Purpose of Yom Kippur
Rivka Olenick
"For on this day does He give you protection, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the Lord." Leviticus 16:30. What is meant by: "For on this day does He give you protection, to cleanse you"? It seems that when a person is cleansing oneself of past sins before God on Yom Kippur, one is automatically given protection. We are specifically commanded on this day to atone for our sins before God, as it says. So, does the day automatically grant a person atonement for ones' sins because it is Yom Kippur? "From all your sins shall ye be clean before the Lord."
There are two separate ideas in this one sentence and each is dependent on the other. God designated Yom Kippur as the day for the Jew to atone with the purpose of cleansing and purifying ourselves. If you atone appropriately you will be cleansed before God. What is kippara, atonement and what is its' purpose for us as Jews? Only the Jewish people are commanded to atone for their sins on this day; and only Jews are cleansed and protected on this day. The day of Yom Kippur distinguishes the Jewish person from a non-Jew through God's command only if we utilize this day for its' real purpose. Even in atonement the Torah gives us instruction and guides us in "how to" atone. It is a complicated process yet, we capable of it.
On Yom Kippur like the Sabbath; we refrain from all work and we sanctify God's name by not doing any work. On Yom Kippur we atone and purify ourselves from the sins we committed that took us away from God. He allows us not only to return to Him, but as we reclaim our own devotion to the future He renews our life. The Sabbath too reinforces our devotion to the future, as we guard the Sabbath and we keep it holy. Even the Jewish people who partook of the sin of the Golden Calf were forgiven by God, they were given protection, they admitted to their corrupt ways and were granted atonement. The purpose of kippara is to give a person the opportunity to reclaim the status of purity. Through the absence of gratifying our senses and having physical enjoyment we face our "moral philosophical self." This is how we show our "internal moral self" as Jews on Yom Kippur.
We cannot survive as a people without this process of atonement. We would just continue to sin until we are completely destroyed. So, we are given Yom Kippur to atone wholeheartly with our request and of hope for renewal from God. We are also aware that every sin we commit has "chipped away" at our moral self, the part of us that God demands to be righteous and holy. That is how He chose us to be and declared us to be maintained; it is our purpose and the purpose of our being given the Torah. All of the sins we engage in take us away from who we were originally created to be and who ideally we are to be. Sin removes a person's free will, so a person merely survives and in just surviving like an animal, we are no longer "Adom" and we forfeit our relationship to The Creator. God gives us this positive opportunity by depriving ourselves of all the physical enjoyment that we partake of on the Sabbath and He gives us Yom Kippur. The opportunity to regain our purity, to begin again, a rebirth, it is another great gift. God gives all of us everything needed to exist the best possible way. So we realize that our present existence because of our repeated transgressions is a spiritually poor existence.
We are really not worthy of continued existence since we are so far away from our true purpose, to be an Eved Hashem, the reason we were created. On Yom Kippur God allows each of us to be completely in touch with our moral self, and we desire to have new and pure moral feelings. With honesty and sincerity we beg God to renew our lives and to give us the strength to live the correct life! This is our realization that our true existence is dependant only upon the service of God. God frees us and gives each of us a new future through kippara. He renews our life that is His gift to us. Truthfully, Yom Kippur should be the happiest day of the year for every Jew. What greater gift is there than the renewal of one's life! Just as it is a mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur, it is also a mitzvah to fast on Yom Kippur.
Approach Yom Kippur with hope, not dread and feel joy in the opportunity to be this close to the Creator, our Judge and our Father. "Happiness is thine, O Israel, before Whom dost thou obtain thy purity! Who maketh thee pure? Thy Father in heaven! For it says: "I pour pure water over you and ye become pure!" The fount of Israel's purity is God, even as a Mikvah purifies the unclean, so doth God make Israel pure." (Yoma 85b)

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