Yom Kippur: The Power of Saying “I’m Sorry”
It’s been said that two of the hardest words for people to say are “I’m sorry.” Can you relate? When have you experienced needing to apologize and dreaded doing it? Or maybe, you have been hurt by someone who won’t apologize to you? In this special episode about Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, host Yael Eckstein, President and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, explores how those two words relate to the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Admitting our wrongdoings, committing to making changes, and moving forward is what the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur is all about! When we do this with sincerity, God always forgives and always has mercy. And those words – “I’m sorry” – have the power to heal relationships and change our future for the better.
Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, and it begins at sundown on September 25. The Bible designated this day – the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei – as a “Day of Atonement,” a day on which God would forgive us for our sins. This day is observed just ten days after the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. In this episode, host Yael Eckstein, President and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, focuses on Leviticus 16:29-30, which is the first time the Bible mentions this holy day:
“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins.”
This verse tells us that Yom Kippur is a day set aside for cleansing and repentance. In this episode, Yael explains the origins of Yom Kippur in the Bible and how it was observed in ancient times at the Holy Temple with the High Priest entering the Holies of Holies in the Temple and seeking forgiveness for the people. While the celebration looks different today, the meaning is still the same.
Yael shares how her family observes this sacred day, with fasting, prayer, and joining in the beautiful liturgy in synagogue. People wear white to signify godliness and purity, and the holiness of the day is tangible throughout Israel. There are almost no cars in the streets and the stores are all closed. The silence — so unusual in our day and age — speaks volumes about the sanctity of the day.
Yom Kippur is designated as a time when the Jewish people atone for their sins. The gift of the holiday season is that God can wipe the slate clean and His people can all have a fresh start. But first, everyone needs to take responsibility and make amends for past mistakes. Then, God grants the gift of forgiveness. As people of faith, we will learn that the gift of renewal and a fresh start is ours to receive – when we seek forgiveness, give forgiveness, and give over the past to God.