Rootedness, Repentance and Reconciliation: The Day of Atonement

scapegoatThe Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, begins tonight October 3rd at sundown and continues through nightfall tomorrow night.   This is considered the most important day of the Jewish year when Jews attempt to mend their relationship with God.  I blog about this today for at least two reasons -I believe in the power of knowing about our Jewish roots, as they give us a rootedness that the New Testament alone cannot; and, I believe the world is desperately in need of mending relationships and repentance.  My experience has taught me that sacred scripture is always alive with wisdom for each of us, no matter what our faith background. As I prayed this morning with Leviticus 16, I looked past the foreign terms and tried to ‘listen with the ear of heart’.

As I read Leviticus 16, the passages spoke to me through my particular lenses as: Catholic, student of Saint Benedict’s Rule, Lover of Scripture.

I learned that the Day of Atonement (at-onement)was the day the High Priest made an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people. It was the only time during the year that the priest, as intercessor, crossed the threshold and entered the tent, the dwelling of God to atone for the sins of the community. A blood sacrifice is to the Lord and a goat is released into the wilderness to symbolically carry away the sins of the people, never to return. I understand this blood offering in light of Christ, High Priest, who offered himself, his blood for my sins.   Hebrews 1:23  tells me of Christ, ” He is reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”  For me, this day evokes previous lenten journeys in my life – those formal periods found in the preparatory weeks preceding Easter and those Lenten moments of scrutiny and turning toward God in repentance that have arrived at many other times in my life.  The most powerful image came in Leviticus 16:21 “Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel… and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.”  In laying both hands it signifies transference rather than ownership.  All sins are transferred onto the goat and it is released. Christ, the incarnation of God’s hospitality,  died that this might be our experience of repentance leading to forgiveness, reconciliation and a time to spiritually start anew.  These passages were a reminder of  the importance of practicing biblical  justice – seeking right relationship  in three ways within self, with God and with others.  These reflections strengthen my rootedness in scripture and in the sacred history of God’s presence on my life and they call me to mend rather than break apart relationships.  They call me to begin with my own desire for repentance and reconciliation.  How can you live these three R’s: rootedness, repentance and reconciliation? How can they lead you to live a greater experience of biblical justice where relationship between God, self and others prospers?

About WalkingwithBenedict

I love how scripture comes alive with messages for our lives today. In praying with scripture, we are called into deeper relationship with God and others. We are called to the growth in love, hospitality, peace, humility, stewardship and hope. St Benedict's Rule provides a lens for how scripture can be lived in our lives today whether we live inside or outside a monastery.
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3 Responses to Rootedness, Repentance and Reconciliation: The Day of Atonement

  1. Jo-El says:

    Thank you, Gail for your posting for Yom Kippur.
    You know that I had worked in the synagogue for twelve and a half years and I took these days very seriously. After awhile, it was no longer a job. I believe that God placed me there to learn and to correlate my knowledge there to my Catholic faith. It became part of me and I prayed and atoned with the Reformed Jewish Congregation that I serviced. On one specific Yom Kippur, the Rabbi said to his congregants, “You are not here because of what your heart knows, you are here for what your heart needs to learn.”
    I took the job in June of 1996. My father had a heart attack in September ’96 when he was dying. I had to be at the temple to learn but I needed to be with my father as well. But the Rabbi gave the Jewish Examination of Conscience which is:
    #1) Did you raise your children with a good sense of ethics?
    #2) Were you always fair in business…weights and measures?
    #3) Do you believe in redemption?
    I finished at the temple and went to see my father the next day; the day before he died and gave him this examination of conscience. Questions 1 and 2, he answered yes to but on the third, my father didn’t believe in redemption because he believed that human nature couldn’t change. When I told the Rabbi, he said to me, “your father was self-taught? I answered, “yes.” We lived near Atlantic City, NJ so we brought apples, honey, and bread to the beach which was across the street and tossed them into the Atlantic Ocean which represented throwing our sins into the sea. We didn’t have a goat but the ocean was purifying in itself. I am already rooted in my Judeo-Christian foundation, I am repentant to God every time I ask for forgiveness, I am reconciled in my relationship with him and I do believe in redemption. For me, the words: turning, threshold, tent and turning all go together. Thank you for this opportunity to express myself.


  2. Renee says:

    Thank you for this posting! I have long been a fan of, and a believer in, the Jewish roots of our Faith. Using Scriptures I believe I am adopted into Abraham’s covenant by receiving the work of the Jewish Messiah. This, of course, ushered in a new covenant and we are all one, but from the same root. I was lucky to have a Jewish family in my childhood neighborhood, and a yeshiva boy as my playmate thru high school. It kindled my interests, and upon conversion to Christianity it helped form my understanding of its roots. I don’t think it’s possible to fully grasp the work of God, the work of Christ, without thinking Jewishly. I have Messianic Jewish friends, and they are different! These holy days are steeped in a lot of tradition, but with our 20/20 vision as Christ-followers I can use these times to reflect. Fortunately, I don’t do this only once a year; I strive for daily examens. Doing the daily spiritual disciplines, immersed in Scripture, keeps me rooted more than anything else. The examens and spiritual direction help me with recognizing areas needing repentance or reconciliation. Reading the Rule (we’re in the Humility part now!) is a clear guide in that area as well. I confess I am not terribly good at the practice of reconciliation…it depends on the circumstances. But, with God’s grace I do what I can.


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