by Rabbi Henry Bregman:

The True meaning of Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is a time when every true Israelite seeks forgiveness of his sins by merits of his own. The Talmud, which is the Jewish code of Laws, says: “Three books are opened on the Jewish New Year’s Day, one for the absolutely wicked, one for the perfectly righteous, and one for the intermediate class. All who are found righteous are written and sealed to life immediately. All absolutely wicked are written and sealed to death at once. All the intermediate class are kept until the Day of Atonement. If they repent in the meantime, they are written for life, but if not, they are sealed to death.” (Tractate, Rosh Hashanah, 16 b)


A Jew who is not orthodox all the year (that is, who is lax in keeping the Judaistic observances) will repent, pray on New Year’s Day and the nine days following, and give charity between New Year’s Day and the Day of Atonement, in order to be inscribed in the Book of Life. Even the orthodox Jew would do his best during the awful days of repentance, as they are called in the Jewish faith.

In order to be remembered in the Book of Life, the writer of this article used to “open his hand wide unto the poor” to fulfill the commandment in Deuteronomy 15:7-8, and also seek to abound in other good deeds. He carefully observed the ritual, and went to synagogue three times a day, a whole month before the New Year. Many a night he spent in studying the written and oral laws, repeating the Psalms and many other prayers, even wailing for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the return of the Jews to Palestine, while sitting on the ground. Many other things he did, as wearing his phylacteries all day, and not looking at women, so as to have his mind consecrated and devoted to heavenly thoughts. All these were done in order that the “Mitzvoth” (commandments) might outweigh the “Avaroth” (sins). According to the Talmud everyone’s sins are being weighed against his merits at the judgment day. Maimonides (Rambam) in the Hilchoth T’shuvah, C. iii:3, says that the same rule applies to the ten days of repentance, i.e., from the beginning of the New Year and the following nine days, including the Day of Atonement.

In order to please his Heavenly Father, a Jew seeks favor and pardon by observing many precepts, customs, and repeating the whole “Machzor” (a prayer book containing the festival prayers), without missing a word.


On New Year’s Day he goes to the bank of a river, and there throws all his sins into the water. Then, on the eve of the Day of Atonement, the orthodox Jew takes a rooster, and swinging it three times around his head, says: “This rooster goeth to death, but I shall be gathered and enter into a long and happy life and into peace. ” Then he throws it on the floor to be killed immediately afterwards. (MAHZOR ABODAT ISRAEL, Prayers For The Day of Atonement, English Translation by Rev. S. Singer, Dr. N. Adler and Rev. Dr. A. Th. Phillips, Hebrew Publishing Company, 77-79 Delancey St., New York, 1931, pp. 5a, 5b.).

During the Day of Atonement most of the people torture themselves, standing most of the day on their feet, with shoes off, fasting twenty-five hours, and even abstaining from water. All these things, they believe, will save them. The writer believed this also, but the Lord graciously opened his eyes, and he saw that he had no merits of his own. “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:3)



No man has any merits, for God declares furthermore that “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores.” (Isaiah 1:5-6). These verses are descriptive of Israel. This description is generally true of mankind. The intellect is corrupt, for the whole is sick. The affections are corrupt, for the heart is faint, and the confession of the prophet implies that “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (Isa. 64:6).


The writer thus found that he had nothing of his own by way of good deeds to atone for his sins. He asked himself whether he has kept, or was keeping, all the commandments of the Lord. He was forced to reply in the negative. In that case the curse of God was hanging over him and would eventually descend and destroy him. “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.” (Deuteronomy 27:26) “And say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant.” (Jeremiah 11:3)

According to the word of the True and living God, there is no hope, except for those who yield in perfect obedience. But who is able to perfectly obey all of God’s Holy Law? For the prophet Isaiah says, “All we like sheep, have gone astray;” (Isaiah 53:6).

Again, he asked himself: Where is the High Priest? Where is the Temple with all its ceremonies? Where is the blood atonement for the sin?” The answer came in Hebrews 9:12,” Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once in the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”

As Christ obtained our redemption on the eve of the Passover on Calvary’s Cross (John 19:14-17), so he became my Passover, my Atonement, my High Priest, and my All in All. He is my “Yom Kippur”, not only once a year, but always, having obtained eternal redemption for me. My faith, my Hope and my Trust, are built upon God’s promises, and cannot be better expressed than in His most holy word.- “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed ” (Isaiah 53.5). The Messiah was wounded for my transgressions, bruised for my iniquities, the chastisement of my peace was upon him, and with his stripes I was healed.


It was very hard for the writer to give up his pride, because of the position he held in the Synagogue as Rabbi. He always gloried in his wisdom, but the preaching of “Christ crucified” was unto him, being a Jew, a stumbling block and unto him being a rabbi, foolishness. But now that he is called, Christ became to him the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Dear Reader, if you are wise, mighty or rich and proud of these things, relying on your wisdom, might and riches, but you own not the Lord, there is no hope for you, except you yield in perfect obedience. Each one has to renounce all his pride, and appear at the bar of God as a miserable sinner, looking only for mercy and not for rewards.

“Thus saith the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercises loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight’, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24). “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 1:31).

We naturally think we must do something to merit God’s favor, but God’s Word plainly declares: “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8). This sets aside everything I might do to merit salvation as worthless.” For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8 and 9). This is the reason why God’s salvation will never be popular in this world; it is not flattering to the human race, it sets aside everything in which we can possibly pride ourselves, and makes everything of Christ Jesus and His finished work on Calvary’s Cross. Although Christ has been rejected and cast out of this world, He is still here, and now the question for you, dear reader, is, “Which side are you on?” Have you taken sides with the Lord Jesus Christ, confessing Him as your Saviour? If not, let me tell you that you are on the world’s side and will meet the world’s condemnation, for this world is guilty of the blood of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and judgment will surely overtake it. If not already sheltered from the coming wrath, let me persuade you, yes, beg of you, “who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Take side with the Lord Jesus Christ, for God states, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Don’t be deluded by false religion or careless indifference, there is only one True Saviour, the one and only True Messiah of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Put your trust in Him now before you meet Him as your judge at the Great White Throne of Judgment, for then it will be too late, and you will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, for God states: “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” (Isaiah 66:24). If you die without forgiveness of your sin, (available only through the blood atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only True Messiah of Israel), you will be lost forever.


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