Why is Yom Kippur Important?

Why is Yom Kippur Important?

Yom Kippur begins on the night of the 10th day of the seventh month/ new moon. This is a day to afflict our souls by doing no work at all, a day when the Temple was standing, was the only time the high priest could go into the Holiest of Holies(the inner chamber in the Temple) and make atonement for the sins of the people.

In the absence of the Third Temple, our sins are still forgiven by God. Whether with a temple or not, our goals should always be to walk in Torah, pray, and do the commandments of God with our whole hearts (Deuteronomy 6: 3 – 9; Deuteronomy 13:3 – 5; Deuteronomy 10: 12- 13; Joshua 22:5; 1 Samuel 12: 20 – 25).

Wayyiqra (Leviticus) 23: 26 – 32

26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month is a day of atonement: it shall be a holy convocation to you; and ye shall humble your souls, and offer a whole-burnt-offering to the Lord. 28 Ye shall do no work on this self-same day: for this is a day of atonement for you, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.

29 Every soul that shall not be humbled in that day, shall be cut off from among its people. 30 And every soul which shall do work on that day, that soul shall be destroyed from among its people. 31 Ye shall do no manner of work: it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your habitations. 32 It shall be a holy sabbath to you; and ye shall humble your souls, from the ninth day of the month: from evening to evening ye shall keep your sabbaths.

Yom Kippur In The Torah

Leviticus 23: 26 – 32 tells us the instructions for the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur occurs on the tenth day of the seventh Hebrew month, Tishrei – which usually occurs in September or October. It is the second High Holiday occurring in the Fall. And this is the day where we are to humble ourselves, to do no manner of work, and to observe this day as a holy sabbath.

On this day the high priest would bathe and put on the consecrated linen tunic. Then, He would then take a goat and make atonement for himself and his family first. Next, two other goats would be taken, the High Priest would cast lots for the goat that would atone for the sins of the whole congregation of Israel. 

A calf and a goat would be killed for a sin offering. The blood of the calf and goat would be sprinkled by the high priest seven times on the mercy seat and would be placed on the horns of the altar. 

The High Priest would place his hands on the head of the scapegoat and declare all the iniquities, all the unrighteousness and all the sins of the children of Israel over the live goat and that goat would be sent into the wilderness. The high priest would bathe again after performing the sacrifices, put on clean garments, and then return to the congregation of Israel.

Is Yom Kippur a commanded fast day?

To afflict our souls has been interpreted as meaning to fast, and on this day we would afflict our souls with prayer and fasting.

 This is not wrong and would be very appropriate for Yom Kippur. This is often the way our forefathers would afflict themselves.

“But I, when they troubled me, put on sackcloth, and humbled my soul with fasting: and my prayer shall return to my [own] bosom.”

-Psalms 35:13

“And I proclaimed there a fast, at the river Aue, that [we] should humble ourselves before our God, to seek of him a straight way for us, and for our children, and for all our property.”

-Ezra 8:21

“saying, Why have we fasted, and thou regardest not? [why] have we afflicted our souls, and thou didst not know it? Nay, in the days of your fasts ye find your pleasures, and all them that are under your power ye wound.”

-Isaiah 58:3

Leviticus 23: 28 says – to not do any work on the Day of Atonement. On this day we are commanded not to do any work, we are not specifically commanded to fast.

The word afflict or humble in verse 26 in Hebrew is Anah, עָנָה, which means “to be bowed down or afflicted”(BibleHub “anah”). 

The word for fasting or a fast in Hebrew is Tsum,  צוֹם (BibleHub “tsum”). Tsum is not mentioned in Leviticus 23, only anah. 

While fasting would be appropriate for this day, Yom Kippur is not a commanded fast day. We are commanded to not do any work whatsoever on this day. It is a strict no workday, a holy sabbath day forever. 

How do we observe the Day of Atonement?

We can observe the Day of Atonement, by reading scriptures about Yom Kippur (Leviticus 23) and the anointment process in Leviticus 16. In the absence of the Third Temple, our goals are to keep the commandments of God, to walk in his statutes and judgments, and to pray to God with a humble heart towards the holy city of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 6: 40; 2 Chronicles 7: 11 – 22; Hosea 3: 4 – 5; Hosea 6; ).

We can spend this day in prayer. Praying for our friends and family, for the nation of the Hebrews, thanking the Lord for our salvation, and anything else!

We rest. This is a holy sabbath day, go for a walk, relax with family, and sleep in!


Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 57: 16 – 21

16 I will not take vengeance on you forever, neither will I be always angry with you: for my Spirit shall go forth from me, and I have created all breath. 17 On account of sin for a little while I grieved him, and smote him, and turned away my face from him; and he was grieved, and he went on sorrowful in his was. 18 I have seen his ways, and healed him, and comforted him, and given him true comfort; 19 peace upon peace to them that are far off, and to them that are nigh: and the Lord has said, I will heal them. 20 But the unrighteous shall be tossed as troubled waves, and shall not be able to rest. 21 There is no joy to the ungodly, said God.

Hosea 14: 1 – 2

1 Return, O Israel, to the Lord thy God; for the people have fallen through thine iniquities. 2 Take with you words, and turn to the Lord your God: speak to him, that ye may not receive [the reward of] unrighteousness, but that ye may receive good things: and we will render in return the fruit of our lips.

Yom Kippur is a day of humbling ourselves and repenting before the Lord. This is a day where we remember how atoning our sins was done by the High Priest and remembering that in the absence of the Temple to pray towards Jerusalem and God will hear our prayers, forgive our sins, and have mercy on us, amen amen.

This is a day of rest, meditating on the word, and prayer. May you have a restful, and meaningful Yom Kippur. Shalom!

Read More

Scripture Reading For Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur Menu Ideas

Scripture Reading For Yom Teruah

Scripture Reading For Sukkot

Introduction To The Fall Feast Days

Rosh Chodesh – Understanding the New Moon


All Old Testament scriptures are from the Septuagint.

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