Mikra'ey Kodesh
Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy

“Holy Convocations”

(Note: all quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., unless otherwise noted)

“ADONAI said to Moshe, “Tell the people of Isra’el: ‘The designated times of ADONAI which you are to proclaim as holy convocations are my designated times.”
(Leviticus 23:1)

“Day of Atonement”

“ADONAI said to Moshe, “The tenth day of this seventh month is Yom-Kippur; you are to have a holy convocation, you are to deny yourselves, and you are to bring an offering made by fire to ADONAI.  You are not to do any kind of work on that day, because it is Yom-Kippur, to make atonement for you before ADONAI your God.”
(Leviticus 23:26-28)

With the arrival of Yom Kippur, comes another one of the central aspects of our relationship with our Holy God: atonement.  Why is atonement so important to HaShem?  Apparently, ever since the incident in the Garden of Eden, mankind has carried within himself the sinful propensity of that first act of disobedience, and consequently, the sinful results as well.  Our sin nature is in direct conflict with the holy nature of HaShem.  As a result, we cannot fathom approaching him without first making some sort of restitution, which would satisfy HaShem’s righteous requirement.  His nature demands that there be atonement for sin, for indeed, sin cannot exist in his sight.

The word “kippur” means atonement or expiation.  Related to this word is the Hebrew word “kapporet”, which is what we call the cover to the Ark of the Covenant. It is a fitting connection, since the lid of the Ark (Mercy Seat) is where HaShem spoke to Moshe “face to face”.  While, the horns of the golden alter located near the Ark, was where the blood of the atoning animal was offered once a year during Yom Kippur (Exodus 25:22; 30:10).  It is in this way, that the blood of the sacrifice “covered” the sin of the person bringing it. This type of atonement only covers the sin; it doesn’t allow it to be completely erased.  In a very true way, this type of atonement was temporary.  You might ask, “If HaShem knew the temporal aspect of this sacrificial system, why did he institute it in the first place?  Why not just send the Messiah from the beginning, and skip all of those elaborate “middle steps”?  This is a good and valid question, not entirely unlike those that I hear from most non-Jewish believers and a few Jewish folks as well.

In an attempt to explain the matter, we need to understand the plans and purposes of HaShem as expressed in the whole of the Torah.  From our vantage point and using twentieth century hindsight, it makes perfect sense to send the Messiah to atone for our sinful nature.  After all, if God left things in the hands of mankind, all men would have to atone for our own sins and consequently, all men would have to die.  But what does the Torah say?

“Here is how it works: it was through one individual that sin entered into the world, and through sin, death; and in this way death passed through to the whole human race, inasmuch as everyone sinned.”  (Romans 5:12)

With the entrance of sin came the punishment for sin—death.  So we see that HaShem is perfectly righteous when he says that the wages for our sin is death; every man does deserve to die.  But here is where the mercy of HaShem comes in!  He has lovingly provided a means by which mankind can redeem himself.  In the period of the TaNaKH, the sacrificial system was that means!  Even though it was a temporary solution, it was authentically God’s solution.  No Jew living in that time period was able to circumvent this system, and remain officially within the community.  To answer the question posed above, If we take HaShem seriously, them we will accept his provision—no matter what means, or how temporal that provision is!  This is our first lesson in “Torah logic”.

This brings us to the current situation facing every man and woman and child, Jew or non-Jew, living today: “Since the sacrificial system used in the TaNaKH was temporary, what is his means of atonement today?”  The modern rabbis would have us to believe that the three ways by which we appease HaShem today are “T’shuvah” (repentance), “T’fillah” (prayer), and “Tzedekah” (righteous acts).  To be sure, all of these principles are found in the teachings of the Torah!  And each and every one of them has valid merit.  For our God is highly interested in our repentance from sin, and he is very supportive of a prayer time, and he is enthusiastic of our righteous acts done in his name!  But what does the Torah say?

“For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for yourselves; for it is the blood that makes atonement because of the life.”  (Leviticus 17:11)

This single verse of the Torah has caused no small disagreement between Christian missionaries and my people—especially the rabbis.  The missionaries use this verse as a launching point by which to propagate the necessity of the atonement of Yeshua the Messiah for the forgiveness of sin.  The rabbis teach that according to further insight (usually provided for them by the Talmud, a lengthy commentary on the Torah and other Jewish matters, compiled during the centuries following the 70 C.E. destruction of the temple), this verse is not exclusively addressing the issue of sin atonement.  As a Messianic rabbi, I have studied the arguments and responses of both camps, and I’m not ashamed to provide an authoritative answer.

First of all, the rabbis have a somewhat valid point to make; the Torah does address the issue of atonement in other sections.  Likewise, HaShem did use the blood of animals in other types of sacrificial requirements, where sin is not the primary issue.  But what the rabbis seem to misunderstand, is that the above quoted verse was not intended to confuse the average reader!  Citing the rules of standard grammatical-historical exegesis: if a text makes good sense, seek no other sense.  In other words, did the average unlearned reader, living in the time period of the TaNaKH, understand what HaShem was asking of him?  Of course he did.  If he did not, I imagine we would have read about the difference in interpretation somewhere else in the Torah.  But our verse here in Leviticus contains little or no ambiguity.  I am not reluctant to place the blame on over-examination.  Because of this, we sometimes miss the simple explanation that the Torah is trying to teach us.  To use modern language “We miss the forest for the trees!”  Another rather obvious cause for the disagreement here is the fact that the rabbis don’t consider the New Covenant Scriptures authoritative, and therefore, they usually ignore it’s teaching.

But the Torah, as revealed by the Messiah and his first century followers, is authoritative concerning this issue, so it is there that we will settle the issue:

“But God demonstrated his own love for us in that the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners.  Therefore, since we have now come to be considered righteous by means of his bloody sacrificial death, how much more will we be delivered through him from the anger of God’s judgement!”  (Romans 5:8, 9)

Yeshua has now become the means by which all men must satisfy the righteous atoning requirement of the Holy One!  This type of atonement is not just a covering!  Our sins are not merely covered for the year, only to be remembered the next year at Yom Kippur.  This type of atonement is a permanent one!  What does the Torah say?

“No longer will any of them teach his fellow community member or his brother, ‘Know ADONAI’; for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest; because I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:34)

Even righteous King David recognized the mercy of a God who covers the transgressors’ sin, in chapter thirty-two of the book of Psalms.  And this is also where we see a good example of the validity and necessity of the system used during those days.  But the covenant spoken about by the prophet Jeremiah, is surely a superior system.  When HaShem says that he will remember our sins no more, that’s something to rejoice about!  Why would anyone want to attempt to revert back to the former system, if it were possible?  Unfortunately, today, many of my brothers according to the flesh are doing something similar to this.  When a person rejects Yeshua HaMashiach as the final atonement for their sin, they are really rejecting the One who sent the Messiah in the first place!  In other words, to reject Yeshua is to reject HaShem! This is where the corporate blindness of my people lies.

The second important aspect of the sending of Yeshua at the appointed time has to do with order.  HaShem has a perfect plan for everything.  According to the purpose of God, sin had to run it’s course, until the time for sending the Messiah into the world came.  Yeshua therefore demonstrated his obedience to the Father by surrendering his life as a sacrifice only when the time set by his Father was perfect.  Not sooner.  Not later.  We must accept this Biblical truth and live by it.  In a way, you could say that if Messiah Yeshua had provided himself for atonement at a much earlier time, then, because of community dynamics, the majority of Am Yisra’el would have accepted him, yet the majority of the surrounding Gentile Nations would have missed out.  Of course this is speculative, yet it does contain an element of truth.  Read Romans chapter eleven, specifically verse twenty-five sometime, and you’ll notice that the Torah is hinting at this very aspect!

Finally, I want to make a heartfelt plea to the Jewish Community to consider accepting HaShem on his term alone!  This is our second lesson in “Torah-logic”: if HaShem renews the terms of his original covenant, we as partners must agree with his improved establishment, especially since it was faithlessness on our part that necessitated the renewal!  Apart from being superior to the sacrificial system because of it’s lasting impact, Yeshua’s atonement also brought about the power to maintain a change of heart.  To be sure, the famous passage quoted from Jeremiah contains in it, a promise from HaShem to put the Torah in the inward parts of the people—i.e. on the heart.  This means a change in the spiritual makeup of the individual.  A change that transforms the sinner into the status of righteous heir!  Now because of Yeshua’s death, HaShem no longer considers death as our wage (Romans 8:1)!  Even if not corporately, each individual Jewish person can now proclaim: “Our Yom Kippur has come!  Our final Day of Atonement has already arrived!  Our effectual sacrifice has been offered once and for all!”

For further study, read: Leviticus chs. 16, 17; Numbers 29:7-11; Isaiah 57:14-58:14; Jonah 1-4; Micah 7:18-20; Romans 3:21-26; Hebrews chs. 7-10.