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Yom Kippur – Where is the Atonement in 2011?

The following prayer from the Talmud:

When R. Sheshet would sit fasting, after he had said his prayer, he would say this: “Lord of the ages, it is perfectly obvious to you that, when the house of the sanctuary stood, a person who had sinned would make an offering. And of that offering the priests would offer up only the fat and blood, yet atonement would be attained for that person. Now I have sat in a fast, and so my fat and blood have become less. May it be pleasing before you that my fat and blood that have become less be received as if I had offered them up before you on the altar and so be reconciled with me.

The Babylonian Talmud: Berakoth 17A

…and also the following:

As has been taught on Tannaite authority:
“And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him” (Lev. 1:4): does the atonement come about in consequence of the laying on of hands? And is it not the fact that the atonement comes about only because of the blood rite, as it is said, “For it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life” (Lev. 17:11)? So what purpose is served when Scripture states, “And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him” (Lev. 1:4)? It is to show that if the owner regarded the laying on of hands as the mere afterthought of the religious duty of making the offering, Scripture regards him as though he did not make atonement, even though he did make atonement [Sifra VI.V.4].

The Babylonian Talmud: Yoma 5A

How often it is said, by anti-missionary Jews these days, that Leviticus 17:11 is not applicable to atonement since its immediate context relates to dietary laws, but here, and in many other cases, we can see that the Talmud agrees with this interpretation. It is also clear from Rabbi Sheshet’s prayer that 1) atonement was through sacrifice and 2) there is but only a (faint) hope that fasting could serve the same purpose due to the decrease in body fat & blood during this time.

Notice also how some of the most orthodox Jews (also particularly popular among Kabbalist Jews) realise the need for sacrificial atonement – as made clear by the practice called Kapparot. The last picture is also interesting in terms of “original sin” … which is not typically a traditional Jewish view – why is atonement necessary for the baby then?

Kapparot:

A Jewish ritual practised by some Jews on the eve of Yom Kippur. The person swings a live chicken over one’s head three times, symbolically transferring one’s sins to the chicken. The chicken is then slaughtered and donated to the poor for consumption at the pre-fast meal.

The following quite from Chabad.org, an authoritative site, in the opinion of most religious Jews today, that doesn’t want to fully commit to the practice, but doesn’t fully condemn it either. Note the highlights – the fact that sacrifices are really only a symbol or shadow, as taught in the B’rit Hadasha – more typically known as the New Testament (actually ‘New Covenant’) scriptures. The emphasis on teshuvah (repentance), is obviously true & fully shared & underlined in the New Covenant scriptures as well.

The Mystical Origins

The origins of kapores are unclear. The influence of Kabbalah gave the custom much of its mystical aura. There is some opinion that kapores is related to the use of a scapegoat in Temple times on which the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) placed the sins of the Children of Israel before sending the goat out to its death. The reality is that there is no magic in kapores which transfers a person’s sins to the chicken. Even in the days of the Temple, sins were not magically transferred to an animal. The entire purpose of kapores is to create an experience that inspires a person to teshuvah , that is to return to G-d and to repent. All the sacrifices — and chickens — in the world will not result in forgiveness, unless teshuvah takes place.

The death of the righteous atones!

“Really? No, that’s just a Christian teaching”, you say. Not so. Dig deeper, and you’ll see that it is a thoroughly Jewish concept. For more info on this (and a bigger view on the image below) see this site.


Are you prepared to reject the death of the only righteous
person that ever lived & can atone for your sin?

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