Yesterday at sundown, Jews began their celebration of Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is a biblical observance, commanded in Leviticus chapter 16. It is also the most important holy day on the Jewish calendar. Today in the country of Israel everything is closed. Almost no cars are on the roads. Because it is a fast day it is considered impolite to even eat in public.
The basic message of Yom Kippur is one that we are familiar with as Christians. All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3.23). As part of Yom Kippur services worshippers repeat three times: “May all the people of Israel be forgiven, including all the strangers who live in their midst, for all the people are in fault.” (A paraphrase of Numbers 15.26).
I admire our Jewish friends’ ongoing willingness to stare their own sins in the face once a year as individuals and as a community. It is something we could learn from as Christians (our Good Friday service does point us in this direction).
I am glad that as Christians we have received God’s answer to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In many ways, the entire Book of Hebrews is a meditation on Jesus as the Great High Priest of the final great Day of Atonement for all people. “But when Christ appeared…he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9.11-12).
Friends, there can be much good in acknowledging our own sins. There is great hope in our Great High Priest and his once-for-all atoning sacrifice.
The Rev. Peter Frank, rector