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Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement

Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement September 16, 2021

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  It is 1o Tishri, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, the culmination of 10 days of repentance beginning at Rosh Hashanah, the New Year.  All temple ceremonies were preparatory to and anticipatory for the Day of Atonement where the High Priest of Israel offered prescribed sacrifices petitioning God to redeem Israel’s sins.

Leviticus 23:27 summarizes Jehovah’s instructions for a Day of Atonement given in Leviticus 16.

Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.

I searched online Jewish resources on Yom Kippur wanting to know how it is observed in modern times without a tabernacle or a temple, but I repeatedly returned to descriptions of observances in the temple.

I especially loved The Temple Institute‘s detailed explanation of Yom Kippur, complete with images.  I’ll quote and paraphrase their observance of Yom Kippur and also share some of the images that struck me as I contemplated how I observe this holy day according to my theology.

Yom Kippur in the Holy Temple

The service of this holy day was the only one in the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) that was fully and sequentially carried out by one specific individual: the Kohen Gadol (High Priest).

On this day, and only on this day, the Kohen Gadol wore both his golden garments and his white garments, and performed the entire Yom Kippur service, on behalf of the entire nation. The service was intensely detailed and had to be performed with precision.

The Gemara (Berakhot 7a) vividly describes the climactic and solemn Yom Kippur entry of the Kohen Gadol into the Holy of Holies – the one time each year that anyone may do so. Reading the account, one gets the sense that the Kohen Gadol is actually entering the Sanctuary on High, and is standing before the very Divine Throne of Glory.

He alone is responsible for every aspect of the Divine service on this most holy and awesome day: a total of fifteen separate offerings which are made, as well as the menorah, incense, and other services.

For seven days prior to Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol submerged himself in studying everything related to performing the rituals of Yom Kippur.  This study included completing all aspects of sacrificial offerings during that week to familiarize himself with every aspect of those same offerings on the holiest day.

The Sanhedrin read Leviticus 16 to him every day.  And he would read that Biblical injunction aloud, too.

Significantly, the Kohen Gadol separated himself for those seven days by moving into the priest’s chambers in the temple.

While the Kohen Gadol prepared, another priest prepared as the Kohen Gadol’s replacement.  If the Kohen Gadol somehow became defiled, his replacement would step in as High Priest to accomplish the remaining tasks.  Everything, including the golden garments, were prepared for the substitute priest.

Yom Kippur is approaching, and tension mounts as all of Israel anticipates the arrival of the great day when atonement is granted for sin and the true nature of man’s relationship with his Creator is revealed.

All eyes are turned to the Kohen Gadol, who, on that holiest day of the year, will enter into the holiest place on earth – the Holy of Holies – to make atonement for Israel and seek to rectify the imbalances in her spiritual connection to her Father in heaven. …

On the morning of Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol ascends the stairway above the Water Gate, in order to perform his first of five required immersions into the ritual bath on Yom Kippur.

The remaining four immersions that take place during the day are done in a ritual bath atop the Parva Chamber. A white lined sheet is held up separating the Kohen Gadol from the onlookers. This is done as a reminder to all onlookers that the Kohen Gadol will administer the Atonement service wearing white garments only.

Before entering the ritual bath, the Kohen Gadol first sanctifies his hands and feet, pouring water on them from a golden vessel. Upon emerging from the ritual bath, he would again sanctify his hands and feet in the same manner.

On Yom Kippur The Kohen Gadol would make three separate offerings of incense. The first two offerings were done upon the golden incense altar located in the Kodesh, (the Sanctuary). Facing north, the High Priest pours the incense onto the altar, as the column of smoke rises.

At dawn the gates are opened, and the people begin to pour in.

“You shall present a burnt offering for an appeasing fragrance to G-d: one young bull, one ram, and seven yearling sheep, making sure that all are devoid of blemish… There shall also be one goat for a sin offering…” (Numbers 29:11)

The Kohen Gadol drew near to the animal. Facing the sanctuary, he placed his two hands on the bullock’s head, between its horns, and confessed. This was in keeping the directives of the verse (ibid.): “And Aharon shall offer the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself, and he shall make atonement for himself and for his family… ” The sages of Israel received a tradition that these words refer to oral confession.

The High Priest’s Confession on Yom Kippur

And this was the wording of the Kohen Gadol’s confession:

“I beseech You, HaShem;
I have sinned, rebelled, and transgressed against You,
I, and my household;

I beseech You, HaShem,
Grant atonement for the sins,
and for the iniquities and transgressions
which I have committed against You,
I, and my household.
As it is written in the Torah
of Your servant, Moshe:
‘For on this day
atonement shall be made for you,
to purify you from all your sins
– before HaShem you shall be purified’.”

During these prayers on this awesome day, the Kohen Gadol would utter the Ineffable Name of G-d known as the Tetragrammaton. In Hebrew, this is known as G-d’s “proper name” (Shem HaMeforash) and denotes the Holy One as the ultimate source of all existence. This most holy name is ordinarily not pronounced as it is written, and is not used at all outside of the Holy Temple. Even in the Temple it is used infrequently. During the course of the services on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest will have occasion to utter it 10 times.

The People’s Response

In this confession, the Kohen Gadol pronounces this name 3 times. When the congregation who are assembled in the court hear the holy name of G-d from the lips of the Kohen Gadol, they collectively respond “Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom, for ever and ever,” and prostrate themselves on the ground.

This response is based on the verse in Moshe’ song, (Deut. 32:3), “When I call upon the name of HaShem, give greatness to our G-d.” The sages explain this to mean that Moshe told Israel, “Whenever I mention the Holy One’s name, you should ascribe greatness to our G-d.”

The Scapegoat

This is the part of the Day of Atonement with which I was most familiar.  The scapegoat featured in family home evenings and scripture study as my parents taught us about the atonement of Jesus Christ.  But I learned so much from The Temple Institute’s recounting.

Though all of the moving service on the Day of Atonement is fraught with poignancy, tense anticipation and deep personal stirrings of repentance, surely one of the most dramatic moments of the day is the lottery which the Kohen Gadol conducts… for this is the process that will determine the scapegoat, which will be cast off as an atonement for Israel’s sins.

After confessing over his bullock, the Kohen Gadol walks to the eastern section of the court, facing the entrance. He is accompanied by two men: at his right, the “assistant,” who is actually none other than the replacement kohen who was designated as a stand-in for the Kohen Gadol, should he be rendered unfit. At his left, the head of the family clan who is responsible for the service in the Temple on that day of the week.

There in the eastern sector of the court, to the north of the altar, stand two goats in preparation for the lottery:

“And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering… and he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the Tent of Meeting. And Aharon shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for HaShem, and the other lot for Azazel… ” (Lev. 16)

A wooden lottery box was kept there as well, and within it were the two lots, in accordance with the verses above. This box was just large enough to hold the two lots, and for the priest to put both his hands inside. On one lot the two Hebrew words meaning “For HaShem” were written, and the other was inscribed with single word “For Azazel.”

Azazel is actually the name of a place; it was to this location that the scapegoat was sent. Azazel was a high, rocky precipice in the Judean desert. The goat was sent off this point to its death. …

Flanked by the two men on either side of him, the Kohen Gadol thrusts his hands into the lottery box and stirs the two lots within, in order to ascertain that he has no notion of which is inscribed “For HaShem.” It was considered an auspicious sign from Heaven if that lot were to drawn by his right hand….

In this manner, the Kohen Gadol raised up the two lots from the box, one in his right hand and one in his left. Only once he held them up did he learn which hand held each lot. …

The Kohen Gadol then places these lots upon the heads of the goats, between their horns: that which he raised up in his right hand is placed upon the animal to his right, and of the left, to his left. When placing the lot of “For HaShem” upon the sacrifice, he recites aloud the words “For HaShem, a sin offering,” once again pronouncing the holy Ineffable Name of G-d. All the kohanim and Israelites present who hear this name repeat the verse “Blessed is the name… ,” as above.

A Tongue of Crimson Wool

After placing the lots upon the goats, the Kohen Gadol ties a length of crimson-dyed wool between the horns of the scapegoat, and stands the goat facing the Temple’s eastern gate, through which it will be led off. He also ties a similar length of wool around the neck of the goat which will be sacrificed. This elongated skein of wool is called a “tongue” in the language of the Mishna, on account of its shape. They were tied around the goats in order to prevent them from being mixed up with other animals, and each was tied in a distinctive manner so that they should not be confused with each other.

These lengths of wool were specifically dyed crimson on account of the verse which reads, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall whiten as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). It is related that a great miracle occurred concerning this crimson-colored wool: For in addition to the piece which was tied to the scapegoat, a similar length was tied to the entrance of the Sanctuary where all could behold it, high up like a banner. The sage Rabbi Yishmael taught (Yoma 6, 8) that when the scapegoat reached its destination in the desert, this wool miraculously turned white before the eyes of all Israel, in keeping with the words of the prophet – and thus providing a Heavenly sign that the sins of the people had been atoned for.

The two goats thus prepared, the High Priest will now leave them be and proceed with other aspects of this singular day’s ceremonies. He will return to the offering and the Azazel only later, after the services of the bullock and the incense are completed. All the various components and aspects of the Yom Kippur service must be done according to a specific order.

The Second Confession of Yom Kippur

Now the Kohen Gadol once again draws near to his own offering, the bullock. At this time he will again confess over the animal; the first time he did this, his confession was on behalf of himself and his family. This time he confesses on behalf of all his fellow kohanim. Once again he places his hands on the animal’s head, between its horns, and pronouncing the Ineffable Name he recites his plea:

“I beseech You, HaShem;
I have sinned, rebelled, and transgressed against You,
I and my household,
And the sons of Aharon, Your holy people;
I beseech You, HaShem,
Grant atonement for the sins,
and for the iniquities and transgressions
which I have committed against You,
I and my household,
And the sons of Aharon Your holy people.
As it is written in the Torah
of Your servant, Moshe:
‘For on this day
atonement shall be made for you,
to purify you from all your sins

– before HaShem you shall be purified.'”

As above, the congregation responds with the words “Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom, for ever and ever.”

The Talmud explains that first the Kohen Gadol atones for his own sins and those of his family, and only afterwards does he make atonement for his colleagues… for it is better for an innocent man to make rectification for those who are liable.

The Bullock Sacrifice

At the conclusion of his second confession, the Kohen Gadol slaughters the bullock. He receives the offering’s blood in the mizrak vessel, and then gives this vessel to another kohen. The former immediately goes to prepare for the incense service, and the latter must stand outside the entrance to the Sanctuary and hold this vessel, continuously moving it with a stirring motion. This in done in order to prevent its contents from beginning to coagulate – since this would invalidate it to be dashed upon the altar.

The second kohen, thus occupied with the mizrak, waits in this spot for the return of the Kohen Gadolt, who will bring the mizrak into the Sanctuary. In the meantime, the Kohen Gadol ascends to the top of the altar in the court, carrying a golden shovel equipped with a specially long handle – designed to aid him in performing the particularly difficult movements he will require to conduct the incense service alone on this holy day.

Atop the altar, the Kohen Gadol uses the shovel to stir the fire, and he gathers some of the burning coals from the midst of the fire into this vessel. When he descends the ramp, he will return to where the priest waits with the mizrak, and he will place the shovel and its coals on the floor, next to where his colleague stands.

Even the Kohen Gadol’s Steps Declare the Day of Atonement

Every aspect of the Divine service on this awesome day reflected the special status and sanctity which is inseparable from the very nature of the day itself; a day of sublime communion with the Creator; a day of resolve and repentance; a day of both great inner peace and national unity

Thus every movement made during the service and literally every step taken by the Kohen Gadol was imbued with great significance and meaning. Even his very steps along the altar ramp marked the special character of the moment and rang out the words “This is the Day of Atonement!” For all year long, the kohanim would go to and fro the altar by walking along the periphery of the ramp; ascending along the eastern side and descending on the west. Their strong sense of reverence and awe for the Holy One had a humbling effect on their number, and they would have considered it a brazen act to walk right up the center of the ramp.

Yet today, on Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol (accompanied by the assistant, on his right side) walks right along the middle of the ramp. The symbolism of this action is clear: Today, let all take note of Israel’s honor, and her fondness in the Holy One’s eyes. So much does He cherish Israel, that today – on this day when all her sins are forgiven – Israel can behave like a child in her father’s house, openly declaring their love and affection.

Approaching the Veil of the Holy of Holies

Yom Kippur
Image from templeinstitute.org

He then places the incense in his hands into the golden spoon and holds it with his left hand. In his right hand, he picks up the shovelful of burning coals from the floor before him. In this manner, carrying the spoonful of incense and the shovel of coals, he enters into the Sanctuary until he comes to the two curtains which separate between the Holy (the Sanctuary, which housed the menorah, table and incense altar) and the Holy of Holies.

In the First Temple, a wall the thickness of one amah (app. 48 or 60 centimeters) separated between these two areas. However, in the Second Temple the two curtains once again formed this distinction, as in the days of the Tabernacle. The two curtains themselves were separated by an empty space measuring one amah wide, like that wall which stood in Solomon’s Temple.

Yom Kippur
Image from templeinstitute.org

One end of each of these two curtains was folded over on the outside and pinned up by a golden clasp; the outer curtain was pinned on the southern side, and the inner, on the northern side. Thus an aisle was formed which provided an open passageway between the two curtains. Carrying the implements, the Kohen Gadol walked between the curtains until he reached the northern side of the inner curtain – the spot where it was held up.

Here the Kohen Gadol stood at the opening of the Holy of Holies. He now turns and faces the south with his left side along the length of the curtain, so that he may walk to the center of the room to stand in the place known as “between the poles” – between the two poles of the Ark of the Testimony.

When the Tabernacle and First Temple stood, the Kohen Gadol faced the holy Ark of the Testimony and placed the shovel of coals down, directly between the two poles of the ark.

Yom Kippur
Image from templeinstitute.org

But in the face of the ark’s absence in the Second Temple era, he would place the shovel down on the foundation stone itself, in the place where the poles would be extending had the ark been there.

Once the Kohen Gadol put down the shovel, he must then return the fine incense powder from the spoon and back into his palms – for when he places the incense on the coals, it must be directly from his palms, the “double handful.” This was the most difficult task ever done by one person in the Holy Temple; it required great expertise. It would appear to be a nearly impossible feat for someone who had not practiced and been totally prepared. It was done in the following manner: The Kohen Gadol takes the spoon full of incense and slowly pulls it with his two thumbs against his arms and body, with the handle resting against him (some maintain that he actually held the top of the handle in his teeth). He balances the body of the spoon itself until it is level with his hands. Then he gently leans the spoon into his palms, turning and rocking it back and forth so that the contents are emptied into his palms.

As we have described it, this process is difficult enough to accomplish. But what makes the exercise even more formidable – enough to merit the appellation of “the most difficult task of all” – is the requirement that the Kohen Gadol must not allow even one tiny grain to fall. The entire contents within the spoon must be completely transferred to his hands, to the very last drop. For if even a negligible measure is missing, then the amount he will be placing on the coals is no longer a double handful, for something fell from his hands. Thus he would not be fulfilling G-d’s requirement.

Yom Kippur
Image from templeinstitute.org

From his palms the Kohen Gadol places the incense onto the coals in the shovel, on the side of the shovel away from where he is standing, so that he will not be burned as the flames ignite. He stands there and waits momentarily, until the entire chamber is filled with smoke.

The Yom Kippur incense offering completed, he then exits the Holy of Holies with extreme reverence – backwards, entering through the two curtains back into the Sanctuary without once having turned his back on the holy place.

Offering a Prayer with Uplifted Hands

Yom Kippur
Image from templeinstitute.org

Standing alone in the Sanctuary, the Kohen Gadol has successfully entered and exited the holiest place on earth – the center of creation and of G-d’s glory. He has made atonement for his people in the manner which G-d has prescribed for this holy day. Thus it would be most natural for him to reflect upon this rarefied moment of Divine communion by offering his own heartfelt prayer.

Though not mentioned, the image selected to show the Kohen Gadol‘s prayer depicts him before the curtain praying with uplifted hands.

Second Offering in the Holy of Holies

In the next stage of the Yom Kippur service, after the Kohen Gadol concluded the incense service, uttered his prayer and exits the Sanctuary, he returns to the kohen who is waiting for him outside the entrance. This kohen has been waiting here since the bullock was slaughtered, holding the mizrak and moving it about so that its contents will not harden.

The Kohen Gadol now receives this vessel from his colleague and returns back into the Holy of Holies a second time, exactly as he did previously. Walking through the two curtains and carrying the vessel holding the blood of his offering, he comes back to spot “between the poles” where he placed the incense on the coals atop the foundation stone.

Yom Kippur
Image from templeinstitute.org

There, he sprinkles in the air with his finger from the contents of the mizrak, towards the spot of the ark-cover. This is as specified by the verse (Lev. 16:14), “He shall take some of the bullock’s blood, and with his forefinger he shall sprinkle it above the east side of the ark cover. He shall then sprinkle with his forefinger seven times directly towards the ark cover.”

Afterwards he leaves the Holy of Holies (in the same manner we have discussed above), and places the vessel on a golden stand within the Sanctuary.

The verse refers to small drops flung from the tip of the finger. As in the incense service, when the ark was not present the Kohen Gadol sprinkled in the direction of the place of the ark. He sprinkles with an upwards motion once followed by seven times down.

Afterwards he leaves the Holy of Holies (in the same manner we have discussed above), and places the vessel on a golden stand within the Sanctuary.

Third Offering in the Holy of Holies

Outside in the court, the goat which had been designated as “For HaShem” by the lottery is now brought to the Kohen Gadol. He slaughters the animal and gathers its blood into another mizrak vessel.

He then enters into the Holy of Holies for the third time, this time carrying the vessel with the blood of the goat. He enters into the chamber exactly as he did the previous times, and again walks to the same precise spot. Here, “between the poles,” he sprinkles from the blood as before and then exits, placing this vessel on a second golden stand pre-positioned within the Sanctuary.

Now the Kohen Gadol does not leave the Sanctuary, but takes up the first mizrak, containing the blood of the bullock, from the first stand where he had originally placed it. Facing the curtains that separate between the Holy (where he now stands) and the Holy of Holies, he stands opposite that same spot that he has entered unto three times – “between the poles” of the ark.

This time, he dashes from the blood of the bullock outside the curtain but towards the same spot, in the same manner we have described. Next, he places this mizrak down on its stand, once again takes up the second vessel containing the blood of the sacrificial goat, and repeats his action against the curtain.

Finally, while still in the Sanctuary, the Kohen Gadol mixes the contents of both vessels together. He pours the mizrak containing the bullock’s blood into that of the goat, and then pours from this full vessel back into the empty one (of the bullock) so that they will blend completely together. All this is on account of the verse (Lev. 16:18) “He shall then go out to the altar that is before G-d and make atonement on it. He shall take some of the bullock’s blood and some of the goat’s blood, and place the mixture on the horns of the altar all around.” We shall now look at the portion of the service, referred to by this verse.

Sprinkling Blood on the Altar

Image from templeinstitute.org

The Kohen Gadol has completed the sprinkling inside the Holy of Holies and within the Sanctuary. The Torah instructs us that he is now to sprinkle on the corners of “the altar that is before G-d” from the mixture of both vessels. This expression refers only to the golden incense altar within the Sanctuary, because of its proximity to the holy place – the outer altar that stands in the court is never referred to as being “before G-d.” As to the Torah’s instructions that he is now to “go out,” this indicates that he is to go out from the place where he had been standing by the curtain, and serve on the outer side of the altar.

The Kohen Gadol walks around the incense altar and sprinkles on each of its four corners. Afterwards, he clears away some of the coals on top and exposes some of the gold surface of the altar. On this area, the “floor” of the small incense altar, he sprinkles an additional seven times, as per the verse (ibid. 19): “He shall sprinkle the blood on it seven times with his forefinger.” Whatever was left in the mizrak when he concluded, he poured out onto the western side of the outer altar’s foundation, in keeping with the instructions (ibid. 4:7): “He shall then spill out all the rest of the bull’s blood at the base of the altar, which is in front of the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.”

Meeting the Scapegoat at the Eastern Gate and Third Confession of Yom Kippur

The Kohen Gadol now returns to the place where the scapegoat is waiting, opposite the gate through which it will be led off into the desert – the Eastern Gate.

Placing his two hands on the animal’s head between its horns, the Kohen Gadol now offers his confession for the entire nation of Israel, as Scripture states (ibid. 20-21): “And when he has made an end of atoning for the holy place, and the Tent of Meeting, and the altar, he shall present the live goat. And Aharon shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the Children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat… “

“I beseech You, HaShem;
Grant atonement for the sins,
and for the iniquities and transgressions
which the entire house of Israel
has committed against You,
As it is written in the Torah
of Your servant, Moshe:
‘For on this day
atonement shall be made for you,
to purify you from all your sins
– before HaShem you shall be purified’.”

The Scapegoat Is Led into the Wilderness

After confessing for Israel, the Kohen Gadol gives the scapegoat into hands of the individual who had been designated to lead it into the desert. This, too, was considered a great privilege. Even though it is not an intrinsic part of the service and therefore could even be done by an Israelite, it was customarily safeguarded within the priestly ranks. …

All along the way between Jerusalem and the cliff – the scapegoat’s destination, a series of way stations had been manned since before the onset of the Yom Kippur. This was a system that had been devised to insure that the mission was indeed carried out; men had been pre-positioned at equidistant locations to render the scapegoat’s warden any assistance that he may require, and to accompany him along the way. The Mishna records that the distance between Jerusalem and the desert cliff was 90 ris – 12 mil. The distance between each station was one mil, or 2,000 amot (with the exception of the distance between the last station and the cliff, which was 2 mil).

These “stations” were actually booths, and food and drink were kept there in the event that the kohen leading the scapegoat should feel physically unable to continue without breaking his fast. In such a case, he would be permitted to eat and drink – as the kohen passed by each booth, they would call out to him: “There is food and water here!” Yet despite the distance and the heat, the Talmud records that no kohen ever had to break his fast; the psychological advantage for the kohanim of knowing that the food and water were there should the need arise was enough.

Distinguished citizens of Jerusalem accompanied the kohen until the first booth; afterwards, men from each booth accompanied him as far as the next station.

However, the men of the last station could not accompany him all the way to the cliff, since this was a greater distance and one is not permitted to walk more than 2,000 amot in any direction on the Sabbath or holidays. Therefore, they stood and watched from their position, to make certain that the scapegoat was sent off in the prescribed manner.

The Priest and the Scapegoat at the Cliff

Arriving at the cliff, the kohen removes the crimson wool that the Kohen Gadol had tied to the scapegoat’s horns. He divides it into two pieces; one piece he reties once again to the animal’s horns, and the second, to a rock. This is so that he will also be able to see when the crimson color has turned white, and know that atonement has been made for Israel’s sins. Then he pushes the goat backward with his two hands.

Image from templeinstitute.org
After he has accomplished his task, the kohen who led the scapegoat walks back to the last booth, and waits there until dark before he returns to Jerusalem – for it has only been permitted for him to travel this distance in order to fulfill the duty of the scapegoat. However once that has been done, he must wait until the conclusion of the Day of Atonement before he returns.
Back inside the Holy Temple, after having delivered the scapegoat into the hands of his colleague, the Kohen Gadol must wait to receive word that the scapegoat has reached the desert, for he is not permitted to begin the next stage of the day’s service until then. In addition to the miracle of the crimson wool on the Sanctuary turning white, this information reached the Temple another way as well: scouts were positioned at high points all along the route to the cliff. As the goat was led from one station to the next, these scouts would signal each other by waving cloths. When the scapegoat had been sent off, the news was relayed back to the Temple through the scouts’ signals.

Reading Leviticus 16 in the Women’s Court

Once this news has been received, the Kohen Gadol descends to the Women’s Court and reads aloud from the book of Leviticus (chapter 16, the reading for Yom Kippur) before the congregation. This is done with great ceremony. …
Image from templeinstitute.org

The Bull and Goat Offerings Taken out the Northern Gate

“The bull and goat presented as sin-offerings, the blood of which was brought into the Sanctuary to make atonement, shall be taken outside the camp.” (Leviticus 16:27)

The two offerings are taken out the northern gate of Jerusalem to the site known as “the Place of the Ashes.”

White Vestments

At the conclusion of the service, the Kohen Gadol gives the two sets of white vestments he has worn for the morning and afternoon services, over to his assistants, who dispose of them in the Chamber of Pinchas, a storeroom for priestly garments. …
At the conclusion of this awesome day, after all the service was completed and the day had waned, the Kohen Gadol was accompanied by the entire multitude of worshipers back to his own home.

Closing of the Gates of the Sanctuary on Yom Kippur

Just before the setting of the sun, the Levite gatekeepers push shut the gates of the Sanctuary and the Courtyard.

Image from templeinstitute.org

Again, I’m so grateful for The Temple Institute‘s detailed and fascinating recounting of Yom Kippur anciently!

As I read the details of observing Yom Kippur, I thought of my ancient ancestors who anticipated the sacred rituals done for them and their community. I read remarks about disobedience seeping into the ceremonies, and how that precipitated the temple’s destruction.

And I paused on this Day of Atonement to consider my own standing with God and to worship Him for the boundless grace He bestows because of His Day of Atonement.


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