The following notes are intended to help you understand something of What to do on Yom Kippur and Why you are doing it…for 25 hours starting next Tuesday evening 25th September.
As believers in the work of Messiah at His Crucifixion and Resurrection, and in His instruction to ‘keep His Commandments’, we keep His appointed Feasts because God said:
‘Hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.’ Ezekiel 20:20.
Most people associate Yom Kippur with the two goats that were offered in Temple times; one offered in the Sanctuary, the other sent into the desert.
Why would we take a goat simply to reject it and send it away? The Torah seems to teach us about the stark difference between service of God which is accepted and beloved by God, versus the ‘scapegoat’ which represents that which has been rejected by God.
The idea of the two goats is related to the personalities of the twins Jacob and Esau. The reason that we need to offer the second goat; the ‘scapegoat’, is that so often we find ourselves dressing up like Esau instead of behaving like the Jacob/Israel that we really are.
This path is a rejection of God and the image of God within us, illustrated by the lots that were drawn to determine which of the two identical goats will be sacrificed in the Sanctuary and which will be for Azazel:
Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. Leviticus 16:8
On Yom Kippur the opportunity to re-experience God's love for us is greater than it is at any other time. What that means is that God makes it possible to break down the most resilient barrier that we can erect separating us from our Father; the barrier of sin.
The word ‘sin’ has a terrible reputation. It is associated with the paralysing guilt that reduces our souls to dust, and reduced the man at the Bethesda Pool in John 5 to paralysis for 38 years.
There are 5 words in Hebrew that describe the different types of ‘sin’ that we choose to do. Each different ‘sin’ is identified by a different Hebrew word with its Strong’s number, and each is followed by an example verse.
1. chatta’ah 2403 = an offence. When shooting an arrow or other object to a target, the distance that one misses is measured with a cord. Our wrong actions are also measured against the correct action.
Psalm 25:18 Look on my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins 2403
2. ‘avon 5771 = perversity, moral evil. The result of twisted actions.
Job 13.23 How many are my iniquities 5771 and sins 2403? Make me know my transgression 6588 and my sin 2403.
Note that Job admitted to ‘iniquities’ 5771, ‘sins’ 2403, and ‘transgression’ 6588. Job was very honest!!
Isaiah 59:2 Your iniquities 5771 have separated you from your God; your sins 2403 have hidden His face from you….
3. pesha 6588 = a revolt; rebellion, transgression. A spreading apart, splitting
Proverbs 17:19 He who loves transgression 6588 loves strife…
4. ‘asham 817 = guilt; by implication, a fault.
Genesis 26:10 Abimelech said, ‘What is this you have done to us? One..might have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt 817 on us.’
5. shagah 7686 = to stray, to mistake, to err, to sin through ignorance
Psalm 119:10 With my whole heart I have sought You; let me not wander 7686 from Your Commandments!
When we take responsibility for our actions, and for the direction that our lives have taken, we can begin to move forward. As long as we deny where we stand today, we will find that we are still there tomorrow.
There is one major obstacle to our change. The past cannot be re-lived. The patterns that we have allowed ourselves to develop are extremely difficult to break.
God Himself offers us freedom from the burden of self-imposed rigidity. He is willing to reverse the laws of cause and effect in order to liberate us from ourselves. The one condition that is required is that we take responsibility for our choices, regret the damage that we have done, and come to Him:
Matthew 11:28 Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
He is able and willing to do this for us because, at His Crucifixion:
He is able and willing to do this for us because, at His Crucifixion:
He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows....He was wounded for our transgressions 6588, He was bruised for our iniquities 5771...the LORD laid on Him the iniquity 6588 of us all...and by His stripes we are healed
Our problem is that when we begin to look at the task of teshuva (repentance), it can be overwhelming. We have made so many mistakes this past year that it is hard to know where to begin! Clearly, if we don't have an excellent system for tackling this project, it will be very time consuming and draining.
Fortunately, we have the ‘Al Chet’ prayer. ‘Al Chet’ means ‘For the sins’. The goal of the ‘Al Chet’ prayer is that if we can get to the root of the problem, we can eliminate it entirely…through the mercy and compassion of Jesus.
The statements comprising ‘Al Chet’ are not a list of mistakes, but rather identify the roots of mistakes. Remember: ‘change’ is a process that does not happen immediately. Do not try to address too many things at once; it may be too overwhelming. Instead, choose the areas that cut closest to the root of your problems.
The following edited version of the ‘Al Chet’ prayer is in bold type with a brief explanation after each phrase to help us understand what we are praying. The original prayer has 44 prayers. I have edited it to 23 prayers...which seem enough to be starting with!
ASHAMNU: We have become desolate.
We commit ourselves to recognizing that our failures are self-destructive.
BAGADNU: We have betrayed our potential, our families, God Himself.
We can question who we have been in our role as a human being and as a believer? Who have we betrayed? Is it not ultimately ourselves as well as others?
GAZALNU: We have stolen.
This includes not only financial theft, but theft of time, and misleading others into thinking that we are more accomplished than we actually are. This sin is especially damaging in that it reflects the fact that we have rejected the role in life that God has given us.
DEBARNU DOFI: We have spoken with ‘two mouths’; we have been hypocritical.
We can confront our fear of rejection, and the dishonesty that we use to ‘cover ourselves.’ Who are we afraid of? Why? Should we not be more willing to tackle the reality that confronts us?
HEYVINU: We have made things crooked.
We must remember that even a murderer invariably justifies himself at the time he commits the crime. We must rise above the false self-pity that at times lets us slip into situational ethics.
VIHIRSHANU: And we have made others wicked.
We have forced others into destructive responses. An example of this is when we deliberately antagonise another, almost forcing them into loss of verbal and possibly even physical self-control.
ZADNU: We have sinned intentionally.
The classical example is lying, in which case there is always full awareness of the fact of the sin. How difficult it is to learn how to bring God back into our consciousness when we are blinded by stress and fear?
CHAMASNU: We have been violent.
This includes all forms of taking the law in one's own hands. Almost everyone has fallen into the trap of letting the end justify the means.
TAFALNU SHEKER: We have become desensitized to dishonesty.
Dishonesty feels ‘normal’ to us.
YATZNU RA: We have given bad advice.
This often is the result of being ashamed to admit ignorance. Committing ourselves to re-introduce the phrase ‘I don't know’ can be life-changing!
KIZAVNU: We have disappointed God, ourselves and others by not living up to our promises.
We tell people that we can be counted upon, when we really mean that we can be counted upon only if things work out.
LATZNU: We have been contemptuous.
We have diminished the importance of people and values that deserve respect. We all know at least one person who makes himself/herself ‘big’ by devaluing others. If that person is ourselves, then we must question the direction that our need for self-esteem takes us.
MARADNU: We have rebelled.
We, in our bottomless insecurity, have found ourselves negatively proving ourselves again and again, both to God and to our fellow man. How many times this year could our lives been spiritually improved, if we didn't have to ‘teach’ anyone a lesson?
NIATZNU: We have enraged people.
We have purposely pushed other people's buttons. We have caused God's anger to be awakened by our self-destructive behaviour.
SARARNU: We have turned aside.
We have confronted truth and looked the other way. We have chosen ease over morality.
AVINU: We fallen victim to our impulses.
Would our lives be improved if we learned to not only ask ourselves the question ‘what?’ but also the question ‘when’? The desire for instant gratification has financial, physical and emotional implications.
PESHANU: We have broken standards of behaviour that we know to be right and then justified this because of our egotism.
Have we not found ourselves justifying bad decisions with lie after lie? Have we not moved forward because to do so would mean tacitly admitting that our present level is not ‘perfect’ enough to gratify our bottomless egos?
TZARARNU: We afflicted others.
Even in situations where harsh words are demanded, whenever we go beyond what is called for, we are accountable for the pain suffered by every unnecessary word. While we may be just letting off steam, our victims may believe every word that we say. The result can be a tragic diminishment of their self-esteem.
KISHINU OREF: We have been stiff-necked.
We have been stubborn and unwilling to redefine ourselves. No matter how wrong we are, we insist that we are right.
RISHANU: We have been wicked.
This includes all forms of physical aggression or financial injustice (such as refusal to repay a loan). When Moses saw his fellow Jew striking another Jew, he called him ‘rasha.’ He never used this phrase in any other context.
SHICHATNU: We have been immoral.
This includes all forms of dehumanizing ‘hunting’ members of the opposite sex, or the equally dehumanizing choice of becoming ‘prey.’
TAINU: We have erred.
This, of course, is not a reference to sins that we have done because we weren't aware of better options. This refers to the choice to remain ignorant out of fear or laziness that inevitably leads to making further mistakes. This is a good time to make a solid, defined resolution to learn more. Let it replace the vague realization that time is slipping by.
TIATANU: We have misled others.
We have spread our ignorant assumptions and thereby victimized others.
The purpose of studying this list is NOT to wallow in guilt. It is to bring us to the point where we can honestly come before God and say, ‘This is who I was. Help me be who You want me to be.’ His help is guaranteed. He is not only our King, and our Messiah…He is our Father.
He is the One Who said;
Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Because... He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows....He was wounded for our transgressions 6588, He was bruised for our iniquities 5771...the LORD laid on Him the iniquity 6588 of us all...and by His stripes we are healed
This prayer is my edited, and in part amplified, translation of Psalm 25, for which I take responsibility! It is intended to bring out the meaning more clearly. Psalm 25 seems to me to be a particularly appropriate prayer at Yom Kippur. The prayers that follow Psalm 25 are taken from the noted references:
To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. My God, I trust in You.
Remember, O LORD, Your tender compassion and Your mercy.
Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my youthful rebellion.
For Your Name’s sake, O LORD, forgive my guilt, for it is great.
Turn Your face, the wholeness of Your Being, towards me, and have mercy on me, for I am lonely and depressed. The wounds in my heart have widened; bring me out of my anguish.
Look on my depression and my pain, and forgive all my sins.
Guard, protect, and keep my soul; rescue me, for I put my trust in You.
I come to You now, Jesus, because I know that whoever comes to You will never be rejected. John 6.37
You are a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with my grief that pierces my soul, the whole of my being. Isaiah 53.3
I give to You all my pain, my grief, and my weariness, and I ask You to give me Your rest. Matthew 11.28-29
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew, repair, and rebuild a firm and right spirit within me. Psalm 51.10
I pray that You will fill every part of my spirit with Your indwelling Holy Spirit, because You are able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I ask or think. Ephesians 3.20
I pray that the joy of the LORD will be my strength, Nehemiah 8.10
and I am confident of this very thing, that You who have begun a good work in me will make me complete in every good work to do Your Will, working in me what is well pleasing in Your sight. Hebrews 13.20-21 Philippians 1.6
I ask this in the Name of Jesus my Messiah. Amen