Day of Atonement gets Personal
Year in and year out I’ve rarely failed to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, even Thanksgiving, but Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur—give me a break. Even though I’m told in Leviticus 23:27-29 “you shall afflict your soul and do no work on the Day of Atonement,” it has only been the last few years that I have taken God’s command seriously.
To take the command seriously, I felt I should understand it better.
The scripture equates the affliction of soul and doing no work with atonement. So what is atonement? Webster’s Dictionary says it is “reconciliation”. Let’s say then, Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is a very special, annual day to be sure you are right with God. That should be our every day responsibility, but God, knowing His creation, established a specific day once a year to be sure we take that responsibility seriously.
Particularly when we know we cannot be right with God if we are not right with our fellow man and woman. (Matt 25:40,44) Hence, the incorporation into the day (and in preparation for the day) with the practice of repenting—restoring of any broken relationships. These unresolved exchanges are where most of your affront to God will have occurred over the last twelve months. Hopefully, you will not have waited until the very end of the year to make amends! It is the restoration of broken relationships that is an essential part of reconciliation with God.
Why the connection between “no work” and “reconciliation”? When this observance was first commanded by God it was at Mt. Sinai, not too long after the Israelites had been freed from the shackles of slavery in Egypt. Where will a lot of your offense be likely to occur?—in the workplace! Think what an Israelite’s recent response to a slave environment might have been. Can you forgive that taskmaster you work for? Or, how about the co-worker who uses your just-gathered straw for his bricks? Or, the wife who didn’t put any horseradish in your lunch box this morning when you headed out to make bricks? Or,…fill in your own reactions to your experiences with others which should be addressed and made right.
Doing no work for a whole day becomes that dramatic pause that lets you have time to step back and asses your relationship to work itself.
Last year a big opportunity for me to atone came the morning before the Day of Atonement. My wife commented concerning the way I handled a phone conversation. I didn’t like her suggested corrections and stewed on them all day—all the while knowing this solemn day before the Lord was fast approaching. Finally I confessed to God my inability to let go of my grievance. I didn’t want to confront my wife with my angst as it wasn’t her problem—it was mine: my inability to graciously hear some positive suggestions (“Yeah, right!” had been my thoughts all day long). I repented to the Lord and soon began to feel a softening toward my wife. I could start anticipating a much more successful Holy Day. I did complete the reconciliation by also asking my wife to forgive me for my coolness to her during the day. She forgave me and asked me in turn to forgive her for her abrupt manner of “assessing” my phone conversation—ahhh…sweet reconciliation.
This little example, while not strictly from the workplace, was, nevertheless, a battle of the soul, the will. Since we are retired our home really is our workplace. During that day of preparation my mind, will, and emotions were definitely involved and this realm of the soul is Satan’s favorite battleground. It seems like this thought-life conflict should not be affecting my relationship with Father. After all, don’t I have any privacy? Well, no, I don’t! God knows my every thought and it is these thoughts which, when not dealt with, keep me from having clean hands and a pure heart. (Ps 24:4)
Why has the “affliction of soul” in the Leviticus verse been interpreted as calling for a day of fasting? To me, it goes hand in hand with the “no work” instruction. Nothing is to interrupt the total giving of this one day a year to a stringent soul searching. The soul (mind) is the reservoir of the past year’s interactions, but the vehicle which should be allowed to do the audit is your human spirit. We are body, soul and spirit. It is our spirit’s nexus with Holy Spirit which can truly purge the records of our interrelationships and thought life—of the foibles of our will and emotions. A day uninterrupted by food preparation and consumption excludes the soul and body from interrupting our spirit’s attuning to Holy Spirit.
I hope to spend the Day with an attitude of an ascended spirit—seeking Holy Spirit’s defining and assessing of what is stored in the recesses of my mind. This deliberate one day a year activity between Holy Spirit, my human spirit, and my mind will bring me to the close of a highly successful day of reconciliation with my fellow man, myself—and upper most—Father God.