Just as Christmas and Easter are the most popular Christian holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the most celebrated Jewish holidays. Each year, Israeli airports, buses, television, and radios are shut down in honor of Yom Kippur as people all over the world celebrate the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people.
10 days where Jews forgive others, give to those in need, and confess sins in order to secure their names in the Book of Life for another year.
The Days of Awe end in a 25 hour fast and Sabbath-rest called Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur represents the day God provided atonement for the sins of the Israelites (Leviticus 16).
The Lord commanded the High Priest to bring two animals for sacrifice into the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle. After sacrificing on the priest’s own behalf, he would then sacrifice one animal in the temple as the sin offering. The second was named the Azazel or scapegoat. The priest would symbolically lay the sins of the people on the head of the goat and lead it outside of the camp, representing the sins of the people being taken away.
This animal sacrifice would occur once a year, and was always a temporal covering of sin. Year after year the Israelites repeated this tradition to ensure sins were covered and names were sealed in the Book of Life.
But the Day of Atonement was always meant to be a symbol pointing to something to come—something much greater: The promise of Christ as the ultimate, once-and-for-all sacrifice and scapegoat for our sins.
As followers of Christ, we aren’t called to walk in guilt. Christ entered the Most Holy Place on our behalf and washed us clean from our sins. Hebrews 9:14 reminds us, “If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out.”
However, we can honor Yom Kippur by celebrating the incredible sacrifice and radical forgiveness Jesus displayed on the cross. In 2014, Rosh Hashanah falls on September 24th. Yom Kippur begins October 3rd at sundown and ends on October 4th.
Here are 3 ways to celebrate Yom Kippur as a follower of Christ:
1. Don’t wait another day to extend radical forgiveness.
Yom Kippur and the Days of Awe center around forgiveness and establishing right relationships with one another. Matthew 6:14-15 reminds us “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” When you don’t have the grace or strength to forgive, ask God to supply both of those in greater measure. Try this today and experience the joy and wonder that comes with forgiveness.
2. Consider fasting for a meal or an entire day.
During your time of fasting, spend time in prayer and reflect on the truth that everything we have comes from God. End your fast by reading Psalm 107:8-9: “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”
3. Gather your family and friends for a tashlich ceremony.
During a tashlich ceremony, people of the synagogue go down to a local stream or river, and empty their pockets of crumbs, symbolizing their sins being washed away. Read Hebrews 10:1-25 together as you celebrate Christ as the once-and-for-all sacrifice for your sins.