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The relevance of yom kippur

R. Steve Bernstein

September 2016

John 3:16-17 16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed.

17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through him, the world might be saved.

Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, what is this all about and what relevancy does this have to us as Messianic Jews? This is a very interesting and important question, as it shows us the necessity of tying Torah and the Gospels together.

Anyone wishing to know the specifics about Yom Kippur simply has to read Leviticus 16. For a more detailed look at the actual Yom Kippur ceremony in the Temple, Babylonian Talmud tractate Yoma should be studied. As you study your find that the high priest, has very specific duties, these duties involve multiple (5) ritual immersions, multiple sacrifices, 2 goats, a lottery, and the actual entering of the Holy of Holies. One very interesting item is glaringly obvious. The nation of Israel is not required be present in the Temple for Yom Kippur. Israel is required to come to the Temple for Succot, Pesach, and Shavuot, but not Yom Kippur. Even so, the Kohayns perform the ceremony of atonement, and Hashem forgives the children of Israel, most of the time.

The mahloket (dilemma) here comes from an understanding of John 3:16. If we believe in Yeshua our Messiah, and confess our sins before Him, at any time, on any day, are not our sins forgiven? The obvious answer is, of course, they are. So, if our sins are forgiven through our faith in Yeshua the Messiah, why even have Yom Kippur? What relevancy does Yom Kippur have to the Messianic Jew and the Gentile in the 21st century?

The machloket can be resolved through an understanding of who is being addressed in each of these texts. Leviticus 16 is in regard to the nation of Israel as a whole, John 3:16 – 17 is addressing individuals in the world, not the nation of Israel. Leviticus – nation, John – individuals. This is a very important distinction to understand. Through Yeshua our Messiah individuals within the world are saved. This does not address the children of Israel as a nation.

Jeremiah 31: 33 "For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra'el after those days," says ADONAI: "I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people.

34 No longer will any of them teach his fellow community member or his brother, 'Know ADONAI'; for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest; because I will forgive their wickednesses and remember their sins no more."

35 This is what ADONAI says, who gives the sun as light for the day, who ordained the laws for the moon and stars to provide light for the night, who stirs up the sea until its waves roar -- ADONAI-Tzva'ot is his name:

36 "If these laws leave my presence," says ADONAI, "then the offspring of Isra'el will stop being a nation in my presence forever."

We see here, obviously, a prophecy which has not yet come to pass. The Jewish people do not have Torah written on their hearts so that we don’t have to teach it anymore. Not all of Israel knows to fulfill all of the Torah commandments or how to do so. And, even when this prophecy does come to pass, verse 36 reminds us that all of the Torah is still valid and must be done, including the ceremony of Yom Kippur. So, the nation of Israel has not yet had our sins forgiven. The Yom Kippur ceremony is still necessary. Even after the fulfillment of the prophecy in Jeremiah 31, the Yom Kippur ceremony will still be necessary because not only are individuals required to atone, but the nation of Israel is required to atone as well.

So, we see that the individual may attain salvation through faith in Yeshua the Messiah, but the salvation of the nation of Israel as a separate topic, and has not come yet. When the Messiah returns, the nation of Israel will be saved. As a symbol of this salvation, Messiah will reign in Israel from the Temple itself. And still, the Torah laws of Yom Kippur will be relevant.

Sat, July 24 2021 15 Av 5781