Yom Kippur: When a Nation Repents

September 29, 2017

by: Ilse Posselt

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Prayers of repentance at Western Wall on Yom Kippur

Friday, 29 September 2017 | Today is no ordinary day in the State of Israel. The frantic hubbub on city streets as the people of the Promised Land prepare for the day of rest to come is somehow more subdued than usual. Today, the nation prepares for something held as more holy and more extraordinary than the weekly Shabbat [Sabbath]. Today, Israel prepares for the Shabbat of Shabbats…

Shops, markets and restaurants will shut its doors tight at around noonday. Busses and trains will drop their final load of passengers at their destination long before dusk. Traffic will die down to a trickle and then disappear altogether from the usually congested highways and streets. Radio and television stations will wish their listeners and viewers an “easy fast” before shutting down for the next 25 hours.

In the last of the noonday heat, a holy hush will fall over the Land of Promise, as sundown ushers in Yom Kippur—the holiest day of the year for the people of Israel.

The Jewish nation is not the only ones who view Yom Kippur as sacred. Leviticus 23:26-27 tells us that this biblical festival is also holy to God. “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls…”

Today, thousands of years after God gave Moses these instructions, the people of Israel are once again preparing for God’s appointed time as per His directives: by afflicting their souls. This entails, among others, abstaining from all fleshy pleasures, including food or drink, as well as fasting and praying for a 25 hour period.

The purpose of Yom Kippur is explained in Leviticus 23:28, “… for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.”

In biblical times, this was the only day per year on which the High Priest was to enter the Holy of Holies to call upon the name of God, offering a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins on behalf of the people of Israel. Yom Kippur is thus a special day of repentance.

Today, Yom Kippur carries the same significance. It is a day of self-assessment and repentance of the sins of the past year. Synagogues throughout Israel are usually filled to capacity and snatches of prayers can be heard drifting through the quiet streets all day.

Throughout the ages, Yom Kippur has acted as a unifying and regenerating factor for the Jewish people. Regardless of physical location, conviction or belief, the Day of Atonement would stir a spark in the heart of many a Jew.

The same holds true today. Despite the severity of the fast—with complete abstinence from any food or liquids for more than 24 hours—some 85% of Israel chooses to observe Yom Kippur. In fact, even those who consider themselves secular will make a special effort.

The awe and reverence that wraps itself around the country and its people on this day is spectacular to behold. Pam Edwards, a Bridges for Peace representative, shared her thoughts after her first experience in Jerusalem during Yom Kippur.

“Can you imagine?! What a fascinating concept… that people actually take an entire day off from working and buying to reflect on their lives, talk to God and seek forgiveness…”

While Yom Kippur is observed with the awe and reverence due a day so sacred to both the people and the God of Israel, there is also an element of joyous expectation that comes with this feast. In fact, some in Israel refer to it as the happiest day of the year. The reason is simple. On Yom Kippur, the Almighty grants atonement to His people.

As the city outside grows quiet and a holy hush descends over the nation in preparation for the Promised Land afflicting their souls according to the instructions their ancestors received from God Himself, Bridges for Peace joins our hearts with the Jewish people as a nation repents.

Posted on September 29, 2017

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 29 September 2017)

Photo Credit: Mark Neyman/ GPO/ Wikipedia