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September 27, 2014 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129

By the time you are reading this article the high holidays of Israel will have begun.  Rosh HaShanah (The head of the year) began on Wednesday evening at 6:30 (sundown).  On the Jewish calendar this would be the first day of the month Tishrei, the seventh month of the Jewish year.  Rosh HaShanah marks the beginning of the secular year.  As in the Christian calendar Judaism has a secular year and a religious year.  The religious year begins with Passover in the spring corresponding to the Christian resurrection celebration.  The secular year begins on the seventh month.

The ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are called the days of awe.  They provide a time for personal reflection on one’s relationships and an opportunity to be reconciled to anyone with whom there is some friction or offense.  In other words, it is a time of repentance.  Yom Kippur comes on the tenth of Tishri which corresponds to our October 3.

On the fifteenth day of Tishrei, the ninth of October on the Christian calendar, the Feast of Sukkot begins.  It is a seven day festival with an extra day added which celebrates the joy of the Torah.  It is worth mentioning that the general public sees law as a restricting element in life.  “Torah” is usually translated into English as “law,” but a more accurate translation which captures the Hebraic mind set would be “instruction.”  God has, in the Bible, given instruction to his people and for Israel this is a matter for rejoicing.  In Hebrew this extra day is called Simchat Torah (rejoicing in the Torah.)

These celebrations can be found in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus, as well as other places in the Hebrew Scriptures.  They were established by Moses some 4000 years ago.  They were, of course, given to Israel and not to the world at large. However, it is clear from the Christian Scriptures that Jesus celebrated these holy days, usually in Jerusalem.

The center of this holy season for Israel is Yom Kippur, literally “the day of the covering.”  The Hebrew root from which Kippur is derived is “KPR.”  We see it in the skull caps used by faithful Jews as a mark of submission to God.  The head covering is called a “kippa.” Yom Kippur is not a feast day, but a fast day.  It was the day during the period of the Temple in Jerusalem on which the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and presented the blood of the sacrifice for the sins of all Israel.  When the Ark of the Covenant occupied its place in the Holy of Holies, prior to the Babylonian destruction of the Temple, the blood was sprinkled on the “Mercy Seat,” in Hebrew “the covering,” or lid of the ark, which was the earthly symbol of the throne of God.

There are at least three spiritual truths encapsulated in the observance of Yom Kippur.  The first is that God exists, and that humanity is subject to his rule and responsible for their thoughts and actions.  Secondly, that we all have failed to meet God’s requirements.  And thirdly that God has provided a way of approach, a way of forgiveness, a way of “covering” for those who with a sincere heart repent.

It was Jesus of Nazareth who said, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek and you will find, Knock and it will be opened to you.”  This is a season to seek.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at END-whs