To fast or not to fast on Yom Kippur is a question new Torah observant believers in Yeshua wrestle with each year. If you are just beginning to get acquainted with Yah’s appointed times, trying to figure out how to honor these special days can be a bit daunting. I believe this because we are not following the customs and traditions of Judaism and there no longer exists an active Levitical priesthood requiring animal sacrifices.
However, even if we are not sure how to do the Feasts properly, I believe our Heavenly Father wants us to at least try. This is the spirit of the law in action. We have to do what we can — in faith — while relying on the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to give us wisdom in the matter.
Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement
Again Yahuah said to Moses, “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. You shall hold a sacred assembly and humble yourselves, and present an offering made by fire to Yahuah. On this day you are not to do any work, for it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before Yahuah your Elohim. If anyone does not humble himself on this day, he must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on this day. You are not to do any work at all. This is a permanent statute for the generations to come, wherever you live. It will be a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall humble yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to keep your Sabbath.”Leviticus 23: 26-30
Yom Kippur is to be commemorated each year on the tenth day of the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar. It is considered a High Sabbath observance that spans a 24 hour period. In addition to refraining from work, we are instructed to “humble” ourselves. (Some translations substitute the phrase “afflict your souls” for the words “humble yourselves.” ) What is being said here?
Historically, fasting has been an outward expression of inward remorse, repentance, sorrow, grief, distress, or petition.1
And there by the Ahava Canal I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessionsEzra 8:21
And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:Leviticus 16:29
However, on some occasions the people would be called out for their hypocrisy in doing so.
“Why have we fasted, and You have not seen? Why have we humbled ourselves, and You have not noticed?” “Behold, on the day of your fast, you do as you please, and you oppress all your workers. You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist. You cannot fast as you do today and have your voice be heard on high.Isaiah 58:3,4
“Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for these seventy years, was it really for Me that you fasted?Zechariah 7:5
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.Matthew 6:16-18
What Type of Fast?
When you research Yom Kippur, you will no doubt get several different instructions on how this important feast day is to be memorialized. Not everybody observes Yom Kippur the same way. However, the prevailing opinion seems to be focused on fasting.
As I was wrestling with this myself, I was prompted to re-read Isaiah 59. This was an eye opener which spoke to me in a very profound way as I was asking for guidance in what to do on Yom Kippur this year. I believe fasting is appropriate during this solemn occasion. However, this fast involves much more than abstaining from food.
I sensed that the Father is asking us to fast from being so “self” focused. We are all feeling the pressures of these last days. However, we must deny ourselves and focus on ways we can be more of a servant to those who are less fortunate.
Instead of focusing on the “politics” of hunger and homelessness, we must concern ourselves with how we can demonstrate the message of Yah’s lovingkindness and the hope of the Kingdom. If we have been prepping for a coming famine, have we done it out of a selfish heart or are we setting aside provisions for those who may not have the resources to do likewise? Are we making ourselves into instruments of peace with our family? Are we fasting from backbiting, gossip, character assassination, or even revenge?
I believe Yah was showing me that when it comes to afflicting myself, I need to do it His way. Re-read Isaiah 59:6-12 and determine for yourself if this is indeed the fast Yah is asking us to do as we focus on Yom Kippur.
Isn’t this the fast that I have chosen: to break the chains of wickedness, to untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and tear off every yoke? Isn’t it to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your home, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of Yahuah will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and Yahuah will answer; you will cry out, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke (of oppression) from your midst, the pointing of the finger and malicious talk, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted (depressed) soul, then your light will go forth in the darkness and your night will be like noonday. And Yahuah will always guide you; He will satisfy you in a sun-scorched land and strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of the Streets of Dwelling.Isaiah 59:6-12
1Deuteronomy 9:9-18, 2 Samuel 12:1-23, 1 Kings 19:4-8:1, Ezra 10:6-17, Daniel 6:18-23, Acts 9:1-9
Brenda Ross is a co-author of the book, “The Gospel Worth Dying For.” She is a former major market radio and television broadcaster who has served as Single’s Ministry Director at one of Houston’s Memorial Drive-area churches, a Jews for Jesus staff volunteer, and participated in mission outreach activities in Costa Rica, Mexico, and China. Urban mission experience includes volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity and catering to the homeless in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.