Yom Kippur is a day of complete fasting and intense prayer. It is the holiest day of the year, when we are purified from our sins. Many traditional Jewish prayer books for the Day of Atonement contain a surprising passage that describes the suffering, forgiveness, and new creation found in the Messiah.
HaShem commanded them to offer the blood of bulls and sheep in order to atone for the sins of the Israelites. Blood atones and covers over the crimes of mankind, and HaShem erases them from his book, for he is a gracious and compassionate God.
We are currently in a season of repentance. We, the collective whole of God’s people both Jew and Gentile, young and old, rich and poor, free and enslaved, are praying prayers of repentance from the Siddur that reflect our humble posture as we approach our just King during this time of corporate repentance.
One of Israel’s greatest strengths is her unity, and while Israel is divided on many issues and by many different expressions of faith, the fall holiday season has a way of uniting us and reminding us all of where we came from.
On Shabbat Shuvah, the gates of prayer are still open. We still have time to repent. Until the verdict is sealed on Yom Kippur, we still have time to sway the heavenly court toward a good verdict, so we make extra efforts in prayer, charity, and repentance.
In Jewish tradition, the High Holidays of the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) are regarded as days of judgment. Rosh Hashanah, the civil New Year, is comparable to the end of the heavenly fiscal year, so the tradition arose that God reviews the books at the end of each year.
Yom Kippur (or "The Day of Atonement") is synonymous with fasting. For many people in both Jewish and Messianic communities, Yom Kippur is quite possibly the only day of the year on which they fast. Even secular Jews who are not religious will sometimes fast on Yom Kippur.
The principle of forgiveness at work in Yeshua's parable of the unmerciful servant operates on the biblical concept of “measure for measure.” With the same measure we use, it will be measured to us. Just as the indebted servant did not forgive the small debt of his fellow servant, the king refused to forgive his great debt.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are holidays for which intense liturgical prayers have been written and carry a very different range of emotion. These days (and the days in between) are known as the High Holy Days. In Hebrew, they are called Yamim Nora'im, "Days of Awe."