Yom Kippur - The Day of Atonement
Written by Glenn Kay   

Y om Kippur - the Day of Atonement has long been considered the most holy day in the Jewish calendar. On this day once a year the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the people. Even in it's original understanding atonement wasn't just for the Jewish people but for all peoples - Lev. 16:29-30.

The key idea behind the meaning of the word Kippur. The word - Kippur is most often translated as - atonement. The idea however behind the root word - is to cover or conceal. Atonement - or making atonement is to "cover over sin" It also conveys the idea or - a ransom or redeem, or an exchange -in the atonement the life of the animal is exchanged for the sins of the people.

The Exchange is carefully laid out - (Lev 16:7-26)

Two Goats (Lev 16:7-8):
Lots were cast to choose between the goats.
One became - God's Goat.
The other - Azazel - or the Scapegoat.

The Goat of God - 16:9
The first goat was called - "The goat of God"
This one was to be killed as a sin offering to the Lord.

The Scapegoat - 16:10
The second goat was called - Azazel - Scapegoat.
This was to be kept alive.
And later sent way into the wilderness.

Explanation for the purpose of God's goat - 16:15-16

This one was to be slaughtered as a sin offering for the people. The blood was brought inside the veil as an offering to God. The message to the people was very clear - with out the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sin. It is also made clear - that an exchange has been made - this one gave it's life that you might live. It was also very apparent that - as awful as this act is so too are our sins before a holy and righteous God.

Explanation for the Scapegoat - 16:20-22

The goat was brought before the priest. The priest would lay his hands on the head of the goat as he confessed the sins of the people. Instead of slaying this animal in the traditional fashion, the goat would be set free in the wilderness, symbolically taking the sins of the nation out from their midst.

"And the Kohanim and the people standing in the Courtyard – when they would hear the glorious, awesome Name, the Ineffable one, emanating from the Kohen Gadol’s mouth, in holiness and purity, they would kneel and prostrate themselves, give thanks and say, ‘Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity.’"

In the middle of the Mussaf service, we recite the Kohen Gadol’s Seder Avodah, order of service. This recalls in a somewhat detailed fashion, the service as performed by the Kohen Gadol in the Holy Temple during the day of Yom Kippur. The Kohen Gadol’s service was both physically and mentally exhausting as it required both physical dexterity (while fasting and having no sleep) and total mental concentration.

The eyes of all Israel were raised towards the Kohen Gadol’s order of service, which began toward the break of dawn. On his success, the atonement of all Israel was dependent. When the Kohen Gadol’s service was performed properly, Israel’s total forgiveness was made manifest for all eyes to see. The Kohen Gadol tied a cord of red painted wool between the horns of the scapegoat. Another such cord had been tied by him around the neck of the goat reserved for the sin-offering, so that it might not be commingled with the other goats held for the remaining offering of the day. The cord used for the scapegoat was later divided in two. One remaining between the scapegoat’s horns, and the other half hung upon the opening of the hallway leading to the Sanctuary, so that all might see it.

In years when the avodah was accepted by God and atonement was granted Israel, both parts of the cord turned white like snow, in accord with the verse, "If your sins should be like red thread, they will turn like snow. (Isaiah Chapter 1) Thereupon all eyes saw God’s forgiveness and the hearts of the people rejoiced.

Atonement without the Temple

When the temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. the rabbis were faced with some perplexing questions:

  1. How does one celebrate Yom Kippur without the proper place of sacrifice?
  2. How does one have Yom Kippur without the proper Atoning sacrifice?

The rabbis decided to make substitutions to fill these gaps.
Today's Judaism replaces sacrifice with: Prayer, Repentance, and Charity.

Parallels to the Life and Ministry of Yeshua

The man standing in Readiness - Lev 12:22

After Israel had settled in the Land it became customary that this man standing in readiness was a gentile. The traditional place that this took place was on the Mount of Olives. It is interesting to note - that Yeshua was handed over on the Mount of Olives. The gospels mention - Yeshua was handed over to the Chief priests and elders guard, but the gospel of John points out (Jn 18:3,12) that He was also handed over to the gentiles.

Two goats stood before the doorway in the tent of meeting - Lev 16:7-8

Yeshua after He had been turned over to the gentiles stood before the people (Mat 27:16-26). Here again as we have seen with the two goats a choice was to be made. One was to die ( 24b-25 for the sins of the people) the other was to be sent away.

The scapegoat had priests hands laid on it's head while sins were confessed over it - Lev 16: 21

Interestingly the priests too placed their hands on Yeshua's head (Mat 26:67). While accusing Yeshua to be a sinner, they were in reality laying their sins on Him (Mat 26:65).

After the scapegoat was sent away the priest would wash his body - Lev 16:24/26

This too is what happened, after Yeshua was sent away by Pilate. He washed his hands (Mat 27:24).

Interesting notes from Jewish Traditions

The scapegoat in later years would be taken away and thrown over a cliff - to ensure that it would not come back - is this the reason the crowd wanted to treat Yeshua as a scapegoat for their disbelief? (Lk 4:16-29).

Scarlet Threads - one piece was tied to the veil of the temple the other to the horns of the scapegoat - mystically turned white on the day of Atonement - records state that the thread in the temple stopped turning white 40 years prior to the destruction of the temple.

Lots - the choice of which goat was to be God's goat was in the casting of lots with two stones - black and white. It was always considered good if the white stone showed up in the right hand - but from 30 C.E, it always ended up with the black stone in the right hand.

Future Prophetic Elements of Yom Kippur

Zechariah 13:1

The prophet Zechariah spoke of a future day of repentance when God will pour out His spirit in the latter days and Israel will look upon Him whom they have pierced (Zech 12:10). The passage in chapter 13 points to a future Yom Kippur following that repentance.

Romans 11:25-27

Deals with the prophetic future of Israel. Where Paul says - that God will yet remove the spiritual blindness of Israel and they will return and "all Israel will be saved." See also - Rom 5:11; Rom 3:25; I Jn 2:2; 4:10; Heb 9:1-7,11-15, 24-28.

Some Guidelines for Practical Observance

Sabbath Meal

Since Yom Kippur is called a Sabbath, the general customs for the Sabath are in order. Yom Kippur is a fast day,so the late afternoon holiday meal is vital. The tabel is set with the best white linen and silver. Throughout the high holy days, white holds a special meaning as it symbolizes our hope for purity and forgiveness.The dinner served might include sweet dishes to represent the sweet new year of forgivenss. Some tradtional foods include: kreplach, chicken soup, and carrot tzimmes.


1 egg
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup flour
1/2 lb ground meat
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 egg
1/2 tsp paprika
salt & pepper to taste

1. Mix the egg, salt and flour and knead until it becomes elastic. You may add more flour if needed, and you can add a bit of water.
2. Roll the dough out thin, about 1/8 of an inch. In place of this dough, you could use store bought egg roll wrappers.
3. Chop the onion and press the garlic and put into a bowl. Add the meat, egg and the paprika. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Cut the sheet of dough into 2 inch squares.
5. Take a glass of water and brush a small amount of water onto the square. This will help seal the kreplach.
6. Put a small ball of the meat mixture in the center of a square. Take one corner of the square and fold diagonally to form a triangle. Press down to seal, and make sure to get all of the air out of the kreplach.
7. You could also do the following which is a bit more complicated. Take the square and brush with water. Put the meat in the center and fold over in half. Press down to seal and remove the air. Now hold the rectangle upright off your board and take the top two corners and slowly and carefully bend them down to make a sort of circle. This will resemble a chinese won ton.
8. You can either drop these in your boiling soup, cook in boiling water, or deep fry. You can bake them or even broil them! You could also steam them. You can cook them in almost any method you can think up!
9. Eat and enjoy!


Yom Kippur begins with a 24 hour period of fasting. Some believers question whether to fast since they are already forgiven in Messiah. While it is true that believers do not fast for forgiveness, there are benefits for fasting. Yeshua spoke of the blessings of a fast. Fasting can sensitize our spirits to the heart of God. Fasting also helps us be aware of our constant need of returning to a pure walk with Abba.

Giving to Charity

In the synagogue, long tables are covered with alms plates for every charity in town, for giving to charity is a central theme of Yom Kippur. While this is a good idea we must be on guard that we do not consider our giving an act of earning merit with God. We give to others on Yom Kippur in response to our thankfulness to God for the atonement He has already provided for us through Messiah's death on our behalf.

Special Clothing

Before the setting of the sun that signals the Day of Atonement, people will often gather in synagogue, many dressed in white kittels, or robes, for preparatory prayers. The same kittel will eventually become the worshipper's funeral shroud. A white garment is worn as a symbol of a humble and contrite heart with confidence of God's ability to forgive sins. Thus the clothing worn is a reminder of the promise of (Isa 1:18).

Worship Service

The evening of Yom Kippur is a wonderful time for a messianic worship service. Attending a formal Yom Kippur service can be a great spiritual highlight to the holy day. The music, the liturgy and message all celebrate the true meaning of the day: atonement in Yeshua the Messiah.