Making Our Faith Real

Yael Eckstein  |  September 19, 2023

Faina, an elderly Holocaust survivor in Israel, receives a High Holy Days food box from The Fellowship
(Photo: Guy Yechiely)

The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community. — Leviticus 16:32-33

At sundown on Sunday, Sept. 24, my family and I will join Jews across the world in observing the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. My devotions focus on this very holy day, a time when our attention is on receiving and giving forgiveness.

Every year on Yom Kippur, I join my community in synagogue for a full day of fasting and prayer. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. On this day, it’s customary for Jews to wear garments of pure white, as we trust God’s promise to cleanse us of all sin. Standing in a sea of white, reciting stirring and soulful prayers, is a feeling that is hard to describe. I am struck with awe of God while simultaneously feeling His immense love.

However, I’m also well aware that our service today is but a shadow of the service that once was. Leviticus 16 is dedicated to the description of the service that was performed on Yom Kippur in order to gain atonement when the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem. Today, we no longer have a high priest, nor do we participate in ritual sacrifices. So how can we still achieve atonement?

According to Jewish tradition, three keys replace the Temple service and unlock the gates of Heaven: repentance, prayer, and charity.

Making Our Faith Real

It’s easy to understand why repentance and prayer can achieve atonement for our sins, but why is charity singled out as one of the three components? The answer is because when we give charity, we take the faith that is in our hearts and in our mouths and make it real by putting it into action.

When we give charity, we demonstrate that we firmly believe that everything in the world belongs to God—including our money—and that we have a responsibility to use it according to His will. When we take from our hard-earned money and give it away, we also prove that we trust God to provide for all our needs even when we diminish what we have in order to help someone else. And when we extend our hand to others, we show God that we are deeply committed to being kinder and more loving.

When we give charity, we demonstrate to God that our prayer and repentance are sincere. Moreover, when we give to others, God sees that we act compassionately and mercifully toward others. In return, He treats us with compassion and mercy, forgiving our past misdeeds and showering us with new blessings.

Your turn:

Make your faith real today and bless someone with a gift of charity today—and may God bless you tenfold!