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

Shoes

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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60 thoughts on “Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement

  1. Thanks for this invaluable lesson. Noticed that a mikva (unless I missed it) is not a part of the days duties. Since I started to observe YK, the fasting and repentance are now down pat. Need a good plan on the burnt sacrifice. The sackcloth and ashes are proving to be a challenge. The shoes is not an option for me. The scripture references very important. Shalom my friend.

  2. Short term light fasts such as Yom Kippur are one of the best ways to overcome illness, and Yah’s mercy and favor usually more than compensates for the temporary and light affliction of the day. And despite your protest, this looks very much like an excuse for failure. A friend just died during the feast, who came to be very much into making excuses to not keep the days holy. Let all beware.

  3. Shalom, I really learn much from your knowledgable insight. I also feel there is more than just fasting. No T.V., computers,phone, anything that I distracts me
    from YEHOVAH. Your thoughts please.
    Shalom

  4. A tip for those who observe Yom Kippur is to leave the salt alone the day before and drink an extra glass or two of water before sunset on the 9th day of the 7th month.

  5. how do we explain not being able to sacrifice but are able to keep the feast as sign forever? but we cant. the sacrifice is part of the prayer faster and doing no work?

    • Good and blessed day Travis

      You wrote “how do we explain?” when reading your statement it made me think and ask, To who?, To who should we “explain”? or give an accounting of our doings of our individual lives. Who is our “Audience” ? I asked.

      I answered Yehovah is my audience The Most High of Heaven, who was reliably followed by Abraham, Issac, & Jacob.

      So I asked does Yehovah know for fact that I can not today go to the place where He placed His name for ever and the Only place acceptable to Him to accept sin offering? Yes Yehovah knows this fact and understands my position today.

      So I conclude and think we should together place some effort to at the very lest clear the Temple Mount in Jerusalem so that Yehovah may take a accounting of our reliable doings and I trust He will respond in kind.

      May Yehovah turn to you and shine on you when you ask?

      Alberto Trevino

  6. When I read in the Tanach about fasting, then I read nothing about exceptions. Especially in relation to Yom Kippur it is said ” whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day”. Now I wonder, what about the sick, pregnant women and nursing mothers? Is somewhere in the Tenach written about whether this should also fast?

      • Shalom Devorah (and Nehemia),

        I have been studying recently in regards to the exact day that the High Sabbaths fall on, such as Yom Kippur. It seems that on every corner of the internet someone has one calendar that is at odds with another calendar. There seems to be little agreement on the exact date and some people use a conjunction method of determining the start of the new month (which there even seems to be 2 views in this camp) while others use only the sighted moon method (which again there are different views in this camp and what sighted moon exactly means and where it must be seen).

        My question is how did you come to Yom Kippur being on the start of sunset on the 24th vs say sunset on the 22nd or the 23rd? I have yet to see any clear biblical evidence that the sighted moon method is the correct method to use and I personally have been using the conjunction method to determine the last few High Sabbaths. I am relatively new to following Torah and am just beginning to explore the wealth of knowledge found in the Tanakh and this is something that has troubled me since the Passover and now tonight I find myself dedicating myself to Yehovah through fasting, prayer, and repentance while celebrating Yom Kippur. I came to the 22nd being the start of Yom Kippur based on the conjunction method which placed Yom Teruah on the 14th of September 2015 therefore Yom Kippur would be sunset to sunset of the 22nd to the 23rd and then the beginning of Sukkot would be the sunset to sunset of the 27th to the 28th.

        This makes even more sense for me as the lunar cycle is approx. 29 1/2 days so the full moon should fall on the 15th day of the month which just so happens to be the first day of Sukkot so therefore we should see the full moon that same day. The full moon this month would fall on the 28th (sometime in the early morning before sunrise I believe in Jerusalem).

        I wish to serve Yehovah in honesty to His Word but there is so much division over this is pains me to see it. It causes even my closest of friends to be unsure on which day we are to dedicate to our Lord.

          • I did find that very article when reading about the sighted moon method verses conjunction for determining the new month. For what I have studied it just makes more sense for conjunction to be a better method in that we can more precisely determine when the days are and then the signs of the moon will confirm this. I think if the full moon falls on the 27th (early morning 28th in Jerusalem) then that would mark approx the 15th day of the month as the lunar cycle is 29 1/2 days and therefore should coincide with Sukkot.

            With working a full time job in the US it also does add some stress not knowing on which days I can take and set aside and allow my employer to know when I will be taking off, if I were to wait till a sighted moon in Jerusalem (or anywhere in Israel for that matter) then I would have only had a few days to give notice and to me, would cause me to be a poor steward of that job in which I have been given. As always, I guess it is best to deal with this through fear and trembling before Yehovah while studying His Word.

            Thank you so much for your response Devorah. Shalom!

        • Shalom David. So glad you are seeking Yehovah and His Torah. I agree the division is painful and I look forward to the day when we all serve Him with one accord!
          One thing that helped me was to think about the Torah from the perspective of a child. If an 8 yr old heard the instructions, what would he/she think? Would a new moon to a child need a calculation or just the seeing of their eyes?
          Many things can affect the sighting of the moon in Israel and Yehovah knew that – that is why He did it that way, so that He would always have total control over time- days, months, years. If we can calculate it, we take Yehovah out of it. It’s not about us being exact – it’s about us waiting for the sign from our Father.
          I sincerely hope this helps!

        • There is no verse in the Bible that says use one calendar and not the other because the rabbinical calendar wasn’t instituted until 359AD. The Talmud dates to around 200AD, and in tractate Rosh Hashana, in the last few pages there are half a dozen references to seeing the new moon. So at that time it was standard practice even among the rabbis to sight it.

        • If you can teach me how to find the instant, within a fraction of a second, when the conjunction occurs, I will be very grateful. I was persuaded to go by the conjunction for several years. Eventually I realized that none of the self proclaimed “leaders” using that method could teach me how to find the conjunction myself. We obviously are not to follow a calendar that requires the assistance of the U S Naval Observatory, NASA, etc., etc., The correct calendar is one that any Israeli shepherd in the field thousands of years ago could follow without the use of technology, rabbis or some temple astronomer. Also, we can not by ourselves find the instant that the moon is full…and it is just an instant. The moon does appear to be full for several nights though. It is not scriptural that the calculated instant that the full moon occurs be on the 15th day of the moon.

        • Yes the last is Oct 6 but then Shimini Atzeret is Oct 7th (the 8th day) …..‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you gather in the fruit of the land, observe the festival of Yehovah for seven days. On the first day is a rest, and on the eighth day a rest.
          Leviticus 23:39

      • I am a Christian but am very interested in the Feasts of the Lord as for us they are shadows of what is to be fulfilled. I understand that the new moon was not sighted in Jerusalem until the evening of the 15th. However, it seems that even in Israel and Jerusalem that Yom Kippur was observed from the evening of the 22nd until the evening of the 23rd and that Jewish people almost everywhere in the world are now feasting. I tried to get info from Israel regarding the late sighting of the new moon but no one would reply to me. This is the site that I have heard a Jewish person say that Yom Kippur has not yet taken place.

        • Shalom Janet!

          Your question is great and the answer is that these are 2 completely different calendars. The rabbi’s use a calculated calendar and we go by Yehovah’s calendar. Here is an article that will help in your understanding.
          http://www.karaite-korner.org/new_moon.shtml

          Even the rabbis admit that we will all be using Yehovha’s calendar once the messiah comes.

  7. Mr gordon i have been harsh with you on the name issue and have left many nasty comments on your youtube pages im truly sorry and have erased i hope to be all messages from those pages please forgive me and have a blessed life..michael yahuwah

  8. Shalom Nehemia, we have grown up as christians and later we found the hebrew roots of our faith and eventually we have now discovered that this whole jesus/yeshua belief is also not true. We believe that we belong to the lost tribes of Israel.
    We cannot really assosiate ourselves with judaism as we have,nt got peace with the idea of the oral law. We also believe that YHVH has called us back to Israel and we are waiting on Him to open the doors as we do not want to convert to judaism. Could you give us more information on how to get Israeli citizenship?

    regards, Tony

    • Tony, me, too! There is no way to accept oral law which contradicts or pretends equal authority with TANACH. Just keep the Law and I pray YHVH will show us both what to do, and when.

  9. As with all legal extrapolations, I have to point out that God is straightforward and direct in law-giving, unlike people, who use every blurry concept to generate extra divine law. If He wanted fasting the word was there and available. But He didn’t use it. I see that it could be a very viable option to help one afflict one’s soul. But the eagerness people have to go after everything God wants shouldn’t be mined for extra guilt by expanding upon things in Leviticus 23.

    • I got to admit, you may be right. So many of Yah’s commandments leave an “out”. For most though, I suspect fasting will be the most apropriate interpretation. I have seen old , young, babies, sick, medicated, etc fast on YK, and have not seen any die or get worse from fasting.

  10. Shalom Nehemia. A question for you that i have been pondering for a while. If the Torah does not tell us to “to fast” (Tzom) but to do no work, and we have to refer to books written hundreds if not a thousand years later to get a definition of what afflicting one’s soul is, that raises some questions in my mind.
    The obvious one is surely Aveenu Malkaynu would stipulate this quite clearly when ever this was a requirement especially as an instruction that needed to be understood by the multitudes. How do we know that a 1000 years after the Torah was given on HaSinai that the interpretation of what afflicting one’s soul was changed & possibly written into the prophets & writtings? There is no way to know for certain as the Torah does not state we are to fast / Tzom.
    Toda

    • We go with what we know though, right? We follow to the best of our ability. It’s better than just not trying right? Just like our weekly calendar nowadays is pagan, but we have Sabbath on Saurday because it’s all we have to work with at this present time.

  11. When I read in the Tanach about fasting, then I read nothing about exceptions. Especially in relation to Yom Kippur it is said ” whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day”. Now I wonder, what about the sick, pregnant women and nursing mothers? Is somewhere in the Tenach written about whether this should also fast?

  12. Thank You for proclaiming the Truth! Spread it far and wide, to all whom may listen! May God have Mercy on those that are Blind!! Pray for them!

  13. Baruch Hashem Y’HoVAH Nehemia…A huge Toda Raba for your anointed accurate teaching that leaves everyone else’s in the Dead Sea MUD!

  14. Apostle paul also kept Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement
    but in the book of Acts it is called “the fast” (Acts 27:9)
    νηστείαnēsteia nace-ti’-ah From G3522; abstinence (from lack of food, or voluntary and religious); specifically the fast of the Day of Atonement: – fast (-ing.)

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