Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the fifth of six Jewish Mo’edim or appointed times determined by God in the Torah. It occurs every fall between the Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Tabernacles. For Jews in Israel and around the world, this feast is one of the most significant and solemn observances that define the Jewish identity alongside the keeping of the Passover. Each year on this date, the Jews fast and “afflict their souls” (Leviticus 16:31) for a full day, recalling their sins over the past year and repenting through a series of traditional prayers and observances. It is their hope that God will accept these actions as penance, forgive them, and grant them one more year of life by writing their names in the book of life.
This day takes on a slightly different meaning for our community in Israel, and has an even greater spiritual significance. For many years now, we have been hosting a conference in Hebrew in which different congregations from the Jerusalem/Tel Aviv area participate. We begin by gathering on the afternoon of the eve of Yom Kippur for fellowship and an early dinner before beginning the fast. We then spend some time in worship followed by traditional Jewish prayers. Because there is no movement of vehicles anywhere in the country, we stay together over-night for this event.
A Sabbath of Solemn Rest
The next day, all throughout Israel Yom Kippur is a national holiday and the only Sabbath that is fully enforced by the state. Nearly all businesses are closed and all public roads and highways are shut down. It is also common for people to wander the normally congested city streets by foot or for children to ride their bicycles up and down the deserted freeways as the entire nation comes to a halt.
It is during this time at our conference that we join synagogues around the world in the traditional reading of the book of Jonah. This story is highlighted on Yom Kippur as a repentance story meant to provide inspiration and hope for receiving God’s forgiveness. But as believers in Yeshua, we also know that we don’t have to wonder whether God will forgive us our not, for our forgiveness is sure – through Yeshua’s death and resurrection.
The Last Trumpet
In the Scriptures the Feast of Trumpets seems to coincide with the trumpets announcing the great tribulation of the Book of Revelation. However, there is yet another trumpet call on Yom Kippur (Leviticus 25:9). It seems that Yeshua’s return will be somehow connected to this day as it is detailed in Zechariah 12. We therefore conclude our gathering with worship and cries of “Baruch haba b’shem Adonai!” or “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”