As a Christian, have you and your family ever celebrated a Jewish holiday? Margaret Feinberg has and has written about it in her newest post, 3 Ways to Celebrate Yom Kippur as a Christ Follower. If you’re unfamiliar with the holiday, Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur mark the “Days of Awe.” During this ten day period, Jews “forgive others, give to those in need, and confess sins in order to secure their names in the Book of Life for another year,” Feinberg explains.
The Days of Awe end with a 25 hour fast and a Sabbath rest called Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. This day was when God provided atonement for the sins of the Israelites. Leviticus 16 explains the Day of Atonement, how the Jews would bring two animals for sacrifice into the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle. Feinberg shares what these sacrifices meant to the Jews:
“After sacrificing on the priest’s own behalf, he would then sacrifice one animal in the temple as the sin offering. The second was named the Azazel or scapegoat. The priest would symbolically lay the sins of the people on the head of the goat and lead it outside of the camp, representing the sins of the people being taken away. This animal sacrifice would occur once a year, and was always a temporal covering of sin. Year after year the Israelites repeated this tradition to ensure sins were covered and names were sealed in the Book of Life.”
The question for us as Christians is—how do we celebrate a holiday in which the whole point of it is to make atonement for sins—when we know Jesus has already made that ultimate atonement for us? Is there an appropriate way for Christians to celebrate traditionally Jewish holidays?
Feinberg thinks so. She sees it as a day for Christians to celebrate the “incredible sacrifice and radical forgiveness Jesus displayed on the cross.” Rather than trying to atone for another year’s sins, we as Christians can celebrate what Christ has already done for us. Feinberg shares 3 great ways we can do this:
First, you can extend radical forgiveness. Just as Jesus has given us grace, we too can extend grace and heal broken relationships during Yom Kippur. “When you don't have the grace or strength to forgive, ask God to supply both of those in greater measure,” says Feinberg.
Second, you can consider fasting for a meal or entire day. During your time of fasting, spend time praying and meditating on the gifts God has given us, not only meeting our physical needs, but our spiritual needs in Jesus.
Third, you can gather your family and friends for a tashlich ceremony. In Jewish culture, during this ceremony the people of the synagogue go down to a local stream or river and empty their pockets of crumbs, symbolizing sins being washed away. Why not do that and celebrate that Christ has once and for all washed away all your sins?
Want to bring more attention to Christ, not just during Jewish holidays, but every holiday? Mark Mittelberg gives his thoughts on sharing the Gospel during holiday gatherings here.
What do you think? How have you found significance in Jewish holidays? Add your thoughts below!
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.