In our desire to provide you with the teachings of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the Jewish holidays throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Yehuda Bachana: Love your neighbor as yourself- High Holidays Webinar [2023]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

Yehuda Bachana: God’s Will to Forgive is Greater Than His Will to Punish [2023]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

On Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), we fast. We fast because we’re not only individuals, but also a Messianic Jewish congregation consisting of families with kids. It’s not just “me, myself and I”.

We are connected to this people, and our growing children are an integral part of this people: the people of Israel, God’s people.

We actively participate in the fast and national prayers, and beg God to remember us all for the good. To have mercy on us and remember the promises made to our ancestors. To give us, collectively, as a people, another chance to make amends and live in a way that finds favor in God’s eyes. We’re only a moment away from Yom Kippur, the most terrible day in the Jewish world, as it is the day of God’s judgment. We understand that the goal of the sacrifice is not to come in the place of repentance, but rather the sacrifice is the direct result of repentance.

We repent, acknowledge that we made a mistake, truly intend to change our ways, and then we present our sacrifice. Our sacrifice shows the seriousness of our words, as the sacrifice pays the price in our place – instead of us! Our sacrifice is the most pure and holy, as our sacrifice is Messiah Yeshua. One of the most central complaints of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and of many other prophets – and of the apostle Paul – was against the idea that acts of sacrifice, or the priestly Temple service, would be able to atone for the evil deeds of the people, without true repentance.

Netivyah | Yom Kippur

Upon reading the book of Jeremiah (for example), we understand that the religious and traditional rottenness spread too deeply. There was no healing possible anymore and no possibility to fix this.

Therefore, we must start over, start on a clean slate, as is written in the prophecy at the beginning of the book of Jeremiah:

“…to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow…” – Jeremiah 1:10b (see 31:27)

This uprooting was necessary in order for Israel to be able to return to the foundations of the faith and morals that are straight in the eyes of the Lord. Then, instead of destruction, tearing down, and abandonment, we will return “to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10). According to the halachic set of rules for Yom Kippur, it is impossible to achieve an instant atonement. This would be like sinning, asking for forgiveness, then sinning again and asking for forgiveness, etc.

According to the Jewish understanding, Yom Kippur atones for sins that are between God and us. This is contrary to forgiveness between an individual and his fellow man. For in a relationship between people we must find a way to reach forgiveness from the person we have hurt. “One who says: I shall sin and repent, sin and repent, they do not afford him the opportunity to repent. [If one says]: I shall sin and Yom HaKippurim will atone for me, Yom HaKippurim does not effect atonement. For transgressions between man and God Yom HaKippurim effects atonement, but for transgressions between man and his fellow Yom HaKippurim does not effect atonement, until he has pacified his fellow.” – Mishnah Yoma 8:9

In my opinion, as disciples of Yeshua, if we hurt or wrong someone, we are obligated to atone for our deeds and find a way to correct our error. However, on the other hand, when we are wronged by someone (according to our point of view), we are commanded to forgive and not hold a grudge against that person.

Yeshua commanded us to forgive (by which we will also be forgiven). I see  a greater depth in Yeshua’s words:

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” – Matthew 18:6

If those that hurt us try to please us, or we understand and know that they didn’t hurt us on purpose (for example, hurt or anger towards parents or between a husband and wife – of course, each case to its own), then we must strive towards forgiveness. May we not belong to the category of people that keeps holding others accountable, that blames others and makes others “owe it to us”. In my opinion, we must stand before the Lord and declare: “I forgive those that hurt me! Please don’t hold the sins of [enter a name] against him/her. I forgive and I ask not to hold the sin or the hurtful deed against him/her. S/he is clean.” (Yeshua does this same action in our favor.) On the second day of Yom Kippur it is custom to read the book of Jonah. God called Jonah to serve, to go to Nineveh, to prophesy destruction. Why did Jonah flee from this calling?

Jonah the prophet knew the greatness of God’s mercy, Who is,

“…a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” – Jonah 4:2b

Jonah knew that his prophecy of destruction wasn’t fulfilled. It is possible to say that, from the start, God would forgive the City of Nineveh.

There are a few insights that arise from the reasons why Jonah didn’t want to prophesy. One of them is the measure of justice.

Jonah asks, “where is the justice in all of this?” Can someone do evil, hurt someone else, abuse, then say sorry and that’s it? Is there no punishment? No consequence for the evil and brutality of the people? Where is the justice? It’s common to consider the repentance of Nineveh to be the central part of the book of Jonah. In my opinion, however, the moral of the story is different, and lies in the importance of the preservation of life and God’s mercy.

The book of Jonah ends with the following idea: if Jonah felt sorry for the plant for which he didn’t even have to make an effort, how much more does God care for His creation? For His world, and for the people that He created and made? That is the final point and here the book ends. We’re a part of this people, and we may not separate ourselves as believers from the people and from the environment in which we live. Our task as believers is to ask and to beg God to pass the bad verdict from our nation.

The lesson we can learn from the book of Jonah is that God’s will to forgive is greater than His will to punish. And, that it isn’t our task to point out the faults of our people, and say: “They are guilty.”

But, rather, the opposite. To pray and intercede in favor of this people, to turn the tide towards forgiveness instead of punishment. We all stand in prayer that God will cause this Jewish New Year to be blessed: for the whole body of Messiah in Israel and around the globe. And, for all of Israel, that the eyes of the people of Israel will be opened to see the true sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world, Yeshua the Messiah.

Joseph Shulam: The Significance of Yom Kippur [2018]

Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.

Why We Remember Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is a world-wide phenomenon and is especially prevalent in Jerusalem and all of Israel. 70% of the entire nation participates in this special appointed time by fasting. In addition, more than 50% go to some type of house of worship or synagogue. This holiday is also described and highlighted in the Torah, in the Prophets, and in the New Testament, thus emphasizing its vast importance.

It is Our Duty to Observe the Day of Atonement

The main purpose of Yom Kippur is the confession and repentance of the collective national sins of the people of Israel. This is a rather unique phenomenon on the map of humanity. The powers of this world, national, religious, and international alike, normally don’t approve nor endorse such things as confession of collective sins, repentance, remorse, and national fasting over mistakes and sins. God’s instruction (the Torah) given to Israel demands that one day per year there must be personal soul-searching and contemplation on the previous year’s mistakes, sins, and crimes.

Do Believers Need to Fast and Pray?

Why do we, as Jewish disciples of Yeshua our Messiah, fast and pray on this Day of Atonement?

First, we are proud members of the nation of Israel, and as such we are well aware of the national and collective sins of our people. As believers we trust in the grace of God that continues to forgive sins, even for an entire nation. The reason why it is important for us to fast and pray is for the revelation of Yeshua, who took the sins of the world upon his shoulders and was our true scapegoat.

Pray for the Forgiveness and Deliverance of Israel

I would like to ask you all to join us in praying for the salvation of Israel. This redemption of the nation of Israel is a divine promise by God Himself and it appears in numerous places throughout the Bible. I ask you to stand with Netivyah in prayer as we strive to present the Good News of God to the Jewish people.

Joseph Shulam: Why Do I Fast and Pray on Yom Kippur? [2014]

A dear friend of mine declared that, since Yeshua had accomplished eternal atonement, there was no need to fast and pray on Yom Kippur in order to obtain atonement. To tell you the truth, I was rather flabbergasted at his statement.

First of all, nobody in our congregation thinks by fasting and praying on Yom Kippur he gains atonement. If we say that the Messiah has provided the atonement and obviated the need for the Day of Atonement, then by the same logic we may say that Christ is our passover sacrificed for us, so there is no need to celebrate Passover.

My friend’s response is a reflection of replacement theology that has persisted in one form or another in Christianity, since the days of the church fathers. So why do I, as a Messianic Jew, pray and fast on Yom Kippur?

A “Shamash” (sexton) blowing the shofar before Yom Kippur at the Ohel Moed Sephardi Synagogue in Tel Aviv, 1960.
A “Shamash” (sexton) blowing the shofar before Yom Kippur at the Ohel Moed Sephardi Synagogue in Tel Aviv, 1960.

Covenant Responsibility

First of all, as a Messianic Jew, I am a member of the covenant which God has made with the people of Israel. God does not cancel covenants. In the Epistle to the Galatians, Paul declares that, even with covenants of men, no one comes with a subsequent covenant to modify or cancel a former covenant, and certainly not with covenants that are made by the faithful God.

Perhaps the punishment clauses of the covenant that God made with Israel in Leviticus and Deuteronomy provide firsthand evidence that the covenant is still in effect. The horrible persecutions, exiles, and the Holocaust provide ample evidence of the precision to which these clauses are being executed. Even the return to Zion of our own days is included in these clauses of the covenant.

Over and over again in Scripture, God declares through the prophets that, even if Israel is sinful and unfaithful, God will remain faithful to His covenants and accomplish His will and plan with and through Israel. So if the covenant is still in effect, to ignore Yom Kippur is to sin against the covenant.

In times past, when things were not so well understood, we could understand that God would overlook our lapse. But in these last days, when a better understanding of Scripture is at hand, how can we expect God to forgive a deliberate violation of one of the seven main appointed times of His covenant? No, as a member of the covenant, the Day of Atonement is given to me and our whole nation to keep.

Remembering the Atonement

Secondly, as a Messianic Jew, I have been atoned for by the gracious atoning work of the Messiah. That in itself is sufficient reason to observe the Day of Atonement. But more than that, as a believer in Yeshua, the fact is that I continue to sin – in spite of the fact that I have been atoned for my sins and that at a terrible cost of personal suffering and agony by the Messiah on a Roman Cross.

This sad and miserable fact is sufficient reason for me to humble myself and afflict my soul in fasting and mourning at least one day of the year, and that at the appointed time given to our people by God. God in His grace surrounds us with things and events to induce us to repentance and holiness, and one of these is the Day of Atonement.

If I pay attention to the confessional that is recited at Kol Nidre, I have to confess that many of the sins listed are ones of which I have been guilty, especially sins involving the tongue and the lips. I feel that it is a gracious opportunity to confess and apologize before the Lord for my failure, determine in my heart to do all that I can to avoid repeating these mistakes again, and pray the Lord’s help by His spirit to enable me to overcome.

As to the idea that by fasting and praying on the Day of Atonement I can obtain atonement, it is absurd. The Day of Atonement never provided atonement to the individual Israelite. Nor was it ever possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin. Rather, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of the Messiah Yeshua once for all time.

Notwithstanding this, every believer in Yeshua will give an answer to Him at the judgement seat of the Messiah for every unconfessed sin. The Day of Atonement provides me with one more opportunity to confess my sin before the Lord and receive His forgiveness by virtue of the atoning work of the Messiah. Of course, I can do that at any time, but certainly I should do it on the Day of Atonement.

Mindful of Those Who Do Not Have the Atonement

Thirdly, I am surrounded by people of my own nation who do not have the atonement provided by God in the Messiah, because of their unbelief. I feel that the Day of Atonement, of all days of the year, is the opportunity to fast and pray before the Lord on behalf of those who are lost and perishing all about me.

Of course, I can and do pray that way many times. But on Yom Kippur, I am impressed with the fact that Jewish people all about me are fasting and praying in a hopeless effort to tip the balance of judgment in their favor by amassing good works and prayers. This fact is heartrending, and for me a clear reason to humble myself before the Lord in prayer and fasting.

There is no better day of the year given to our people by God for fasting and praying for the atonement of our people and individual Jewish people than the Day of Atonement.

The Testimony of the Day of Atonement

My observance of the Day of Atonement, with fasting and praying on that day, provides a powerful and penetrating element to my proclamation of the Gospel of Yeshua to my people. I don’t observe the day of Atonement in order to be a testimony, but rather for the points listed above. But the fact that I do observe the Day of Atonement out of conviction augments my testimony to my own people.

The Day of Atonement, and the Ten Days of Awe preceding, provide a powerful contextual statement of the reality of sin in the life of our people and our nation. No other nation or religious community dedicates 10 days of the year to think about sin, yet in Israel it is a deeply established element of our culture.

In the world today, and no less among the people of Israel today, there is a widespread and deeply engrained denial of sin. This psychological defense mechanism is even more deeply rooted because people do not have a sure way of expiation (atonement) for their sin.

On Yom Kippur, we all say, “we have sinned, we have transgressed, we have committed iniquity…” And I, as a Messianic Jew, can point out that God has not left Israel bereft and without His appointed means of atonement, the Messiah’s offering up of His own eternal soul to atone for the sins of our people.

Prophetic Significance of the Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement speaks of that day in the future when all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced… In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem…” - Zechariah 12:10a,11a [NASB]

The seven appointed times listed in Leviticus 23 are a symbolic and prophetic outline of the work of God’s salvation in the nation of Israel, and for the whole world. Amongst all these appointed times, is the long-awaited great day of national salvation, in which all of Israel who survive to that day will be saved, on the Day of Atonement.

Biblical Understanding of the Place of the Day of Atonement

The classical hermeneutical framework of the Christian church has been that Christ has inaugurated the New Covenant, which supercedes the Old Covenant, and that the church replaces the people of Israel as the people of God. This hermeneutical framework of supersessionism has consistently led believers in Yeshua to regard the covenant that God has made with the people of Israel as being obsolete and void.

During this century, Jewish believers have been slowly finding their way back into an understanding of their covenant relationship with God and with the people of Israel. The New Covenant does not replace the covenant of God, rather it enables its members to abide by God’s Torah, by virtue of God’s Torah being written on the tablets of our heart. It provides for a saving knowledge of the Lord, and it provides forgiveness of sin for the believer.

By virtue of being a member of the New Covenant, I am able to observe and keep, in a real and spiritual way, the Day of Atonement.