Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, begins at Sundown on Tuesday night. This holy day is misunderstood by many a missionary who seem to think that only on this day can Jews be forgiven for our sins. Missionaries often think that without blood there is no remission of sin. More than once I have been asked "How do Jews atone for sin without sacrifices?"
Sacrifices have never been necessary to atone for sin -- it was only one way to atone for some very specific sins (mostly minor). One can atone and repent at any time. The purpose of Yom Kippur is G-d's gift to us -- a day which atones whether we seek forgiveness or not. It is the day G-d comes to US rather than waiting for us to come to Him.
"For on this day G-d shall effect atonement for you to cleanse you. Before the L-rd, you shall be cleansed from all your sins.” Vayikra / Leviticus 16:30.
G-d shall effect atonement.
The day itself atones.
Rabbi [Y’udah HaNassi] says: Yom Kippur atones whether one repents or one does not repent. Talmud, Shevuot 13a.
The key to understanding the difference between Yom Kippur and every other day of the year is that we can turn to G-d at any time. On Yom Kippur G-d comes to us. Normally we bring sacrifices, or prayers, or acts of charity to G-d. We go to Him and we thank Him, or ask Him to forgive some wrong we did. We can do this at any time, all through the year. This is the difference between the Yom Kippur sacrifices and those mentioned in Vayikra / Leviticus 5-6 (4, too). All of those are about us going to Him. On Yom Kippur He comes to us.
The difference with Yom Kippur and all other days of the year is that instead of US asking Him for forgiveness -- He seeks us out and in His infinite kindness and mercy forgives us -- the day itself is the atonement.
Even in the days of the two Temples the various blood sacrifices did not atone for major sins and wrongdoings of the Jewish people. There are two major categories of sacrifices -- communal (those for the nation) and individual (for each person's wrong doings). . .
There was no sacrifice on Yom Kippur where an animal was sacrificed and this cleansed the Israelites sins. The offer brought on Yom Kippur that cleansed sins was the one where the scapegoat was not sacrificed. It was sent ALIVE into the wilderness.
The key to understanding the difference between Yom Kippur and every other day of the year is that we can turn to G-d at any time. On Yom Kippur G-d comes to us. Normally we bring sacrifices, or prayers, or acts of charity to G-d. We go to Him and we thank Him, or ask Him to forgive some wrong we did. We can do this at any time, all through the year. You asked about the difference between the sacrifices mentioned in Vayikra / Leviticus 5-6 (4, too) -- this is the difference. All of those are about us going to Him. On Yom Kippur He comes to us.
The difference with Yom Kippur and all other days of the year is that instead of US asking Him for forgiveness -- He seeks us out and in His infinite kindness and mercy forgives us -- the day itself is the atonement.
"On Yom Kippur, the day itself atones... as it is written, For on this day, it shall atone for you." Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 1:3
It isn't the sacrifices which atone on Yom Kippur -- or even our prayers. It is the day itself which atones -- and this is what makes Yom Kippur so special. This is the day G-d comes seeking us (rather than the other way around).
There were individual and communal sacrifices on Yom Kippur described in Vayikra (Leviticus) 16 that atoned for very specific things -- but not for the sins of all of Israel. There was a sacrifice brought by the kohein gadol (high priest) for himself and his family. One for the kohein gadol and the other priests. . .The חַטָּאת cḥattat (accidental sins) and אָשָׁם asham sacrifices were PRIVATE offerings brought by INDIVIDUALS, not “atonement” offerings on behalf of the entire nation. The חַטָּאת chatat (sin sacrifice) was for a missing of the mark (you tried to do good but missed) and the אָשָׁם asham (guilt / tresspass sacrifice) was for three different types of violations:
1. unintentionally taking and using something from the holy Temple. The person must return the items, add 1/5th in restitution and bring an asham;
2. asham taluy is for when you aren't sure if you sinned or not, so just to be sure you bring an asham taluy. If later you discover that you did commit a cheit (accidental sin) you bring a chatat (sin offer);
3. asham g'zelot if you lied under oath defrauding someone of his things or money. In this case again you have to return the stolen things and add 1/5th to it as well as bring the asham g'zelot.The communal Yom Kippur (“Atonement Day”) ceremonies are detailed in chapter 16 of Vayikra (Leviticus), wher AN OX was offered for the kohein gadol (high priest) and all the other priests (verses 3, 6, 11) and two GOATS were offered for the nation (verses 5, 7-10, 15). As I already mentioned, the one sent away into the desert, and NOT killed was the one who symbolically “carryied away” the nation's sins.
Missionaries seem think there was some "magic" in blood sacrifices and this is not supported by the Jewish bible. Indeed sacrifices were not so much for G-d as they were a gift from G-d.
The Rambam explained this when he told us that G-d doesn't need sacrifices.
In other words, the Jews were used to bringing sacrifices and this is why G-d permitted them. Qorban gave man a way to feel closer to G-d by giving Him something of value (be it money, flour, an animal, etc.).
In pagan religions the gods were bloodthirsty and needed blood to be satisfied. In Judaism G-d permitted man to bring sacrifices because man needed them -- He needs nothing.
Maimonides, aka the Rambam, suggested that qorban (sacrifice) was ordained as an accommodation of man's primitive desires. In his Guide to the Perplexed (3:46), the Rambam explains that the nations of the world that worshiped animals generally worshipped one of three domestic animals: either sheep (as did the Egyptians, Targum Onkeles Sh'mot / Exodus 8:22), goats (as in Vayikra / Leviticus 17:7) or cows (as in India, until today).
In order to remove any reverent thoughts for these animals from Jewish minds, Hashem commanded us to take specifically these three animals, and to slaughter them and burn them on the Mizbe'ach. (In ch. 3:32 of the Guide, the Rambam offers yet another approach to the matter of sacrifices).
This whole fixation on blood, blood, blood by missionaries is not supported by the Jewish bible. The missionaries take the statement that blood can atone for SOME sins and somehow morph it into "you need blood for sins to be forgiven." This is akin to eating a slice of pizza because you are hungry and then insisting that the only type of food that exists in the world is pizza. How crazy is that?
The key to understanding Yom Kippur is that man may atone for sins at any time -- through various means (prayer, repentance, kindness, charity. . .). On Yom Kippur G-d, in His infinite mercy, forgives us without our even asking. On Yom Kippur it is the day itself that atones (not goats, bulls, etc.).
Vayikra / Leviticus 16 speaks of the various sacrifices brought on Yom Kippur.
Vayikra / Leviticus 16:16 speaks of a specific sacrifice made for accidental defilement of the Temple (not general sins let alone "all" sins). Notice the use of the the word "unclean."
"He (the high priest) shall then slaughter the people's sin offering goat, and bring its blood into [the inner sanctuary] beyond the cloth partition. He shall do the same with this blood as he did with the bull's blood, sprinkling it both above the ark cover and directly toward the ark cover. With this, he will make atonement for the Israelites' defilement, as well as for their rebellious acts and all their inadvertent misdeeds." Vayikra / Leviticus 16:15-16.
The Torah says לְכָלחַטֹּאתָם, חַטָּאַת which means an unintentional sin. Here is Rashi's commentary:
"from the defilements of the children of Israel-. [i.e., atoning] for those who, while in [a state of] uncleanness, had entered the Sanctuary, and it never became known to them [that they had been unclean], for it says: לְכָלחַטֹּאתָם, חַטָּאַת denotes an unintentional sin. - [Torath Kohanim 16:42; Shev. 17b]and from their rebellions. [i.e., atoning] also [for] those who, in a state of uncleanness, willfully entered [the Sanctuary, thereby defiling it]. - [Torath Kohanim16:42; Shev. 17b]He shall do likewise to the Tent of Meeting.i.e., just as he had sprinkled from [the blood of] both [the bull and the he-goat] inside [the Holy of Holies, with] one sprinkling above and seven below, so shall he sprinkle from [the blood of] both [the bull and the he-goat] on the dividing curtain from the outside once above and seven times below. - [Torath Kohanim16:43; Yoma 56b]which dwells with them, [even] amidst their defilements. Although they are unclean, the Divine Presence is among them. - [Torath Kohanim 16:43; Yoma 56b]."
Likewise the priest sacrificed a bull for himself and his own household for the very same reason:
"When Aaron (the first high priest) enters [this inner] sanctuary, it must be with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. Aaron shall present his sin offering bull, and make atonement for himself and his (fellow priests)." Vayikra / Leviticus 16:3-11.
Most missionaries fail to mention the BULL's BLOOD that is sprinkled on the ark cover to atone for the priests' sins. If the goats blood covers "all" of the Jews then why do the priests have to bring this sacrifice?
Doesn't that blow the idea that somehow the goat sacrifice atoned for "all sins?" After all it is the blood of the bull which atones for any unintentional sins by the priests. It seems that most missionaries are skimming the chapter rather than reading it for the details.
They also miss the far from minor detail that it is the LIVE goat which carries away sins big and small:
"Aaron (the first high priest) shall press both his hands on the live goat's head, and he shall confess on it all the Israelites' sins, rebellious acts and inadvertent misdeeds. When he has thus placed them on the goat's head, he shall send it to the desert with a specially prepared man. The goat will thus carry all the sins away to a desolate area when it is sent to the desert." Vayikra / Leviticus 16:21-22.
No blood sacrifice!
Here is a link to R' Aryeh Kaplan's translation of Vayikra / Leviticus 16 (link).
Hopefully you've noticed that although there are indeed blood sacrifices brought on Yom Kippur when a Temple is standing (this is the only place G-d designated for sacrifices) -- the "big" sins did not have a sacrifice, even in the days of the Temple itself. The "scapegoat" was sent alive into the desert per the Torah. (The Talmud tells us that this goat was sent off of a cliff to its death to avoid it wandering back into town bringing back all the sins! But, this is NOT a "sacrifice" -- it is one of those rabbinical fences missionaries do not "believe" in).
From Rambam's "The Laws of Repentence":
If a person violates any mitzvot of the Torah, willingly or unintentionally. . .he must repent. . .Similarly, people who are sentenced by the Rabbinical court to be executed, or to be lashed, do not attain atonement through their death or lashing unless they repent and confess. . .
1:2] The goat that is sent to Azazel is (likened to a sacrifice) for forgiveness for all Israel;therefore, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) recites a verbal confession that includes all Israel, as it is written, "And he shall confess on it, all the transgressions of Israel." (Leviticus 16:21).
This goat atones for all transgressions in the Torah: both those punishable by death and not punishable by death; intentional sins and unintentional sins; those the transgressor is aware of, and those of which he is unaware. This applies only if one repents. If one does not repent, the goat atones only for the light sins
Now that the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) is not standing, and there is no sacrificial altar for atonement, we are only left with repentance. Through repentance, G-d forgives our sins, and no mention is made of these sins even if one sinned one's whole life and repented only in his final moments. As it is written, "The wickedness of the wicked will not cause him to stumble when be turns back from his wickedness." (Ychezkiel 33:12).
Sacrifices were not magic -- they were a gift of G-d to help us truly atone by giving up something of value to Him. G-d forbids and abhors human sacrifice. The death of Jesus (if he ever even lived) couldn't have atoned for the sins of anyone -- he was simply murdered by the Romans as were tens of thousands of Jews. The Day of Atonement is not the "only" day sins could be forgiven -- sins can be forgiven at any time. It is a special day when G-d comes to us, and when the day itself atones.
It strikes me as funny that while most missionaries are "sola scriptura" (and don't "believe" in the Talmud or the rabbis) they are more than happy to quote Jewish sources when they think they can use them to "point" to Jesus perceived to be in some Jewish source. There are even some missionaries who specialize in distorting Jewish sources.
The latest blog post focuses on how missionaries misuse Jewish sources (either through ignorance or deception I cannot say). Through the use of a specific example I show how easily a Christian can be misled by missionaries who purport to be expert on Judaism, but in reality distort it.
Rosh HaShanah (the head of the year) has just passed, and not surprisingly missionaries are trying to link Jesus to the holy day. One site even claims that the High Holiday prayer book (מחזור / Machzor) not only "points" to Jesus, but even claims that there is a prayer that mentions Jesus by name (the name being used being "Yeshua").
There is no prayer in that machzor as claimed by the missionaries.
There is a poem (not a prayer) -- a silent meditation (it is not read out loud) which mentions a man named יֵשֽׁוּעַ/ Yéshu'a -- but what ultimate gall for a missionary to claim that this person is the Christian "Jesus"! The name יֵשֽׁוּעַ / Yéshu'a was highly unlikely to be the Hebrew name of Jesus. There are no Hebrew copies of the Christian bible from ancient times -- everything we have is in Greek. The Greek name for Jesus in the early papyri was Ἰησοῦς / Iesous.
Ἰησοῦς / Iesous would not be translated as יֵשֽׁוּעַ / Yeshu'a. The closest iterationn would be יֵֽשׁוּ / Yéshu.
Why don't missionaries want Jesus' Hebrew name to be יֵֽשׁוּ / Yéshu? They have been told that the name יֵֽשׁוּ / Yéshu insults Jesus. It does not, and quite a few Jewish men have been named יֵֽשׁוּ / Yéshu. The name יֵשׁוּ / Yéshu appears in the Babylonian Talmud nine times.
The Greek names given for Jesus do not represent the Hebrew form יֵשֽׁוּעַ Yéshu'a because that form would transliterate into "Jesuas," not Jesus. Jesuas is not a name used for Jesus -- meaning יֵשֽׁוּעַ Yéshu'a is simply made up and doesn't fit the known early Greek names for Jesus. I recommend reading "The Yeshua Name Game" by UriYosef for more information on how missionaries have tried to invent a Hebrew name for Jesus.
Even if יֵשֽׁוּעַ / Yéshu'a had been Jesus' Hebrew name (highly unlikekly) what makes a missionary jump to the conclusion that the יֵשֽׁוּעַ / Yéshu'a mentioned in a poem (not a prayer) in the Rosh HaShanah prayer book refers to Jesus? Do missionaries automatically think that every use of the name "Joseph" in the Christian bible is really referring to Joseph Smith of Mormon fame? I highly doubt it! Yet, missionaries make ridiculous claims that a Hebrew name can only possibly mean Jesus?
How about the poem itself? It is fairly obscure and is only found in a few machzorim (High Holy Day prayer book). The poem is mystical in nature and harks back to a desire to once again have a Temple in Jerusalem. Poems are not generally considered "literal," yet missionaries try to latch on to this particular poem because it has the name יֵשֽׁוּעַ / Yéshu'a in it.
So if this poem isn't about Jesus, who is the יֵשֽׁוּעַ / Yéshu'a mentioned in it?
A biblical high priest.
יֵשֽׁוּעַ / Yéshu'a is a kohen gadol (high priest) who is mentioned in the T'nach (Ezra and Zechariah). Yet simply because the name sounds similar to the recently "made up" Hebrew name for Jesus the missionaries have plastered this poem all over the interent. Do a search for yourself on "yeshua" and "rosh hashana prayer." Quite a few entries pop up claiming that "Jesus is mentioned on Rosh HaShanah"! Just how many people do you think have had that name through the ages (it is an abbreviation of the name "Joshua").
Hebrew readers may want to read this article by Dr. Yehuda Liebes. The Artscroll Rosh HaShanah Machzor translates the phrase as "Yéshu'a [the Kohen Gadol] minister of the Inner Chamber."
The poem in the machzor (high holy day prayer book) is found at point when the shofar (ram's horn) is blown, and a time when verbal prayers are not allowed. Speech of any type is forbidden during this time in the service. The Ga'on of Vilnius stated that while this passage was appropriate for silent meditation it was not to be read out loud (as a prayer). Here is a translation:
“…sound be embroidered into the [heavenly] curtain by the appointed angel [טרטיא”ל], just as You accepted prayers through Elijah, who is remembered for good; יֵשֽׁוּעַ/ Yéshu'a (Ben (son of) Yehozadak), minister of the Inner Chamber; and the ministering angel [מט”ט]; and may You be filled with mercy upon us. Blessed are You, Master of Mercies.” Rosh HaShanah Machzor, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, K’hal Publishing,pg. 449.
The passage in the machzor (mystical in nature and read silently while the shofar is blown) mentions Elijah (the prophet) and two others, one of whom is יֵשֽׁוּעַ / Yéshu'a -- a kohein gadol (high priest) mentioned in the books of Ezra and Zechariah. Yéshu'a (Ben (son of) Yehozadak - (transliterated also as Jeshua) was the High Priest at the time of the rebuilding of the Temple and together with Zerubavel led the people who returned to Israel from Babylon. Link.
Why do missionaries assume that every person named "Joshua" in history must be the Jesus of their religion?
For further information about this poem read Menashe Walsh's blog post (link). He writes "Yeshua ben Yotsadak. . . was the High Priest at the time of the rebuilding of the 2nd Temple and together with Zerubavel led the people who returned to Israel from Babylon."
This is much ado about nothing, and just more proof that missionaries just love to distort Jewish teachings (either from ignorance, repeating something some other missionary said without researching the facts or outright lies).
We are in the month of Elul, the last month of the Jewish year. It is the month proceeding Rosh HaShanah (one of four Jewish New Years) and the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). On Rosh Hashanah, each individual is judged on the merit of his deeds.
That is a scary thought isn't it? None of us are perfect. G-d is watching us always, but on Rosh HaShanah G-d determines our fate for the coming year.
And just before Rosh HaShanah is the month of Elul.
Elul is special for many reasons. As the month preceding the head of the year (Rosh HaShana), a time when G-d examines all of us and determines who shall live and who shall die in the coming year, we have time to reflect upon our lives. Although life continues. . . we go to work or school, we live as normally, we have an opportunity to examine our lives and think about the good and bad of our behavior.
We have the opportunity to seek out people we have wronged -- knowingly or unknowingly -- and ask for forgiveness. We can stop, take a moment, and change the entire course of our lives.
Jewish holidays have purpose -- we do not celebrate events (e.g. someone's birth or death). Each holy day, even happy and silly ones like Purim and Chanukah, are focused on G-d and His impact in our lives. His saving of the Jewish people (Passover, Purim, etc.) continue to save each Jew in a very real way. . . Look inside, and remember His words that He puts before us life and death, the blessing and the curse. . . choose life.
In Elul the R' Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement, made a wonderful analogy that helps explain the power of this month. He explained that G-d is always available to us -- He is always open to our prayers -- listening. We often call G-d אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ / Aveinu Malcheinu (Our Father, Our King). While G-d IS our father, He is also our king. In R' Zalman's analogy, He explains that all year long we approach the King -- He is busy running the universe and we approach Him with awe. . .
In the month of Elul, continues R' Zalman, G-d figuratively leaves His palace and rather than waiting for us to go to Him, He comes to us. The analogy R' Zalman used was "The King is in the Field." He is very close to us, and He comes to us. "everyone who so desires is permitted to meet him, and he receives them all with a cheerful countenance and shows a smiling face to them all."
The four Hebrew letters of the word Elul (aleph-lamed-vav-lamed) are the first letters of the four Hebrew words אני לדודי ודודי לי / Ani l'dodi v'dodi lee – "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine" (Shir Hashirim / Song of Songs 6:3). G-d loves us and we love Him.
In this month of Elul, open your heart. Look inside. Seek forgiveness from those you have wronged. If you are on the wrong path, consider your choices and make some changes. Remember that you are holy, for He is holy and He made you. In this month preceding Rosh Hashanah realize that G-d is reaching out to you with love. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to choose good over evil. He wants you to return to Him, as He comes to you in love. For more information about Elul, follow this link.