Yowm Hacafarim: Day of “Atonement”

As I continue to study these holy days, I am learning that they first had a practical application before representing a spiritual truth.

Take, for example, the passover. Initially, it wasn’t a holy day in the sense we think of it today but a life or death situation in which our ancestors were to be obedient to the instructions of God for their survival. Likewise, the first Sabbath was the day Yahuwah rested from His work. The first feast of unleavened bread was the period of Israel’s escape from the Egyptian Pharoah. The Feast of First Fruits marked the beginning of the spring harvest reaping season. The Feast of Weeks marked its end. The Sabbath of Remembrance was an indication of the beginning of a new harvest reaping season.

What we’ll soon learn is that all holy days had similar beginnings in practical applications. While this isn’t so evident in Leviticus, Numbers tend to reveal the practical purpose of each of these days we now consider symbolic celebrations and observances.

According to Leviticus, the “Day of Atonement”, as it is called, is actually the day of the coverings or the covered ones. It occurs on the tenth day of the seventh month of the biblical year, which is the tenth day following the September new moon.

This observance calls for Israel to “afflict their souls”; however, this phrase is never defined in the text. A brief word study indicates that the most universal and concrete definition of the phrase is to give close attention to their own souls. More specifically, it is to give priority to their souls. When considering how the term ‘souls’ is used in other scripture, it becomes evident that this term refers to those among them, their community. Specifically, the beings among them. So, this directive is for Israel and their entire community, strangers included, to tend to their own communal needs.

Leviticus goes on to say that these people, native and non-native (Lev 16:29), must prepare a feast in Yahuwah’s honor and do no business “in the abundance of the day”.

Leviticus 23:29 explains that the purpose of this day is to cover our rise to Yahuwah. It may also be translated as a day to cover upon us for Yahuwah. What I have come to understand is that both are the intended messages of this holy day from a spiritual perspective.  On the day of coverings, we are covered that we may rise to God, but we are also covered in service of Him.

Leviticus 16:29-31 gives us some additional information about this day. It specifies that this day is to be observed by Israel and all who sojourns with them. It also adds that we are covered to be cleansed of all our sins.

Numbers 29:7-11 offers more detailed instructions regarding what activities were conducted on this day. Particularly, it describes what types of food were to be prepared and ends with instructions about the coverings, which in this case are more than likely literal coverings, either tent coverings or garments.

Verse 11 reads, “Goat hair of goats, one measure from to separate sin coverings and upon continual gifts and their pourings.” This one statement points to how all of the resources from the “offerings” were to be used. The hair or skins of the goats were to be made into coverings, in addition to the daily meal preparation and gravies that came from the cattle.

When the Numbers instructions are objectively read in Hebrew, certain patterns appear. Most notably, it becomes obvious that the holy day references in the Book of Numbers were administrative instructions that mainly dealt with food preparation and other communal duties. in particular, it addresses the use of resources, particularly from animal products.

Herein lies the practical purpose of this observance… It was one of many days God set apart for tending to the needs of the community versus doing business with and tending to the needs of those outside of the community. These “coverings” were made just before the Feast of Booths where they were to be used set up booths to sleep in during harvest reaping time.

Leviticus 23 says: “Speak to children of Israel to say in her fifteenth day to new moon the seventh this is a feast of the booths [tabernacles] seven days to Yahuwah. (verse 34) In booths, you will sit him seven days all the natives in Israel they will sit in booths.” (verse 42)

The Hebrew word for “tabernacles” is literally a booth or a covering. Basically, a boot is a covering used for shelter. If you don’t know this, the connection between the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Booths isn’t obvious. However, when reading in Hebrew it implies that the coverings/booths made on the Day of Coverings are literally coverings used to make booths during the Feast of Booths.

These coverings are also made on other days of the year, including the Sabbath of Remembrance and every new moon. Numbers 29:5 gives us insight into these covers. But first, you should know that the Hebrew word for sin is the same as the word for measure. This is not by accident! None the less, the literal covering spoken of in Numbers, Leviticus, and other places refers to the skins of the slaughtered animals used to cover people, either as tents or garments. Referring to the Goat, Numbers 29:5 literally translates: “measure one goat hair to cover upon you”.

Also, keep in mind that the fall and winter seasons are approaching during these observances. Nights in desert regions aren’t exactly warm. This would be another practical reason for making additional goat skins at this time of year, in what we call, September and October.

So, like all the other holy days, the Day of Atonement held a practical purpose. It was a day to prepare for the upcoming harvest week, the Feast of Booths. However, it also has spiritual significance in that it represents a day of Yah’s provision. It celebrates the provision of the food and “coverings”, which come from the same source, cattle. Additionally, this day represents another opportunity be cleansed and restored.

It’s important that we remember both the practical and spiritual implications of holy days. Literally, a holy day is a day set apart for a special purpose. In the case of the Day of Coverings, it was set apart for Israel to prepare for a week spent living in tents and reaping the fall harvest. This is our next holy day lesson, the Feast of Booths.

For now, remember that whatever we ascertain is God’s message to us today, is indeed what makes this day special! Some may see it as a day of forgiveness, others may think it’s a day of preparation for reaping the harvest… The beauty of God’s Word is that both would be correct!

On the other hand, ancient Israelites likely saw the set-apart days simply as God’s instruction for order, discipline, preparedness, and unity amongst His people. Obedience and disobedience was the equivalent of either functioning within or rebelling against such order and unity. In many cases, it was literally a choice between life and death. The same holds true now; however, more is at stake – our eternal lives!

This year, 2018, the Day of Coverings begins on the evening of September 17 through the evening of September 18.

Heg Hasaccot: Feast of Booths

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