Yom Kippur 2014 – The Day of Atonement
In 2014, Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement begins at sundown on October 3rd. The Tanakh says that the blood of the sacrifice is given to make atonement. The Hebrew words translated as “atonement” in English are kippur (noun) and kapar (verb). The root occurs about 150 times in the Tanakh, and is intimately linked with forgiveness of sin and with reconciliation to God. What does “atonement” mean?
Atonement means making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship.
Vayikra (Leviticus) 16 gives detailed instructions for a special sacrifice to be offered once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month – Tishri. On that day the whole community of Israel was to gather at the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple) to fast and to pray. The high priest followed carefully prescribed steps and entered the Especially Holy Place (Holy of Holies), bringing the blood of the sacrificed animal. There he sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat. This animal was a sin offering for the people (16:15). That sacrifice was an “atonement … to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites”. Following that sacrifice, Israel was told, “You will be clean before Adonai from all your sins” (v. 30).