Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement

Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, 10th day, Seventh Month, Tishrei, holiday, Yom Ha-Kipurim, fasting, prayer, Yehovah, atone for our sins, afflict your souls, Work is Forbidden, Leviticus 16:1-34, Leviticus 23:26-32, Numbers 29:7-11, Leviticus 25:8-10, Jubilee year, Exodus 30:1-10On the 10th day of the Seventh Month (Tishrei) is the holiday known as Yom Ha-Kipurim (or Yom Kippur), "The Day of Atonement". This is a day dedicated to fasting and prayer on which we ask Yehovah to atone for our sins.

"Ye shall afflict your souls"

On this holiday the Torah commands us to "afflict our souls ('INuI NeFeSH)" as we read:

  • "And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourns among you... It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever." (Leviticus 16:29, 31)
  • "Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto Yehovah... For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people... It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath." (Leviticus 23:27, 29, 32)
  • "And ye shall have on the tenth day of this seventh month an holy convocation; and ye shall afflict your souls: ye shall not do any work therein:" (Numbers 29:7)

To "afflict the soul" means to fast

In Biblical Hebrew the expression "to afflict your souls" means "to fast" (Tzom). The Hebrew phrase 'INuI NeFeSH translated as "afflicting the soul", also appears in a number of Biblical passages, from which it is clear that this expression signifies fasting:

  • "...I afflicted (KJV: "humbled") my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom." -Psalms 35:13
  • "Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance." -Ezra 8:21
  • "Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and you see not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and you take no notice?..." -Isaiah 58:3; see also verses 5 & 10

"Soul" Means "appetite"

It should be pointed out that one of the meanings of the word "NeFeSH", commonly translated as "soul", is in fact "appetite". For example:

  • "And put a knife to your throat, if you be a man given to appetite (NeFeSH)." (Proverbs 23:2-3)
  • " For he satisfies the longing soul (NeFeSH), and fills the hungry soul (NeFeSH) with goodness." (Psalms 107:9)
  • "The full soul (NeFeSH) loathes a honeycomb; but to the hungry soul (NeFeSH) every bitter thing is sweet." (Proverbs 27:7)
  • "Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never satisfy their souls (NeFeSH) (KJV: "have enough")" (Isaiah 56:11)

Therefore the expression "to afflict your NeFeSH" is more accurately translated as "to afflict your appetite", hence the meaning "to fast". [Linguistic note: NeFeSH has the literal meaning of "throat" as in the verse "Save me, O God; for the waters have reached [as high as] my throat (NeFeSH)" (Psalms 69:2) and thus by extension came to signify: breath, life, appetite, etc.]

What is involved in a fast?

In the Tanach to fast means to refrain from eating or drinking throughout the entire period of the fast (Esther 4:16). In Biblical Times a fast also included the following elements:

  • Crying (i.e. intense prayer), see Ps 69:11; Joel 2:12
  • Donning sackcloth and putting dust or ashes on the head (a sign or mourning), see Daniel 9:3; Nehemiah 9:1
  • Prayer and Repentance, see Esther 9:31; Nehemiah 1:14; Isaiah 58

Work is Forbidden on Yom Kippur

In addition to the above aspects of fasting, work of any form is forbidden on the Day of Atonement, as is having a fire burning and cooking food. While many holidays are described as a "Shabbaton" (rest-time), Yom Ha-Kipurim is described as a Shabbat-Shabbaton (Sabath of rest-time) and all things forbidden on the Sabbath are also forbidden on Yom Ha-Kipurim.

Fasting and Charity

We can learn much about what to do and what not to do on a fast day from Isaiah 58, which describes "an acceptable [fast] day to Yehovah". In this Biblical passage we are told that fasting must be accompanied by righteous action and that the fast and prayer of a person who oppresses or neglects the poor and hungry shall not be received.

  • "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and you see not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and you take no notice? Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exact all your labors. Behold, you fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: you shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to Yehovah? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? when you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall your light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and your righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of Yehovah shall be your reward. Then shall you call, and Yehovah shall answer; you shall cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If you take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall your light rise in obscurity, and your darkness be as the noon day: And Yehovah shall guide thee continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and make fat your bones: and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in." (Isaiah 58:1-12)

Fasting and Repentance

In Joel 2 we are taught that fasting must be accompanied with genuine repentance:

  • "Therefore also now, says Yehovah, turn you even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto Yehovah your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents him of the evil. Who knows if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto Yehovah your God?" Joel 2:12-14


The Rabbis have a custom of not wearing leather shoes on fast days. This is based on Ezezkiel 24:17 which indicates that there was an ancient custom for mourners to remove their shoes as a sign of their mourning when someone died. This apparently refers to all shoes, and not just leather shoes. However, this was a mourning custom and there is no indication that this was done on fast days and it is certainly not a requirement.

Biblical Passages which mention The Day of Atonement

  • Leviticus 16:1-34
  • Leviticus 23:26-32
  • Numbers 29:7-11
  • Leviticus 25:8-10 (Jubilee year)
  • Exodus 30:1-10 (especially verse 10)
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  • Lisa says:

    please help me figure when Yom Kippur will be in 2023?

  • Shun Wells says:

    The truth never gets old.

    Thank you Nehemiah for all that you do.

    The pearl I found in this article is “Leviticus 25:8-10 (Jubilee year)”. It’s hard to put in words the understanding I got concerning the day of atonement, the feast of trumpets, and the hope of being at one with God when the Messiah comes in power and glory to establish His kingdom on earth.

    I have a new love for this day of affliction.

    Thank you again Nehemiah, and blessed be Yehovah for guiding me to you.

  • Salva says:

    Thank you so much, Adonay bless you.

  • adombom says:

    I believe in the passage Nehemiah quoted: “And put a knife to your throat, if you be a man given to appetite (NeFeSH).” (Proverbs 23:2-3) has nothing to do with eating and in a sense, is a cautionary proverb, and refers to the desires (appetite) of the flesh. Not to be lulled into a situation where you are careless (complacency), drop your guard, and forget who you are dealing with. As if thinking the ruler wants to be my friend and I can say what I REALLY think, which in those days might get you thrown into the dungeon or killed. (Vs.2) says in Hebrew: and put a knife to your throat IF YOU ARE MASTER OF YOUR SOUL). Vs.3: do not lust for his delicacies, for it is deceitful bread.

    This throws a different light on the meaning to me.

  • J.W. Brakebill says:

    Thank you Nehemia,

    I’ve read this article before. I enjoy your podcasts, but I honestly believe I like these written articles more. When listening to podcasts it’s easy to miss a point, and sometimes difficult to locate again. When reading, just reread the previous paragraphs. lol

    Sincerely though, thank you for sharing your storehouse of in-depth knowledge with the rest of us.

    I do have a question though. In your podcast on misc Vatican files, you mentioned finding a book of Matthew in Hebrew, and a partial book of John in Hebrew, on micro film. What was the Hebrew NAME used for “Jesus,” when translated to English? Since neither Hebrew, nor Koine Greek, has a letter for “J”, I seriously doubt that He was EVER called Jesus when on this earth. So what did Matthew & John refer to Him as, by name, in the Hebrew texts? Thanks.

    • Nick Tarnowski says:


    • Lucid Annie says:

      Yeshua short for Yehoshua, or Joshua

    • donald murphy says:

      thank u for your posting. I have asked that question quite often. plus I do not believe JC ever existed. Dt. 4:2 being the main reason.

      Donald Murphy.

      • Joseph McDonald says:

        Yeshua (Jesus) never added to the Words of the Creator, nor did he take from them.

        It may seem this way when one looks at the modern Christian or listens to their blasphemy.

        On the contrary, Yeshua (AND Shaul (paul)) constantly quoted and called disciples BACK to Torah. Not once did anyone declare the old covenant null, either man nor God, and the gymnastics required to do so are hilariously ridiculous when considered honestly.

        Look again… He lives this day.

        Shalom brother.

  • James Douglas says:

    Thank you Nehemia. This will be my first Yom Ha-Kipurim and knowing is expected of me is a true blessing. Shalom brother

  • Se eu te esquecer Yerushaláym says: