Yom Kippur is neither a festive nor happy day. It does not commemorate the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. Rather, like Rosh HaShanah, it is a day of remembrance before HaShem. Rosh HaShanah paves the way to Yom Kippur.

It is a day of remembrance and the voice of the shofar blast warns the children of Israel, saying, “Repent, purify and sanctify yourselves, for the day of reckoning is coming, the day of repentance is here; the day in which the high priest makes atonement for the children of Israel to purify them from all their sins once a year so that they may be spotless before HaShem.”

Indeed every man is a sinner; there is no one who is righteous, does what is good, and does not sin. He is ritually unclean and impure. HaShem is holy, and the ritually unclean cannot access his presence. Therefore, in his mercy on all his creation, HaShem made a way for his children to come before him, and he taught them this path of repentance.

In the beginning 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. The blood of animals and birds is innocent blood, for they did not sin against HaShem, and it atones for the sins of people who have sinned, committed crimes, and transgressed before our Heavenly Father. This is what HaShem commanded.

For this reason Aaron came into the holy place with a bull for the sin offering and a ram for the burnt offering to atone for himself and his household, and two goats and a ram to atone for all Israel. He would cast lots for the two goats, one for HaShem and one for Azazel. The priest would slaughter the one whose lot fell to HaShem, and he would place his hands on the second goat—the one for Azazel—and he would confess all the sins of Israel, all their iniquities and crimes, and he would place them upon the head of the goat and send it away with an appointed man into the wilderness to a remote land to which the goat would carry away the iniquities of the children of Israel.

The high priest comes once a year with the blood of goats and calves in order to make atonement, for there is no atonement without the shedding of blood. Everything is purified by blood according to the Torah. It was incumbent upon the priest to perform this type of atonement work. In doing so he atoned for the entire nation. The blood of the sacrifices took away the sins of the people and Azazel’s goat (i.e., the scapegoat) carried their sins to a remote land.

HaShem commanded the people to afflict their souls on Yom Kippur, to be saddened and mourn, and to sit with an embittered soul and broken, contrite heart because of the sins they committed liberally. This is the meaning of “you shall afflict your souls.” HaShem commanded them, “Lower your heads, humble your proud spirits, cause your hearts to mourn, surrender yourselves before me, for you are wicked and you are sinners. Turn from your wicked ways. Return to me!”

This was what HaShem intended: repentance, prayer, and righteousness; these three things are the lovely treasures of Yom Kippur. Every one of the children of Israel must come before HaShem in repentance and with prayer, and HaShem will give them everlasting righteousness, for HaShem himself will provide a ram for the burnt offering. HaShem himself will choose the goat that will carry the sins of his people. This was HaShem’s intention.

The entire sacrificial system was a shadow of the good things to come, the good things that HaShem intended to give to his people and to everyone who bore the name “human being.” Did the early generations plummet the depths of HaShem’s thoughts? No, for all his thoughts have not been made known to us.

If Israel repents with a pure heart, if they afflict themselves on a fast day, mourn over their sins and seek HaShem their God and David their king, then HaShem will cause the daylight to dawn and the glory of HaShem—which is the Messiah—will be their rearguard. They will no longer stand in the courtyard of the kingdom, rather they shall go into the inner sanctuary, into the holy of holies, and then they will see all matters of truth and holiness through the Holy Spirit.

At the end of days the righteous Messiah will be revealed in order to bring transgression and iniquity to an end by sacrificing himself. The High Priest to whom no one can compare, the High Priest who is pious, perfect, pure, who is separated from sin and who has come from heaven will come one time into the inner holy place with his own blood and he will find eternal redemption. Then the morning light shall dawn. For on the day that Yeshua the Messiah offered up his own blood, one offering for all sins, the curtain covering the entrance to the holy of holies was torn in two, from top to bottom. The Sanctuary was opened to all who return to HaShem with a pure heart.

We pray with the entire congregation of Israel, saying:

Cause our inclination to be subservient to you. Cause us to return to you in truth and with a pure and renewed heart. Cause us to guard your ordinances in our spirits and circumcise our hearts to love your name. Confound our evil inclination that has been present with us since our youth and which has ensnared us. Not in the merit of our righteousness do we cast our supplications before you, for we have no righteousness of our own, but in the merit of the righteousness of the Messiah, whom you gave us in your great mercy, do we rely.

Repentance and prayer are what we do on Yom Kippur. We afflict ourselves on this day because our sins and our transgressions were the reason Yeshua the Messiah was put to death. In his great mercy HaShem gave his only son as an offering so that we could live purely, cleansed from every sin and crime. If we had not sinned the Messiah would not have needed to be an offering.

Happy is the man who observes this day. Happy is the man who sets the beginning of the year aside for repentance and prayer, and who sanctifies his body as a living offering that is holy and pleasing to God. Happy is the man who sets his heart every single day to renewing and changing himself into a new man, always discerning what the good and perfect will of God is. And happy is the man who does this sevenfold on the tenth of the seventh month, the month of Tishrei, on the day that HaShem has designated as the day of repentance. One who does this is truly learned in the faith and service of HaShem.