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D13. Afflicting Our Souls & Repenting on Yom Kippur    [Make a Comment]

We are to afflict our souls, repent of our sins, and adopt Yeshua's death as our atoning sacrifice on Yom Kippur.1

1. Our need to repent is not limited to Yom Kippur, but is to occur whenever we sin.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Leviticus 6:18-23(25-30) (Maimonides RP64; Chinuch C138)
Tell Aharon and his sons, 'This is the law for the sin offering: the sin offering is to be slaughtered before ADONAI in the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered; it is especially holy. The cohen who offers it for sin is to eat it - it is to be eaten in a holy place, in the courtyard of the tent of meeting. Whatever touches its flesh will become holy; if any of its blood splashes on any item of clothing, you are to wash it in a holy place. The clay pot in which it is cooked must be broken; if it is cooked in a bronze pot, it must be scoured and rinsed in water. Any male from a family of cohanim may eat the sin offering; it is especially holy. But no sin offering which has had any of its blood brought into the tent of meeting to make atonement in the Holy Place is to be eaten; it is to be burned up completely.'

Leviticus 16:1-34 (Maimonides RP49, RP164-165; Chinuch C15)
ADONAI spoke with Moshe after the death of Aharon's two sons, when they tried to sacrifice before ADONAI and died; ADONAI said to Moshe, "Tell your brother Aharon not to come at just any time into the Holy Place beyond the curtain, in front of the ark-cover which is on the ark, so that he will not die; because I appear in the cloud over the ark-cover. Here is how Aharon is to enter the Holy Place: with a young bull as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering. He is to put on the holy linen tunic, have the linen shorts next to his bare flesh, have the linen sash wrapped around him, and be wearing the linen turban- they are the holy garments. He is to bathe his body in water and put them on. He is to take from the community of the people of Isra'el two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. Aharon is to present the bull for the sin offering which is for himself and make atonement for himself and his household. He is to take the two goats and place them before ADONAI at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then Aharon is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for ADONAI and the other for 'Az'azel. Aharon is to present the goat whose lot fell to ADONAI and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat whose lot fell to 'Az'azel is to be presented alive to ADONAI to be used for making atonement over it by sending it away into the desert for 'Az'azel. Aharon is to present the bull of the sin offering for himself; he will make atonement for himself and his household; he is to slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself. He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before ADONAI and, with his hands full of ground, fragrant incense, bring it inside the curtain. He is to put the incense on the fire before ADONAI, so that the cloud from the incense will cover the ark-cover which is over the testimony, in order that he not die. He is to take some of the bull's blood and sprinkle it with his finger on the ark-cover toward the east; and in front of the ark-cover he is to sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. Next, he is to slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, bring its blood inside the curtain and do with its blood as he did with the bull's blood, sprinkling it on the ark-cover and in front of the ark-cover. He will make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleannesses of the people of Isra'el and because of their transgressions- all their sins; and he is to do the same for the tent of meeting which is there with them right in the middle of their uncleannesses. No one is to be present in the tent of meeting from the time he enters the Holy Place to make atonement until the time he comes out, having made atonement for himself, for his household and for the entire community of Isra'el. Then he is to go out to the altar that is before ADONAI and make atonement for it; he is to take some of the bull's blood and some of the goat's blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. He is to sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, thus purifying it and setting it apart from the uncleannesses of the people of Isra'el. When he has finished atoning for the Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he is to present the live goat. Aharon is to lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the transgressions, crimes and sins of the people of Isra'el; he is to put them on the head of the goat and then send it away into the desert with a man appointed for the purpose. The goat will bear all their transgressions away to some isolated place, and he is to let the goat go in the desert. Aharon is to go back into the tent of meeting, where he is to remove the linen garments he put on when he entered the Holy Place, and he is to leave them there. Then he is to bathe his body in water in a holy place, put on his other clothes, come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, thus making atonement for himself and for the people. He is to make the fat of the sin offering go up in smoke on the altar.The man who let go the goat for 'Az'azel is to wash his clothes and bathe his body in water; afterwards, he may return to the camp. The bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, is to be carried outside the camp; there they are to burn up completely their hides, meat and dung. The person burning them is to wash his clothes and bathe his body in water; afterwards, he may return to the camp. It is to be a permanent regulation for you that on the tenth day of the seventh month you are to deny yourselves and not do any kind of work, both the citizen and the foreigner living with you. For on this day, atonement will be made for you to purify you; you will be clean before ADONAI from all your sins. It is a Shabbat of complete rest for you, and you are to deny yourselves. "This is a permanent regulation. The cohen anointed and consecrated to be cohen in his father's place will make the atonement; he will put on the linen garments, the holy garments; he will make atonement for the Especially Holy Place; he will make atonement for the tent of meeting and the altar; and he will make atonement for the cohanim and for all the people of the community. This is a permanent regulation for you, to make atonement for the people of Isra'el because of all their sins once a year." Moshe did as ADONAI had ordered him.

Leviticus 22:21 (Maimonides RP61; Chinuch C286)
Whoever brings a sacrifice of peace offerings to ADONAI in fulfillment of a vow or as a voluntary offering, whether it come from the herd or from the flock, it must be unblemished and without defect in order to be accepted.

Leviticus 23:27-29 (Maimonides RN196; Meir MP32, MN152; Chinuch C313-314, C316)
The tenth day of this seventh month is Yom-Kippur; you are to have a holy convocation, you are to deny yourselves (NKJ: "afflict your souls"), 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. Anyone who does not deny himself (NKJ: "is not afflicted in soul") on that day is to be cut off from his people;

Numbers 28:31 (Maimonides RP61; Chinuch C286)
You are to offer these in addition to the regular burnt offering and its grain offering (they are to be without defect for you), with their drink offerings.

Numbers 29:7-8 (Maimonides RP48; Chinuch C314)
On the tenth day of this seventh month you are to have a holy convocation. You are to deny yourselves (NKJ: "afflict your souls"), and you are not to do any kind of work; but you are to present a burnt offering to ADONAI to make a fragrant aroma: one young bull, one ram, and seven male lambs in their first year (they are to be without defect for you)

2 Corinthians 5:21
God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in Gods righteousness.'

Hebrews 9:6-10:20
With things so arranged, the cohanim go into the outer tent all the time to discharge their duties; but only the cohen hagadol enters the inner one; and he goes in only once a year, and he must always bring blood, which he offers both for himself and for the sins committed in ignorance by the people. By this arrangement, the Ruach HaKodesh showed that so long as the first Tent had standing, the way into the Holiest Place was still closed. This symbolizes the present age and indicates that the conscience of the person performing the service cannot be brought to the goal by the gifts and sacrifices he offers. For they involve only food and drink and various ceremonial washings - regulations concerning the outward life, imposed until the time for God to reshape the whole structure. But when the Messiah appeared as cohen gadol of the good things that are happening already, then, through the greater and more perfect Tent which is not man-made (that is, it is not of this created world), he entered the Holiest Place once and for all. And he entered not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus setting people free forever. For if sprinkling ceremonially unclean persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer restores their outward purity; then how much more the blood of the Messiah, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to God as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God! It is because of this death that he is mediator of a new covenant [or will]. Because a death has occurred which sets people free from the transgressions committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. For where there is a will, there must necessarily be produced evidence of its maker's death, since a will goes into effect only upon death; it never has force while its maker is still alive. This is why the first covenant too was inaugurated with blood. After Moshe had proclaimed every command of the Torah to all the people, he took the blood of the calves with some water and used scarlet wool and hyssop to sprinkle both the scroll itself and all the people; and he said, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has ordained for you." Likewise, he sprinkled with the blood both the Tent and all the things used in its ceremonies. In fact, according to the Torah, almost everything is purified with blood; indeed, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Now this is how the copies of the heavenly things had to be purified, but the heavenly things themselves require better sacrifices than these. For the Messiah has entered a Holiest Place which is not man-made and merely a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, in order to appear now on our behalf in the very presence of God. Further, he did not enter heaven to offer himself over and over again, like the cohen hagadol who enters the Holiest Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer death many times - from the founding of the universe on. But as it is, he has appeared once at the end of the ages in order to do away with sin through the sacrifice of himself. Just as human beings have to die once, but after this comes judgment, so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to deliver those who are eagerly waiting for him. For the Torah has in it a shadow of the good things to come, but not the actual manifestation of the originals. Therefore, it can never, by means of the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, bring to the goal those who approach the Holy Place to offer them. Otherwise, wouldn't the offering of those sacrifices have ceased? For if the people performing the service had been cleansed once and for all, they would no longer have sins on their conscience. No, it is quite the contrary- in these sacrifices is a reminder of sins, year after year. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. This is why, on coming into the world, he says, "It has not been your will to have an animal sacrifice and a meal offering; rather, you have prepared for me a body. No, you have not been pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said, 'Look! In the scroll of the book it is written about me. I have come to do your will.'" In saying first, "You neither willed nor were pleased with animal sacrifices, meal offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings," things which are offered in accordance with the Torah; and then, "Look, I have come to do your will"; he takes away the first system in order to set up the second. It is in connection with this will that we have been separated for God and made holy, once and for all, through the offering of Yeshua the Messiah's body. Now every cohen stands every day doing his service, offering over and over the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this one, after he had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, sat down at the right hand of God, from then on to wait until his enemies be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has brought to the goal for all time those who are being set apart for God and made holy. And the Ruach HaKodesh too bears witness to us; for after saying, 'This is the covenant which I will make with them after those days,' says ADONAI: 'I will put my Torah on their hearts, and write it on their minds ...,'" he then adds, "'And their sins and their wickednesses I will remember no more.'" Now where there is forgiveness for these, an offering for sins is no longer needed. So, brothers, we have confidence to use the way into the Holiest Place opened by the blood of Yeshua. He inaugurated it for us as a new and living way through the parokhet, by means of his flesh.

1 Peter 1:18-19
You should be aware that the ransom paid to free you from the worthless way of life which your fathers passed on to you did not consist of anything perishable like silver or gold; on the contrary, it was the costly bloody sacrificial death of the Messiah, as of a lamb without defect or spot.)

1 Peter 2:24-25
He himself bore our sins in his body on the stake, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness - by his wounds you were healed. For you used to be like sheep gone astray, but now you have turned to the Shepherd, who watches over you.

Supportive Scriptures - Yeshua Our Sacrificed Lamb

Isaiah 53:4-12
In fact, it was our diseases he bore, our pains from which he suffered; yet we regarded him as punished, stricken and afflicted by God. But he was wounded because of our crimes, crushed because of our sins; the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him, and by his bruises we are healed. We all, like sheep, went astray; we turned, each one, to his own way; yet ADONAI laid on him the guilt of all of us. Though mistreated, he was submissive - he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to be slaughtered, like a sheep silent before its shearers, he did not open his mouth. After forcible arrest and sentencing, he was taken away; and none of his generation protested his being cut off from the land of the living for the crimes of my people, who deserved the punishment themselves. He was given a grave among the wicked; in his death he was with a rich man. Although he had done no violence and had said nothing deceptive, yet it pleased ADONAI to crush him with illness, to see if he would present himself as a guilt offering. If he does, he will see his offspring; and he will prolong his days; and at his hand ADONAI's desire will be accomplished. After this ordeal, he will see satisfaction. By his knowing [pain and sacrifice], my righteous servant makes many righteous; it is for their sins that he suffers. Therefore I will assign him a share with the great, he will divide the spoil with the mighty, for having exposed himself to death and being counted among the sinners, while actually bearing the sin of many and interceding for the offenders.

Matthew 20:28
For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve - and to give his life as a ransom for many.

John 1:29
The next day, Yochanan saw Yeshua coming toward him and said, "Look! God's lamb! The one who is taking away the sin of the world!"

1 Corinthians 5:7
Get rid of the old hametz, so that you can be a new batch of dough, because in reality you are unleavened. For our Pesach lamb, the Messiah, has been sacrificed.


The 10th day of the seventh month is referred to in Leviticus 23:27 and 25:9 as Yom HaKippurim, and in Leviticus 23:28 as Yom Kippurim. Although the day appears in the plural in Scripture, it is more commonly known as Yom Kippur, and is translated "Day of Atonement".

Because the CJB translates the above Scriptures differently than do several other highly regarded English translations, I had to decide which of them to rely upon in constructing this Mitzvah. The five Scripture verses at issue are:

The CJB and NIV translate the four as "deny yourselves", and the KJV and NKJ translate them as "afflict your souls". The NAS version differs by translating the first three as "humble your souls", and Numbers 29:7 as "humble yourselves". The CJB and NIV both translate Leviticus 23:29 as "deny himself", the KJV translates it as "not be afflicted", the NKJ version translates it as "not afflicted in soul", and the NAS version translates it as "not humble himself".

The weight of lexical authority appears to favor (and I have adopted) the view that we are commanded to afflict and humble our souls on Yom Kippur. The question is "What does that mean?" and "How are we to accomplish it?" Jewish tradition, based partially upon Scripture (e.g. Psalms 35:13; 69:10; Jeremiah 36:6), interprets "afflict your souls" as meaning that we are to fast from food and drink for twenty-five hours; this fast has become one of Yom Kippur's most well-known features.

While fasting on Yom Kippur is certainly appropriate and a practice that I heartily endorse, I am of the opinion that THE TRUE BIBLICAL MEANING AND INTENT OF AFFLICTING OUR SOULS ON YOM KIPPUR IS THAT WE REPENT OF OUR SINS.

Consider God's admonition to the Israelites in Isaiah 58:1-8:

Shout out loud! Don't hold back! Raise your voice like a shofar! Proclaim to my people what rebels they are, to the house of Ya'akov their sins. Oh yes, they seek me day after day and [claim to] delight in knowing my ways. As if they were an upright nation that had not abandoned the rulings of their God, they ask me for just rulings and [claim] to take pleasure in closeness to God, [asking,] 'Why should we fast, if you don't see? Why mortify ourselves, if you don't notice?' Here is my answer: when you fast, you go about doing whatever you like, while keeping your laborers hard at work. Your fasts lead to quarreling and fighting, to lashing out with violent blows. On a day like today, fasting like yours will not make your voice heard on high. Is this the sort of fast I want, a day when a person mortifies himself? Is the object to hang your head like a reed and spread sackcloth and ashes under yourself? Is this what you call a fast, a day that pleases ADONAI? Here is the sort of fast I want - releasing those unjustly bound, untying the thongs of the yoke, letting the oppressed go free, breaking every yoke, sharing your food with the hungry, taking the homeless poor into your house, clothing the naked when you see them, fulfilling your duty to your kinsmen! Then your light will burst forth like the morning, your new skin will quickly grow over your wound; your righteousness will precede you, and ADONAI's glory will follow you.

The theme and purpose of Yom Kippur is repentance, and the above Scripture eschews any fast (including the Yom Kippur fast) that does not include it. We are familiar with the discomfort of not eating, so fasting might seem to be the primary and most logical way that God wants us to afflict our souls on Yom Kippur. Consider, however, how much more our souls are afflicted by our having to face the reality of our sins and repent, often with confession and restitution. Although afflicting our souls is called for, what is really sought from us is not bodily discomfort but repentance.

Observance of Yom Kippur as a Shabbat and time for personal repentance is mandatory for Jews and K'rov Yisrael Gentiles, and recommended for other Gentile followers of Yeshua as well. Not only is repentance important for us personally, but it is necessary if we are to fulfill the priestly responsibilities that God has given to each of us. According to Exodus 19:6, Israel has been made into a kingdom of priests (albeit not all of Israel are descended from Levitical priests) and, according to 1 Peter 2:9 and Revelation 5:10, all New Covenant believers have become priests as well. This "priesthood of believers" is not for the purpose of sacrificing animals in an earthly temple, but for serving Yeshua who, as High Priest, entered the heavenly "Holy Place" by means of His own blood sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-12). So whether we are Jews or Gentiles, all disciples of Yeshua carry priestly responsibilities for which spiritual cleansing through repentance is a prerequisite. Note also that, whereas animal sacrifices (accompanied by repentance) conducted in the Temple merely covered over sins, Yeshua's sacrifice (accompanied by repentance) in the New Covenant completely removes sin.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch express their respective mitzvot as our having to fast on Yom Kippur. They deduce this from the above Scriptures which they understand to be saying "We must afflict our souls". This Mitzvah agrees with them on that latter point, but does not agree that afflicting the soul necessarily equates to fasting. Maimonides and HaChinuch state that on Yom Kippur, in addition to resting and fasting, we must refrain from all activities that care for the body; this includes washing, applying oil to the skin, and marital relations. Maimonides and HaChinuch also state that we are not to wear shoes, but Meir limits this to not wearing shoes made of leather. The commentators do not connect "afflicting the soul" with "repentance" and, in fact, do not discuss repentance with any depth at all.


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