Yom Kippur & Afflicting Your Soul – Part II
In our previous study, we took a look at various examples of how we can afflict our souls, including; but not limited to fasting. In part two, we will look at if there is a time limit for afflicting your soul, the role of the High Priest and the People. We hope that this study will be a blessing to you and you family as you continue to reflect on your life on Yom Kippur.
How long do we afflict our souls?
Traditional observance of Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, is to reflect on your life in the past year since the previous Appointed time. One is to observe Holy Day from sundown-to-sundown according to the Torah. But, how long are we to afflict our souls? Are we supposed to fast the entire day? Both questions have subjective answers based on one’s understanding.
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. (Leviticus 23:27-32 ~ ISR98)
The Role of the High Priest on Yom Kippur
We read in the Torah; the instructions of יהוה, that on the 10th day of the seventh month; traditionally known as the month of Tishri, the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) is to perform is very specific ceremony and set of tasks to make atonement. The details of these tasks is outlined in Leviticus 16. In particular, in addition to the regular daily offerings, he would bring a bull and two goats as a special offering, and the bull would be sacrificed to purge the mishkan/temple from the defilements caused by misdeeds of the priests and their households (Leviticus 16:6). He would sprinkle the blood of the bull inside the veil of the Holy of Holies upon the kapporet (i.e., the cover of the Ark of the Covenant). Then he would draw lots and select one of the two goats to be a sin offering on behalf of the people (this goat was designated L’Adonai – “to יוהה”). He would likewise enter the Holy of Holies sprinkle the blood of the goat upon the kapporet. Finally, the High Priest would lay both hands upon the head of the second goat (designated “for Azazel”) while confessing all of the transgressions of the people. This goat was then driven away into the wilderness, carrying on it “all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited” (Lev. 16:22). According to the Talmud, a scarlet cord was tied around the neck of the scapegoat that was reported to have turned white as the goat was led away from city. However, for the last forty years before the Temple was destroyed (in AD 70), the scarlet cord failed to change color.
The Role of the People
While the High Priest performed these functions, the people would fast in eager anticipation of the outcome of the rituals. After completing his tasks, the garments of the High Priest were covered with blood (Lev. 6:27). Only after this did יהוה accept the sacrifice (according to one midrash, as the High Priest hung out his garments, a miracle took place and his garments turned from bloodstained crimson to white; see Isaiah 1:18).
In three separate passages in the Torah, the Children of Israel people are told “the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishri) is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: you shall afflict your souls” (Lev. 16:29-34, Lev. 23:26-32, Num. 29:7-11). It also was a “Shabbat Shabbaton,” or a day of complete abstention from any kind of work.
It is enlightening to note the sequence of this holiday in relation to the time of preparation (Elul) and the activities surrounding Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets) leading up to Yom Kippur. First God commands that we repent, or return to Him in earnestness of heart, and then He provides the means for reconciliation or atonement with Him. (Source)
From the context of what the High Priest was doing and what the people were doing, we can see that they each had a role in this Holy Day. We can imagine this taking a full day given the amount of people the High Priest was making atonement for. So do we apply that in our lives today?
With Yeshua as our High Priest; having made the ultimate sacrifice for our atonement, we are set free from the bondage of sin. He declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30) with his last breath. In that instant – with our obedience and observance of the instruction of יוהה – our sins were atoned for. Our faith in this is applied through our action of obedience to His word.
The question then, again, is how long on Yom Kippur are we to afflict our souls given we are usually either in small home-groups, or synagogues, and sometimes just by ourselves? The short answer; as long as you need to. Once the High Priest made the offerings and it was accepted by יוהה , it was finished. Atonement had been made and accepted.
Now, we’re not saying take only 10 minutes or a few hours out of your day to say a few prayers and then go about your daily life. We are called to afflict our souls. A review of part one on ‘afflicting our souls’ shows us that this is not a small task. We are to abstain from the appetites of our flesh. This is a day of introspection and self-examination of our lives. It should be a done with a patient heart and a commitment to observe the commandments of this day to the best of our abilities.
We recommend reviewing the 10 Days of Awe Self Examination series. This ten-part teaching can be used during the traditional 10 days of awe leading up to Yom Kippur as a means of reviewing the Ten Commandments each day prior to Yom Kippur.
We hope that this teaching has blessed and open your heart, mind, and eyes to the Torah (instructions) of our Creator.