Yom Kippur & Afflicting Your Soul – Part I
And יהוה spoke to Mosheh, saying, “On the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a set-apart gathering for you. And you shall afflict your beings, and shall bring an offering made by fire to יהוה. “And you do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before יהוה your Elohim. “For any being who is not afflicted on that same day, he shall be cut off from his people. “And any being who does any work on that same day, that being I shall destroy from the midst of his people. “You do no work – a law forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. ‘It is a Sabbath of rest to you, and you shall afflict your beings. (ISR98)
to be occupied, be busied with
to afflict, oppress, humble, be afflicted, be bowed down
– to humble oneself, bow down
– to humble, weaken oneself
Primitive root: 6030
properly, to eye or (generally) to heed, i.e. pay attention; by implication, to respond
specifically to sing, shout, testify, announce:–give account
What is being afflicted?
Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the יהוה. ( Lev 23:27 KJV)
What and where is the soul?
For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Lev 17:11 KJV)
What is atonement?
to cover, purge, make an atonement, make reconciliation, cover over with pitch
In various forms of the this word, a picture of covering or protection or mercy and forgiveness is used.
When we afflict our souls – we could understand this to mean that we are to humble ourselves before Elohim; to pay attention to or take heed of His instructions for us. What we humble is our souls; our life – down to the very life-giving substance; our blood. It is the blood / soul of the flesh that brings a covering, mercy, or protection.
Both the Ark of Noach and the Ark of the Testimony or covered (kaphar) and both illustrated a picture of protection and mercy.
How do we afflict/humble our souls/life?
I then proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahawa, to humble ourselves before our Elohim, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions … (Ezra 8:21 ISR98)
But I, when they were sick, I put on sackcloth; I humbled my being with fastings; And my prayer would return to my own bosom. (Psalm 35:13)
And I wept in my being with fasting, And it became my reproach. (Psalm 69:10)
While soul is commonly used to translate Nephesh – there is another translation for the same word that illustrates ‘appetite’.
And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. (Proverbs 23:2)
For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. (Psalm 107:9)
The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. (Proverbs 27)
There’s a picture of feeding the soul or appetite of one’s self. And to humble / afflict your soul or appetite; one should; or rather could, fast.
Let’s explore the root word of Nephesh; Naphash. “to take breath, refresh oneself”.
The nepshesh (life/soul) is in the blood. Looking at the root again; refresh oneself, we can understand this to read that our blood is what refreshes our body.
A quick study on how blood works:
Every cell in the body gets its nutrients from blood. The heart pumps blood through the arteries, capillaries and veins to provide oxygen and nutrients to every cell of the body. The blood also carries away waste products.
How was man created?
And the יהוה God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed (נָפַח naphach) into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (נֶפֶשׁ nephesh). (Genesis 2:7)
Our Creator provided us with life through His own breath. Could we conclude that part of God’s own soul lived in Adam?
Review or words
Nesphesh – Soul
Naphash (root) – to take breath; refresh onself
Naphach – to breath
Is fasting the only way to humble our souls?
Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. (Isaiah 58:3)
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the יהוה? (Isaiah 58:5)
Are we commanded to fast? In short, no. The purpose of Yom Kippur is to afflict / humble our souls (willfully in obedience to our Creator). There is both positive and negative context to affliction. In most references to ‘anah’ (afflict) there is a picture of authority. In the case of the Hebrews affliction in Egypt, they were under the authority of Pharaoh. When we humble ourselves before God, we submit to His authority and obey His instructions – Torah.
- It is a call to humble ourselves before the Father
- To make ourselves low before Him, in obedience
- A time to realign ourselves and submit to His authority
- A call to repentance and introspection
In conclusion – to ‘afflict our souls’ can be interpreted to mean various ways one can humble themselves or submit to the authority of YHVH. To renew our mind, body, and soul by abstaining from the appetites of the flesh. For a closer examination of how one should fast, we encourage you to read all of Isaiah 58. Here’s a quick summary starting in verse 6, “Here is the sort of fast I want…”
- releasing those unjustly bound
- untying the thongs of the yoke
- letting the oppressed go free
- sharing your food with the hungry
- taking the homeless poor into your house
- clothing the naked when you see them
- fulfilling your duty to your kinsmen