The Yom Kippur Service

Leviticus 16:1-34

Our portion begins with the Yom Kippur service. God tells Moses to relate to Aaron and his surviving sons that they are not to enter the Holy of Holies, separated from the rest of the Tabernacle by a curtain, except on the Day of Atonement. Dressed in his white linen garments, which he dons after immersing himself in water, the High Priest is to take a young bull as a sin offering and a ram as an elevation offering on his own behalf, and two goats as a sin offering and a ram as an elevation offering for the people.


First, the High Priest draws lots over the he-goats, selecting one for God and one for Azazel. The goat for God is sacrificed, while the goat for Azazel — the Scapegoat — is thrown off a cliff in the wilderness later in the service. He then brings his own sin offering, to atone for himself and his household. He prepares incense with which he enters the Holy of Holies, and there sprinkles blood upon the cover of the Ark of the Covenant. He also sprinkles blood upon the altar outside.


After the goat for Azazel is dispatched, the High Priest removes his linen garments and immerses himself again, putting on his other garments, and completes the two elevation offerings. The priest who dispatches the scapegoat and the one who removes the sin offerings for burning must immerse before re-entering the camp.


The laws of Yom Kippur for the nation are also included in this section. The day is commemorated on the tenth of the seventh month with fasting and purification.


Typically, the High Priest wears eight garments, four of which are resplendent with gold embellishments. On Yom Kippur, however, he performs the service in the Holy of Holies wearing only the four linen garments. As the Israel Bible explains, this helps him serve with humility. The white garments are the color of forgiveness, so they remind him and the people that all is in God’s hands.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Although there are three pilgrimage festivals, which require the entire nation to come up to Jerusalem and serve God in the Temple, Yom Kippur is not one of them. Why do you think God did not mandate the participation of the entire nation in the service of the Day of Atonement?

Comments ( 21 )

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  • I have spent Yom Kipur almost all day in shul. In quietness and praying. I think doing Teshuva does mean looking into the depths of your heart and seeing where you went wrong or where there are still more wys in which you went your own ways, or did promises which need to be revoked, sometimes foolish words which need a 'repair' but YHWH HE is gracious and loving and merciful and the upright heart will receive forgiveness and a new start.

  • I have always spent the time on Yom Kippur alone, separated from my friends and family in quiet and solitude – no music, no computers, no reading (even of Scriptures) or even praying. (I'm not saying that my way is the way for anyone else, just that this has been my practice over the years.)
    My first couple of years, my focus has been more on the struggle to stay focused on being "in the moment" and not allowing myself to drift off and think about food and how hungry I was getting as time passed. It made me feel weak and silly and shallow. I would continually count down the hours till this time would pass.
    Many years later, I find that I'm less concerned with being hungry, but I still countdown the hours. I see that submitting myself to Elohim's will and keeping HIS commandments (and YES, this is HIS appointed time for this fast!) is more important than trying to understand why HE would require such a thing of me. I do this for the love of my FATHER in Heaven.
    Lately, there has been a distortion that has arisen among believers that Yom Kippur is not supposed to be a day of fasting, but a day of feasting. They base this on a singular verse in the Prophets while ignoring the clear instructions given by Moshe. Watch out for these kinds of distortions. When someone is changing the original commandments to say they mean something else, you need to ask yourself what is their motivation for doing so.
    Baruch Hashem.

    • Here is a good explanation with the Scriptures:

      "First let’s look at the words that YHWH instructed Moshe to do regarding obtaining the needed materials for the Mishkan/Tabernacle.

      “And Hashem [YHWH] spoke unto Moshe, saying,Speak unto the Bnei Yisroel [Sons/children of Yisrael], that they bring Me a terumah [elevation]-(offering); of every man that giveth it willingly with his lev [heart] ye shall receive My terumah [elevation]-(offering).” (Shemot/Exodus 25:1-2 OJB- definitions mine)

      The instructions were for Moshe to speak to the sons/children of Yisrael about giving the needed materials for the Mishkan/Tabernacle. The word for these offerings in Hebrew is terumah. It means, an offering that is lifted up above the shoulders. In other words an elevation offering. This is seen even more clearly by the root word from which terumah comes. It is rum [r-o-o-m], meaning to rise or raise, give, bring up, heave up, lift up or set up on high. The other distinction is that those who give must do so willingly with their heart. In other words, this offering was to be motivated not by coercion, but by the free will of those who come."

      Here is the link to the entire article:

      I think they give a much better explanation than I could have managed on my own. Baruch Hashem.

      • Thank you Jean, I understand now. I understand too that the gift/offering must be made freely.

  • G-d has given us the gift of a 'Free Will' and coming before him freely, and without compulsion in humility asking for his forgiveness, is not something that can be anything but by our own choice. I don't think G-d stands over us demanding we come, rather he trusts that our love for him will bring us to his throne room. What an awesome G-d we serve, what other G-d is there that would give us the freedom to choose to walk his ways.

  • Sheila

    I agree also. —– well explained —– repentance, forgiveness, cleansing, freedom one to one, with the Lord . Thank you Lord as you call me to holiness in all my conduct as I worship You as The Holy One.

  • Michael

    I understand to some level the Day of Atonement, and I gleaned a lot form all the comments; but I have a question concerning the scapegoat, Does ” Azazel ” represent Satan or Lucifer? The tempter in the Garden of Eden? I notice from the 1st Book of Enoch Chapter 13 that it mentions Azazel the ” The Watcher Leader ” Sons of God, of the fallen ones from Genesis chapter 6:2.. I know that the book of Enoch isn’t something were discussing and that it isn’t a part of most Bibles but not much is mentioned concerning the scapegoat. Or the reason its taken outside the camp and destroyed.

    • Diana Brown

      I have wondered about the scapegoat Azazel and thought about this again in the purification process of the kohen for one whose body or clothing or house had taz’arat.
      Both of these purification processes are completed with the word “kill” not “slaughter” and both are done “outside the camp” but slaughtered sacrifices are done inside the camp in the specified Tabernacle and later Temple areas..
      Christians know Yeshua was taken outside the camp and he was to be killed yet He said He would lay down His Life for His People so He became the willing, unblemished sacrifice to turn us to repentance and back to HaShem. So we relate the scapegoat and the purification process for Taz’arat cleansing with Him.
      I don’t know how Jews teach on this topic. I would like to learn though.

      • Diana Brown

        This very question came out in a teaching today. Here it is…from the Jewish believer’s perspective…..
        Iyar 4, 5775 · April 23, 2015
        Mashiach’s Name
        Metzora; Leviticus 14:1-15:33
        Print this Page
        By Eli Touger
        Adapted from
        Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, p. 100ff;
        Vol. XXII, p. 77ff; Parshas Tazria, 5751;
        Sefer HaSichos 5751, p. 491ff
        Consummate Perfection and Superficial Flaws
        Our Sages ask:1 “What is Mashiach’s name?” and reply “The leper of the House of Rebbi.”2 This is very difficult to understand. Mashiach will initiate the Redemption, and is associated with the pinnacle of life and vitality. How can his name be linked with leprosy (tzaraas), which is identified with death3 and exile?4
        This difficulty can be resolved based on the statements of Likkutei Torah, which explain that a person affected by tzaraas will be:
        A man of great stature, of consummate perfection….5 Although such a person’s conduct is desirable, and he has corrected everything,… it is still possible that on the flesh of his skin there will be lower levels on which evil has not been refined. This will result in physical signs on his flesh, in a way which transcends the natural order….6
        Since the filth on the periphery of his garments has not been refined, therefore [blemishes] appear on his skin…. Moreover, these blemishes reflect very high levels, as indicated by the fact that they are not considered impure until they have been designated as such by a priest.
        The passage implies that there are sublime spiritual influences which, because of the lack of appropriate vessels (as evidenced by the “filth on the periphery”), can produce negative effects. For when powerful energy is released without being harnessed, it can cause injury. This is the reason for the tzaraas with which Mashiach is afflicted.
        Mashiach’s Burden
        The Jewish people as a whole are compared to a human body. This applies within every generation, and also to the entire nation throughout history.7 All Jews those of the past, present, and future are part of a single organic whole.
        Since good is eternal, while evil is only temporary,8 our people’s spiritual level has been constantly advancing. A vast reservoir of good has been filling up over the centuries. The Jewish people as they exist in ikvesa diMeshicha, the age when Mashiach’s approaching footsteps can be heard, have attained the level of perfection mentioned in Likkutei Torah.
        Nevertheless, there are still blotches of evil “on the periphery,” for the world is still scarred by injustice and strife. And thus the light of redemption cannot yet become manifest; this is reflected in the leprous blemishes which are visited on Mashiach himself. For as the prophet states:9 “He has borne our sicknesses and endured our pain… with blemishes, smitten of G-d, and afflicted.” Mashiach endures suffering, not for his own sake, but for the Jewish people as a whole.
        Positive Import
        There is still a difficulty. Although the above passage explains why Mashiach must endure suffering, it does not show why that suffering is identified with Mashiach. Mashiach’s name who he is should be positive.
        This difficulty can also be resolved on the basis of the passage from Likkutei Torah cited previously. For that passage explains that leprous blemishes reflect “very high levels,” their source being transcendent spiritual light10 that are associated with Mashiach. Nevertheless, for this light to be expressed in a positive manner, suitable vessels are required.
        Mashiach’s suffering will bring about a final refinement in the world at large, making it a fit vessel for the revelation of its transcendent potential. Since this revelation lies at the heart of the Era of the Redemption, the catalyst necessary to bring it about is therefore associated with Mashiach’s name.
        The Name of the Torah Reading
        The above concepts also clarify a difficulty with regard to the name of our Torah reading, Parshas Metzora. Metzora means “leper.” One might think that the name of a reading in the holy Torah would be associated with a word of more positive import. This question is reinforced by the fact that in the works of the early Rabbinic sages, Rav Saadia Gaon,11 Rashi,12 and the Rambam,13 a different name was employed for this reading. All of these authorities refer to the reading by the name Zos Tihiyeh (“This shall be”). It is only in the later generations that the name Metzora became prevalent.
        The explanation is that in these later generations, cracks have appeared in the wall of exile, and through them the light of Mashiach shines. In the light of Mashiach, Metzora is not a negative factor but, as explained above, an expression of transcendent G-dliness.
        Through the Medium of Study
        The Torah reading begins with a description of the purification process to be undergone by a person afflicted with tzaraas, saying “These are the laws of the metzora.” By focusing on Toras hametzora (the laws of the metzora), not taharas hametzora, “the purification of the metzora,” an allusion is made to a fundamental concept.
        Torah study develops human vessels that allow light all light, even the most sublime to be accepted by and internalized in our world. Through Torah study, the transcendent influence of tzaraas can be channeled into a positive force.
        Similarly, with regard to Mashiach: studying the teachings about Mashiach precipitate his revelation, drawing his influence into our world.
        With New Life
        Often, Parshas Metzora is read in connection with Parshas Tazria, which is associated with the sowing of seeds and the conception of life.14 This implies that the seeds of our Divine service will not wait endlessly in the dark ground of exile, but that Metzora, the Redemption, will blossom immediately after the last seeds have been sown.
        Conversely, the fusion of the two readings implies that Metzora, the Redemption, has already been conceived; we are only waiting for the birth. For the suffering which Mashiach endures is the final step before his revelation. May it take place in the immediate future.
        1. Sanhedrin 98b.
        2. See also Rashi, Sanhedrin 98a, who states that Mashiach will be afflicted by tzaraas and will sit among others who share this affliction. See the comments of the Maharal in his Chiddushei Aggados (Sanhedrin, loc. cit.:a,b), which state that just as a leper must be separate from all other people, so too, a king and how much more so Mashiach is distinguished from others.
        3. Nedarim 64b. See the commentary of the Maharsha in his Chiddushei Aggados.
        4. Vayikra Rabbah, the conclusion of ch. 15.
        5. See Zohar, Vol. III, p. 48a.
        6. See the Mishneh Torah, conclusion of Hilchos Tzaraas, where the Rambam states that tzaraas is not a physical disease, but a Divine sign above the natural order.
        7. See Tanya, ch. 2, Iggeres HaKodesh 7, based on Zohar, Vol. II, p. 141b and other sources.
        8. See Tanya, ch. 25.
        9. Isaiah 53:4.
        10. This is reflected in the fact that the Hebrew word for leprous blemish, נגע, has the same letters as the Hebrew word ענג, meaning “pleasure” (Zohar, Vol. I, p. 26b). As explained by the Kabbalah (see Tanya, Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 1), the letters which make up a word reflect its inner life-force. The inner life-force of נגע is the expression of Divine pleasure. See also Sefer HaYetzirah 2:4.
        11. In his Siddur, with regard to the laws of the reading of the Torah.
        12. In his commentary to Leviticus 13:8.
        13. In his Seder Tefillos at the conclusion of Sefer HaAhavah.
        14. Note the previous essay, entitled “Conceiving New Life.”
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        Please note: Although we bring you a selection from Parshat Metzora, we read two Parshiyot this week, Tazria and Metzora. We hope you enjoyed this lesson. Shabbat Shalom!

    • (I realize this person is no longer participating in the forum, but I wanted to post an answer anyway.)
      There is an excellent article giving an in-depth explanation of Yom Kippur from the Hebraic perspective here:
      There is an expanded explanation on the scapegoat from the Hebraic perspective here:
      Both articles give a very good understanding down to the level of the Hebrew with a contrast between the Scriptures according to Moshe and the traditions of Judaism. There's even a short version of the more colorful legend of the scapegoat and the red cord that's worth considering.
      Baruch Hashem.

      • Thanks for the link for an in-depth explanation of Yom Kippur from the Hebraic perspective.

  • Hong

    I found the few things below may need pay attention:
    1, this is the meeting between high priest and G-d only in the holy of holies once a year;
    2, this is a offering concern mainly the sin – high priest himself, his family, his nation;
    3, only two kinds of offering carry out: one is sin offering, another is burnt offering;
    4, this is a day of afflict, not the day of celebration.

  • Melinda

    I want to thank the three of you for your insights regarding the Day of Atonement. Being a Christian this is a tradition we don’t honor. I do come before the Lord on a daily bases to confess my sins and repent from them, asking His forgiveness. I appreciate so much His grace and love in my life. You have helped me understand the Day of Atonement and how important this time is between you and God. I just started to study the reading of the torah in one year.

    • Diana Brown

      Welcome. I am a Messianic Believer so I also seek the Lord as Daniel did, morning, noon and night. Repentance is not a one time thing for me. I wind up doing it a lot as I journey through this life. Glad to meet a sister in Yeshua.

    • Yom Kippur was the first of Elohim's Appointed Feasts (in this case, Fast) that I celebrated when I was in my first year of Torah study. It's not typical to begin here as most Messianics tend to start with Pesach or Passover, but it's where I was at the time.
      When Pesach came around, I was blessed to be able to celebrate my first Pesach ever in sight of Y'rushalyem in a community just outside the city on the hillside overlooking Elohim's glorious city. This came after a long tour through the country where we prayed and worshipped in every part of the Land. It was an incredible experience!
      Baruch Hashem.

  • Ken

    The Day of Atonement is the ultimate and most personal of any sacrificial service. Whereas the 3 appointed seasons are celebrations of people coming together to observe and offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.
    Though the people stay at home on the Day of Atonement, it is a day of solemn rest and affliction of their soul (mind, being). No servile work, but fasting and prayer and repentance and deep reflection. A proper response to this Day of Atonement with affliction of the soul is soon followed with the realization of at-one-ment with God has been made. Be ye holy as I am holy.
    The festivals bring people together in joyous celebrations, but the Day of Atonement restores the unity of God and man – a joyous unity.
    Five days later the people do come together in their 3rd feast recalling their national deliverance when God delivered Israel from Egypt and they dwelt in booths (Leviticus 23).
    This always brings to my mind the greater promise. Jeremiah 31 …and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying: ‘Know the LORD’; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more…

    • I agree Ken, Yom Kippur focuses on each individual's oneness with Yahweh and therefore it doesn't call for attention from outsiders while with the other three feasts, the outsiders get to know that the people of Yisrael are celebrating their Elohim as they see them making pilgrimage.

  • Theresa

    “No one may be in the Tent of Meeting from the time Aaron enters the holy place to do this until he comes out,” verse 17. This is a day of solitude when each one needs to look into his own heart and each person must examine himself, and not another. It is a day when we must accept the sacrifice for ourselves as atonement for our own sin. We all must stand alone before a Holy G-d. The innocent sacrifice gave his life and his blood for the nation as atonement. One sacrifice for all, but applied individually. “It shall be a Sabbath of rest unto you, and you shall humble yourselves, by a statute forever,” verse 31. We are to find rest for our souls in this sacrifice. As the blood is applied to the inner part of the Tent of Meeting, the blood is applied to our innermost being, creating peace with G-d. The three pilgrimage festivals are an outward expression of what G-d had done, this is an inward expression.

    • Diana Brown

      I agree. No one with a stiff neck or heart of stone would want to show up on the Day of Atonement because they aren’t humble and grateful before the Lord, they are angry with Him for causing them to be born in the first place. They do not see the liberty God gives them to shape their destiny by their free-will choices. It is a gift and not a curse but a lot of people want to be told what to do and not choose, really choose to think for themselves.
      The Day of Atonement is the day where you show up expecting to see the Glory of God and you leave knowing you have been given the Goodness of God to press forward and move on.

      • Thank you Diana, your comment "you show up expecting to see the Glory of God and leave knowing you have been given the Goodness of God to press forward and move on", has really touched my soul. We expect but receive so much more, we receive what we need.

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