As we approach the Holiest day of the year (Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement) the people of Israel are earnestly reciting ‘slichot’ which are prayers for forgiveness.
Slichot comes from the Hebrew word ‘slicha’ which means ‘I’m sorry.”
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It is so incredible to see an entire nation dedicate one day a year to fast, pray and seek God.
It’s not only the ultra orthodox that carry out this commandment but nearly every Jewish person upholds this appointed time to try and make things right between them and God.
In Israel, it is not as much a question for most people of ‘if God exists or not.’ it’s more a question of ‘how can I find God & connect with Him?’
There are many Israelis, especially those who are younger, that recognise there is no true life & connection to God in religion.
They see the orthodox carry out man-made laws and place heavy expectations on others to do the same and balk at the thought of upholding this impossible standard.
They often think “if this is what it takes to follow God, then I’m out!”
The truth is that Yeshua often argued with the Rabbi’s and spiritual leaders of the time saying “They worship Me in vain; they teach as doctrine the precepts of men.’ You have disregarded the commandment of God to keep the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:8)
A few years ago I was walking down the street in downtown Jerusalem on my way back from work and got into a conversation with a group of young Israelis.
“Have you said your slichot yet?” They asked me.
I smiled and replied “I will be praying for forgiveness along with the rest of the country during Yom Kippur but I also pray to God throughout the year because He is a friend to me and I believe that I can receive forgiveness for my sins anytime I come to Him in prayer.”
They were shocked “What? How do you do that? I want to know how to have that kind of relationship with God.” They said sincerely.
Many Jewish people here in the Land are hungry for truth and real life. They may follow along with the traditions and religious expectations of the Rabbi’s but deep down they know something is missing.
“In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)
We study in the bible that there needed to be blood shed in order for us to have forgiveness of our sins. Because there is no high priest, no temple & no animal sacrifices today in Israel… most people merely hope their sins are forgiven, try to do enough mitzvoth (good deeds) to make it into heaven and try not to think about it too much.
Just the other day I was checking out of the grocery store and the clerk smiled at me and said “chatimah tovah!” which is a shortened Hebrew phrase meaning “May you name be written in the book of life.”
I felt such compassion for her and for the rest of the Israeli people in that moment who are seeking after God yet don’t have full assurance of their salvation because the best kept secret in the world has been hidden from them.
That Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah we have been waiting for and He was the once and for all sacrifice that shed His blood so we can have forgiveness of sins and know with all confidence that our names ARE written in the book of life.
I see orthodox mothers pushing double strollers with their seven children skipping behind them and their weary smiles as they soldier through their day, exhausted from carrying the weight of responsibility on their shoulders.
I see orthodox men, red faced and sweating from their insistence of wearing heavy black coats and hats in the middle of summer. This self-inflicted oppression gripping their lives and homes keeping them in a prison of religious duties.
I see young Israelis lost and confused, fresh out of the army, travelling the world trying to find purpose & meaning & life in a broken, fallen world.
I see God’s chosen people in need of their saviour. In need of freedom for their souls. Re-connection to their creator and release from the heavy weight of fear, scrutiny & oppression from religion.
Lets together pray for the nation of Israel to have a revelation of Yeshua, the only one who is able to save us from our sin and redeem our life from darkness.
When I look at the people of Israel, I don’t just see a people who are stubbornly ignoring the truth as I’ve heard some people describe.
Rather, I see a people who are overcoming years of abuse & persecution in the name of ‘Jesus’ which causes them to reject the very mention of His name.
We need to be sensitive in understanding the history the Jewish people have been through and come from a place of love and compassion when we reach out to share our faith in Yeshua.
Yom Kippur isn’t just for the Jewish people.
Yom Kippur is for every believer in Yeshua.
Each one of us enter into striving at one point or another. Trying to earn God’s love and approval. The thing is, we can never measure up to a perfect God! We all fail and fall short and are in need of His grace, love and mercy.
While it’s true that we can approach God anytime and receive forgiveness of our sins, the bible says Yom Kippur is to be “a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”
I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure that when God said ‘forever’ He really does mean FOREVER. No matter where you are in the world or what your background is, as followers of Yeshua we are commanded to keep this appointed time.
We are also commanded to abstain from doing any work at all on this day. Again, this shows us that receiving God’s forgiveness isn’t about what we can do but about who He is!
The only thing God asks of us in return is that we extend that same forgiveness to those around us.
“For if you forgive the people when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sings, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Mathew 6:14-15)
This isn’t always an easy thing to do. When others hurt us & let us down our immediate response is to hold onto resentment and anger. But this only damages us!
Forgiving someone also doesn’t mean letting them back into your life necessarily however it does mean displaying God’s kindness and compassion on them even if they may be undeserving.
Yeshua showed us this example while hanging on the cross praying “Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Reach out to those around you this Yom Kippur and ask forgiveness if you may have wronged someone. This is also a time to check our hearts and release any grudges we have against anyone else.
When we receive the revelation of what Yeshua did for us, how much He sacrifices to pay for the freedom of our sins, we can’t help but desire to extend that same love and mercy to those around us.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful & just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
This article originally appeared on Liat Nesher’s blog and is reposted with permission.