painfully gruesome detail the deaths of famous rabbis during ancient Roman persecutions. This poem, oftentimes including additions from the time of the Holocaust, is intended to impress upon us the spiritual devotion of our ancestors, as well as to intensify the religious and emotional tenor of the day.

The Avodah service refers to the rituals enacted on Yom Kippur in the Temple in Jerusalem in ancient times. Basing itself on biblical precedents, the Avodah service is taken from rabbinic and Talmudic sources and describes the historical highlights of the awesome and overwhelming pageantry of the priests and Levites in the Temple, with the people in attendance.

The Mincha service includes the Torah reading of the laws of forbidden marriages (Leviticus 18). Because sexuality can and should be a vehicle for creating the divine presence in our lives, it is appropriate that such a seemingly profane topic should be read in public on Yom Kippur. (Reform Jews read Leviticus 19, "the holiness code.")

The Haftarah for the Mincha service is the entire biblical book of Jonah, which deals with the theme of repentance.

A beautiful song from Yom Kippur is Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father our King) - performed by Barbara Striesand on YouTube

Ne'ilah At nightfall ( the end of the day - as soon as the stars come out ) the sound of the shofar blowing of the tekiah gedolah, a long blast, resounds around the synagogue for the last time as heaven's gates are closing .

The concluding service of Yom Kippur, known as Ne'ilah, is one unique to the day. It usually runs about 1 hour long. The ark housing the scrolls of the Torah is kept open throughout this service, thus one must stand (if able) throughout the service. Ne’Ilah – the Locking – is a plea that the gates of God’s mercy will remain open.

Liturgy, see

The lectionary reading for Yom Kippur is the story of Jonah - Yonah. Jonah's experience of repentance - teshuva (turning) and restoration speaks to us all..



The careful reader will have noticed that there is a gap between the sacrifice for Atonement detailed in Leviticus and the day of Yom Kippur celebrated today.

The big question is, can there be Atonement?

Jesus as fulfillment

It is worth reading Leviticus 16, considering the significance of Jesus' blood and the tearing of the curtain in the Temple.

Jesus' blood would not have been shed in significant quantities (unlike the blood of a sacrifice) by the process of crucifixion since the soldiers were careful to avoid major blood vessels which would allow the victim a quicker, easier death by blood loss.   Jesus' blood was poured out when the soldier, seeing he was already dead and did not need his legs broken to speed up the process, thrust a spear into his side.  (John 19 v33-34 )    Modern medicine recognizes  a condition where blood separates into blood and water due to severe stress, indicating that Jesus died of a broken heart.    See also The Cross of Jesus

Hebrews 9 and 10 explain that Jesus "went into the heavenly Holy of Holies with his blood and made atonement once and for all"   (Heb 9 v12)  When Jesus died, the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the people was torn in two, from top to bottom, showing that access had been made available to all men.

Jesus' trip into the (Heavenly) Holy of Holies was, clearly, made after His resurrection.  The reason He told Mary not to touch Him was that He had not yet ascended to take the blood to make atonement.   The High Priest would have been made unclean for this task of making atonement by touching a woman (such was the state of holiness required).  Jesus' disciples were allowed to touch Him later.

It would not be appropriate for us to celebrate Yom Kippur in fear.   However, it can be a good day to fast,  interceding for unsaved Israel and unsaved Gentiles and thanking  GOD that atonement has been made for us by taking away our sins.

Our walk

(Following the fourth step of being filled with the Holy Spirit.)

Step five - Trumpets   - spiritual warfare , followed closely by

Step six - trials.    Trials are allowed by GOD to test our faith like gold.  Malachi 3 v3 talks of refining silver .   The heat is progressively turned up and the impurities are skimmed off until the refiner can see his face reflected in the surface of the pure, precious metal.


Trumpets - Jesus will judge the world.  The Last Trumpet will sound.

Yom Kippur - Judgment Day and GOD'S people will be set free ( Jubilee )   ( see Rev 4 & 5 )

" And I will pour out on the house of David ....... They will look on me, the one they have pierced and they will mourn.............."  ( Zech 12 vlO-14 )   "On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity." (Zech 13 v1 )

A remnant of Israel will be saved, like the remnants saved from the exiles.

Yom Kippur is a special case in the sequence of seven Moedim that prophesy of the Messiah as it stands alone as a foreshadowing of Messiah and his atoning sacrifice. See Atonement

Updated 14/12/10

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