Yom HaKippurim is generally translated as "The Day of Atonement", but "atonement", like "holy", is one of those words which has long ago been emptied of all its meaning. Thus the only remaining definition for atonement is, "atonement", meaning that the definition has become circular and essentially meaningless. Webster's dictionary defines atonement as "reparation for an offense or injury", so this is a beginning to point us in the right direction. Yes, from our individual treks through various religions, we all know that Yom HaKippurim has something to do with getting our sins forgiven and with repentance, but what exactly is the mechanism by which the holiday works?
To understand the true meaning behind Yom HaKippurim, we must first turn to the meaning of the word itself. The word kippurim comes from the Hebrew root כפר, kaf-peh-resh, which, in its most basic form, kafar, means "to cover". 1
"Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms and cover (u-kafar-ta) it inside and outside with [a tar] covering (kofer)." [Genesis 6:14]
By extension, the word kafar and its cognates have a figurative meaning that is used often in the Tanach: the covering over of another's eyes to make it as if he didn't see certain events that happened in the past, specifically negative events. This "covering" is usually accomplished by the giving of some kind of monetary reward or gift to the person in order to "help" him forget.
So, Ya'aqov, upon reuniting with his estranged brother Esau from whom he fled in fear of his life 2, says:
"I shall cover over (אכפרה) his face with the gifts that are going before me, and afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he will forgive me." [Genesis 32:20]
In other words, Ya'aqov intends to assuage Esau's anger with the series of gifts [see Genesis 32:13-19] that he sends before himself. He is hoping that Esau, like a child opening his birthday presents, will forget his anger, at least for a while.
Likewise, the figurative meaning of the noun kofer (a covering3) becomes "the actual gift or money which is given in order to cause another to forget certain past events and forgo revenge or retribution for those events", i.e. a bribe, although the negative connotation is not implied here. 4,5
The idea of kofer plays a very important part in Torah jurisprudence, and is the key to understanding the true meaning of lex talionis, "an eye for an eye".
"And you shall not take monetary payment (kofer) for one who has murdered and been sentenced to death, but he shall certainly be put to death. And you shall not take monetary payment (kofer) for one who has fled to a city of refuge until the death of the [High] Priest, in order that he should return and live in the land." [Numbers 35:31-32]
The above verses exempt the punishments for intentional and unintentional murder from being commuted to monetary compensation. However, this implies that offenses less serious than murder, such as bodily injury, may indeed be commuted to monetary compensation. The above verses, combined with others, 6 imply that "an eye for an eye" is not meant to be taken literally in the Tanach.
Just as, in certain cases, we may wish to mollify a fellow human being with a gift in order to help him forget past acts and thereby forgo retribution, so we may find ourselves in a similar situation with respect to Elohim. That is, we may wish that Elohim, who sees all, might figuratively cover over his "eyes" and conveniently "forget" some of our less noble deeds. In doing so, we hope that he will forgo retribution against us for those deeds.7
This begs the question, What exactly does Elohim want from us in the first place? In other words, what kind of deeds do we commit that anger Elohim enough for him to want to take retribution against us? (Certainly, we cannot put out Elohim's eye or even so much as splash mud on him, for that matter.) Secondly, Elohim, unlike man, has no use for our money, and therefore the question of how to "pay off" Elohim in order to get him to "cover his eyes" and forget the whole incident becomes an interesting one.
We deal briefly with the first question first, What does Elohim want from us? There are many things that Elohim, for our own good, wants from us, including to know and love ourselves through a process of growth and self-actualization. But in terms of our behavior towards the outside world, Elohim wants us, first and foremost, to be kind to our fellow man. This is the core of the Torah as encapsulated in the "Ten Commandments". Secondly, he wants us to be kind to his other creations, starting with the mammals and birds since they have, respectively, the highest and second highest levels of consciousness on the planet after human beings. (Indeed, there are explicit commandments in the Torah concerning being kind to these creatures, such as permitting them to rest on the Shabbat and not taking the mother bird's children in front of her eyes.) Thirdly, he wants us to have respect for all the rest of his creations — and for life itself — including lower-level life forms such as reptiles and fish, crustations and insects, plants, and even the earth itself which gives rise to these life forms. Finally, he wants us to have respect for Him, not because he needs our respect, but because it is fundamentally wrong for the creation not to respect its creator: it upsets the balance of the universe and, in the end, results in a decadence and disrespect which comes full circle to cause damage and injury to lower life forms, birds, mammals and, ultimately, one's fellow man. 8 Thus, the simple answer to the original question is: We serve the creator by serving his creatures, in particular, man.
The second question is a bit more complicated. How, indeed, can we "pay" Elohim in order to convince him to drop the judgment against us? Well, if the desire of Elohim is for us to love our fellow man, to be kind to animals, and to have respect for the rest of life on this planet, then, of course, the best way to satisfy this desire is to never commit actions that violate these principles in the first place, just as the best way to stay out of debt is to not get into it in the first place. Therefore, many of the core laws of the Torah act as guidelines towards this goal. However, being only human, we do make mistakes; even the best of us do wrong from time to time. As King Solomon says, "There is no man who does not sin." 9 Therefore, it is important to have systems in place whereby we can "say we are sorry" and make amends to Elohim for our past insensitive actions, pacifying his anger and, as a result, convincing him to cancel his plans to punish us for those actions, before the actual punishment is carried out. 10
Certainly, there are some logical ways to do this. Saying a sincere "I'm sorry" to Elohim, and making a commitment not to repeat the act of insensitivity in the future is a logical first step. This is accomplished through a personal conversation with him, i.e. prayer. A logical second step is to make amends for the deeds that I have done. Often, the Torah instructs us on how to do this. For instance, if I have stolen from someone, then by returning the merchandise plus 100% of its value [Exodus 22:4-9], I have fulfilled the Torah's prescription for making amends, in this case. If I have damaged the earth, then perhaps dedicating my time and my money to an environmental cause is the right way to make amends for the damage I have done. However, above and beyond this, there are other systems set up in the Torah which allow us to pacify Elohim when we have committed insensitive and selfish acts that anger him.
One of the most extensive of these systems is the sacrificial system. Since the sacrificial system is not in operation at the current time, it is hard to get a true picture of exactly what it meant to bring a sacrifice, and how doing so serves as an "atonement", i.e. calms Elohim's anger in the same way as would sincerely apologizing or making amends. Nonetheless, we can try.
If the sacrifice I needed to bring was a sheep, then I either had to take one of the best sheep from my flock or I had to purchase a sheep — either way an expensive prospect. I then had to transport it all the way to the Temple in Jerusalem, which meant time off from work and money spent traveling to Jerusalem and transporting the sheep with me. Once I got there, I had to watch an innocent animal being slaughtered before my eyes and having its blood spilled on account of my sins. The money and effort involved, as well as seeing the actual slaughtering of the animal must have been a vivid, full-sensory reminder of the damaging effects that my actions had upon the world. My insensitive behavior, ultimately, caused blood to be shed. 11 It is for this reason that the atonement of the sacrifice is in the blood: "For the soul of the flesh is in the blood, and [therefore] I have given it to you for the altar, in order to atone for your souls, because [only] the blood can atone for a soul." [Leviticus 17:11]
The lesson here is deep: all insensitive behavior ultimately leads to the spilling of blood on this planet. This can be seen clearly in any society where greed and usury, gossip and slander, callousness towards nature and disrespect towards parents, teachers and the elderly run amok. That same society — guaranteed — has a high level of violence and murder. Modern America — especially its large cities — and current-day Israel are perfect examples. 12 If these insensitivities are not placed in check, then eventually such a society must destroy itself by causing an internal moral weakness which makes it both disrespected by its external enemies and vulnerable to their attacks. Once again, the situations in both modern-day America and Israel come to mind.
In the sacrificial system, we also receive the answer to our second question: How indeed can we pay Elohim? As it turns out, the physical "kofer" paid to Elohim is actually paid to his proxies, the Cohanim (Priests) and the Levites. Since Elohim has no use for the carcasses of dead animals — as he requires neither meat to eat nor fur to wear — these physical by-products of the sacrificial system are given to the Cohanim and the Levites, who have been appointed as Elohim's representatives on this earth for receiving such payments. Thus, we pay Yehowah by paying his representatives.
So far, we have mentioned repentance and sacrifice as two ways to atone (make reparations) for our insensitive deeds. A third way, mentioned often in the Tanach, is לענות את נפשך, which means literally, "to cause yourself to suffer", but actually implies fasting.
The phrase comes from the root ayin-nun-heh (ענה) which, in its most basic forms, ana and ina, means "to suffer" and "to cause suffering", respectively. It is directly related to the word ani (עני) -- poor, downtrodden, afflicted.
"Do not cause suffering (תענון) to any widow or orphan. If you cause them suffering in any way (ענה תענה), and if they cry out in their pain to me, I will hear their cry. And my temper will flare and I will kill you by the sword and your wives will become widows and your children will become orphans." [Exodus 22:22-24] 13
On Yom HaKippurim, we are commanded to cause suffering not to others, but to ourselves:
"And on the tenth [day] of the [seventh] month is Yom HaKippurim. It shall be a holy assemblage for you, and you shall cause yourselves suffering (ועניתם את נפשותיכם) and bring burnt offerings to Yehowah. ... And any person who does not make himself suffer (לא תעונה) on this particular day will be cut off from his people." [Leviticus 23:27,29] 14
So what exactly does the Torah mean by commanding us to cause ourselves suffering on Yom HaKippurim? Should we sit on the ground and self-flagellate? Should we put gashes in our heads, as the Muslims do? 15 Should we watch Tzippi Livni belly dance?
The answer to this question comes from a contextual analysis of the phrase "you shall cause yourselves suffering". Contextual analysis, along with linguistic and historical/archaeological analysis, is one of the basic forms of analysis used by Karaites in order to understand the Tanach. It involves searching for other verses which contain the same or similar phrases as the one that we wish to understand. From the way in which these phrases are used in the other verses, we can come to a better understanding of what the original phrase means. Luckily, in this case, there are a number of verses which help us:
"Why did we fast and you did not see, make ourselves suffer (עִנִּינוּ נַפְשֵׁנוּ) and you did not notice? [Because] on the day of your fast did you not do business and drive your workers hard?" [Isaiah 58:3]
"But when they [my enemies] fell sick, I donned sackcloth, I made myself suffer with fasting (עִנֵּיתִי בַצֹּום נַפְשִׁי), and I took my prayer deep into my bosom." [Psalms 35:13]
"And I called for a fast there, upon the Ahava River, to make ourselves suffer (לְהִתְעַנֹּות) before our God, to request of him the right way [to Jerusalem] for us, our children and all our possessions." [Ezra 8:21]
In all of the above verses, causing oneself to suffer is linked with fasting. This implies that the expression "causing oneself to suffer" is actually a figure of speech in ancient Hebrew meaning "to fast". Often, fasting was combined with other common repentance rituals of the ancient world, such as sitting in or donning ash and sackcloth, rending the clothes, making oneself bald by pulling out the hair, and gashing oneself (the last two of which are prohibited by the Torah). 16 These very same rituals are not only repentance rituals but also mourning rituals. In fact, repentance rituals are deliberately meant to mimic mourning rituals. By doing so, the penitent intends to symbolically show Elohim that he feels as much sadness and pain for the wrongs he has committed as he would, had someone close to him died.
So, what precisely is the mechanism by which fasting and other repentance rituals appease Elohim and cause him to forgive and forget? The idea is actually quite simple when understood correctly. By causing ourselves a minor amount of pain and suffering, we symbolically acknowledge to ourselves, to Elohim, and to all those who see us, that our past actions have caused pain and suffering to other human beings and to animals, and have caused damage to Yehowah's other creations. Therefore, fasting implicitly conveys the message, "How can I eat, drink and be merry today when I am so acutely aware of the pain, suffering and damage that my past actions have caused?" Seen in such a light, fasting becomes a tool to acknowledge, inspire and express recognition and regret and is, thus, essentially a more intense and full-sensory form of apologizing.
And, ultimately, sincere recognition of and regret for past insensitive actions (followed by the making of amends, when applicable) is all that Yehowah wants from us in order for him to forgive, forget and forgo his intention to punish; for if our acknowledgment and remorse are indeed sincere, then what need is there for punishment, seeing as we have already learned our lesson? And if they are not sincere, then what other choice does Yehowah eventually have besides punishment?, in order to make us realize the consequences of our actions by bringing our own deeds back upon our heads, which is always the way punishment is carried out in this universe, (so much so that it is written into the very fabric of the universe, whether we call it by the name karma, mida-k'neged-mida, or "what goes around comes around".)
This is why fasting sincerely is such an important theme in the Tanach. If fasting is done by rote, or as lip service to Elohim, and is not a heartfelt expression of regret, then it is utterly meaningless. This is because it is not the actual act of fasting that creates atonement. Rather, fasting is merely a tool to inspire true recognition and expression of regret. In fact, insincere fasting, just like the insincere bringing of sacrifices, are both greatly looked down upon in the Tanach:
"Say to all the people of the land and to the Priests, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh [months] for these [past] seventy years, did you truly fast for me?" [Zechariah 7:5]
"And even now, says Yehowah, Return to me with all your hearts, and with fasting and with mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments and return to Yehowah your Elohim..." [Joel 2:12-13]
"And Shmuel said, Does Yehowah desire burnt offerings and sacrifices as he [desires our] listening to the voice of Yehowah? Behold, listening is better than sacrifice, and giving ear than the fat of rams." [1 Samuel 15:22]
What better way to mollify Yehowah before he actually has no choice but to punish us than by spending an entire day dedicated to the singular goal of performing tried and true acts which are known to be effective in persuading him to cover his eyes and forget past negative deeds? This is precisely the idea behind Yom HaKippurim.
While current Rabbinical philosophy holds that the day of Yom HaKippurim — in and of itself — brings about atonement in an almost magical way, this is not at all the case. 17 Rather, such an idea is typical of the alogical, mystical approach that the Rabbis take towards the Torah; for how can a day merely by itself, with no action on our part, bring about such a powerful concept as atonement? But, since Yehowah is the creator of logic and wisdom, the method by which Yom HaKippurim achieves atonement must also be one of supreme logic and wisdom. And indeed it is. It is not that Yom HaKippurim somehow magically effects atonement for our sins. Rather, by having the entire nation of Israel collectively spend an entire day each year dedicated to combining all the tried and true methods of attaining atonement — apology and regret (repentance), the bringing of sacrifices, and self-affliction — Yom HaKippurim can indeed act as a powerful method for persuading Elohim to cancel any punishments, individual or collective, which might be in the pipeline.
Further, Yom HaKippurim is not just a regular day. Though not the day of magical forgiveness that the Rabbis would have us believe it is, Yom HaKippurim is indeed a mo'ed, a "time of meeting" — appointed by Yehowah and delineated in the Torah — in which Yehowah and his nation Israel convene for an express purpose — in this case, the requesting of atonement for Israel and, hopefully, the subsequent granting of that atonement. Thus, one could say that, on Yom HaKippurim, the nation of Israel "has Elohim's ear", that he is particularly receptive to any repentance we might express to him on this day.
All this being said, there is one element of Yom HaKippurim which is unique: the rituals prescribed for the atonement of the Holy Temple and its various components, as delineated in Leviticus 16. This other major element of Yom HaKippurim is perhaps its central one, but its emphasis has been diminished since the destruction of the Holy Temple in 70 CE. The rituals for the atonement of the Holy Temple, which mostly involve the bringing of sacrifices, were of utmost importance in achieving overall atonement for Israel and avoiding punishment, since the cleanliness and sanctity of the Holy Temple — being the place on earth where Yehowah "dwells" — was of central importance, and any transgression of the rules for its cleanliness and sanctity could cause severe retribution against Israel, as seen a number of times in the Tanach. 18 If this seems petty and cruel, then think about all the rules and protocols that surround a human king or even the President of the United States. How much more so for Yehowah and his earthly "castle". Thus, one can think of Yom HaKippurim as the yearly spiritual housecleaning for the Temple in Jerusalem.
In summary, Yom HaKippurim does not introduce any new or innovative methods for achieving atonement. Rather — and more effectively — it relies on the same tried and true methods that work on every other day of the year, but combines them into one intense day of repentance, sacrifice and fasting with the express goal of attaining atonement from Yehowah.
We have now seen that Yom HaKippurim is intimately connected with the idea of forgetting. That is, on this day we do everything in our power to persuade Yehowah to cover his eyes and forget our past insensitive deeds. Interestingly enough, Yom HaTeruah, which occurs ten days earlier, is intimately connected with the idea of remembering. This is expressed in the very name of the holiday itself, which, in Leviticus 23:24, is called זכרון תרועה, literally, "A Remembrance Through Noise-Making". The goal on Yom HaTeruah is to shout out to heaven with loud noises (on the shofar, on the silver trumpets, or by any other means within our grasp), in order to get Yehowah to take notice of us — to remember us — way down here on earth. In the Tanach, asking Yehowah to remember us is always connected with asking him to remember our good deeds, i.e. to remember us for the good we have done. (For more insight into this aspect of the holiday, see the Karaite Insights article on Yom HaTeruah.)
Thus, when we look at the two holidays in combination — since it is clear that they are intimately connected, due to their proximity in time — we reveal an incredible process laid down in the Torah. First, on Yom HaTeruah (The Day of Remembering), we ask Yehowah to remember our good deeds. Then, ten days later, on Yom HaKippurim (The Day of Forgetting), we ask Yehowah to forget our bad deeds. In-between the two holidays, it is logical to assume that we should be doing everything in our power to convince Yehowah to do both, i.e. to remember our good deeds as well as forget our bad deeds (perhaps with a gradual shift away from remembering to forgetting), but the initial and final edges of this period are crowned with two days dedicated explicitly to each of these two concepts.
Remembering and forgetting are major themes in the Tanach. Specifically, the idea of asking Yehowah to pay attention to us and remember our good deeds, while at the same time to cover his eyes and forget our bad deeds, is echoed in many verses:
"Remember me, my Elohim, for this; do not erase my good deeds which I have done for the house of my Elohim and for the offices thereof." [Nehemia 13:14]
"Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions. But according to your kindness remember me, for the sake of your goodness, Yehowah." [Psalms 25:7]
"Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Do not pay attention to the stubbornness of this people, to its evil and to its sins." [Deuteronomy 9:27]
I conclude with this Yom HaKippurim prayer which I wrote:
Please Yehowah, remember my good deeds and forget my bad deeds. Forget the sins of my youth, when I was foolish and unaware, for I did not intend them, I merely had no better sense at the time. Remember all the good and all the kindness I have done to others, remember the reverance I have shown for life and for your creations. Remember our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and out of love for them, cover over your eyes and pretend that you never saw the insensitive deeds that I have committed since the last Yom HaKippurim and over my entire life. For it has been said that you are a merciful god, and long-suffering, waiting patiently before carrying out punishment. Therefore, accept my sincere apology for all those people and creations I have wronged, and accept my sincere regret for having wronged and disappointed you, and for not having lived up to the fullest expression of the purpose for which you created me in the first place. Please forgive your nation Israel, and give them one more chance to come back to you. Accept my sacrifices and my suffering today as a sincere gesture of regret and apology to you, Yehowah, for all that I have fallen short this past year, and return to me to be my father and my god, and I will return to you to be your son and your servant. Amen. Selah.
3Often poorly translated into English as "ransom".
4To further understand the figurative use of "a covering", see Genesis 20:16, where the same idea is expressed using a completely different word: k'suth (כסות), from the verb kisah (כסה), "to cover". Here, Avimelech has just returned Sarah to Avraham, following his kidnapping of her, and says to her, "I am giving your brother one thousand blocks of silver. This is meant to be a covering (k'suth) for [your] eyes, for all that happened to you and all that you went through."
5There is another word used in the Tanach: shohad, which specifically implies a bribe in the negative and illegal sense. See, for instance, Exodus 23:8: "And you shall not accept a bribe (shohad), for a bribe blinds those who can see clearly and perverts the words of the righteous." See also Deuteronomy 16:19 and 27:25.
6See, for instance, Leviticus 24:18, where the phrase "a life for a life" explicitly means monetary compensation. Thus, Leviticus 24:19 is better translated, "And a person who causes bodily damage to his fellow, as he has done so it ought to be done to him", meaning that, while he is theoretically deserving of having similar bodily injury inflicted upon him, he can in fact have this punishment commuted by offering a kofer to the person whom he has injured. A similar idea is expressed when King David says, of the person described to him in the parable of Natan the Prophet, that he is "ben mavet", deserving of death. [Second Samuel 12:5] It is inconceivable that David intends that this person should actually be put to death for stealing a lamb, no matter what the circumstances were. Certain Karaites such as Nehemia Gordon, incorrectly understand "an eye for an eye" to be taken literally and do not see these verses as implying an exemption for offenses lesser than murder. However, Gordon contradicts himself by using similar reasoning when disallowing cooking on the Shabbat: Exodus 12:16 states that no melacha (work) is to be done on the first and seventh days of Hag HaMatzoth, except that which is necessary in order for a person to eat. So, he reasons, since this exemption is not mentioned explicitly with regards to the Shabbat, it is indeed forbidden even to do work connected with eating, on the Shabbat. Using this reasoning, if it is explicitly stated that the punishment for murder is exempt from commutation to a lesser sentence, then in all other cases, where such an exemption is not explicitly mentioned, we can infer that commutation is indeed allowed.
7This specific use of the concept is also found many times throughout the Tanach; for instance, when Nehemia asks Elohim to not cover over his "eyes" for the enemies of Nehemia's efforts to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem: "... Do not cover [your eyes] regarding their iniquity and do not erase their sin from before you, because they have attempted to frustrate the builders." [Nehemia 4:5]
8This is, unfortunately, the state of our modern world today, and since the universe is ultimately an intelligent, self-correcting system, we can expect a great correction to bring the world back to its center at some point in the future, probably sooner than later.
9"And if they sin against you — for there is no man who does not sin — and you are angry with them, and you deliver them to their enemies, and they carry them away captive into the land of their enemies, far or near ..." [First Kings 8:46]
10This is precisely what is meant by the statement that Yehowah is long-sufferng, literally, that he "takes a long time before being roused to anger". [Exodus 34:6]
11It is incorrect to assume that ancient man did not have a sensitivity towards animals and that watching an animal being slaughtered was not a traumatic experience for him. We see man's love for animals in many verses in the Torah, for instance in the analogy that Natan the prophet recites to King David: "There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had much sheep and cattle, and the poor man had nothing except a small lamb which he bought and cared for, and which was raised by him and his children. The lamb ate from his bread and drank from his cup, and slept in his arms, and was like a daughter to him." [Second Samuel 12:1-3] See also Proverbs 12:10. Many people see the sacrificial system as proof of Elohim's wholescale sanctioning of the slaughter of animals. However, this is not at all the case. Animal sacrifice was one of the primary ways in which ancient man communicated with his god(s), and to exclude Israel from such a form of expression would have been too different from what both the nation and the entire world were accustomed to at that point in humanity's evolution.
12America has another serious problem in that it is essentially a nation of idol-worshippers — another gross violation of the Torah — in that tens, if not hundreds of millions of its citizens participate in the Jesus cult, worshipping a human being, often in the form of a wooden idol, as a god.
13Some people who do not know the ways of Yehowah will see these verses as proof of an angry and vengeful God. How far this is from the truth! In fact, these verses show the incredible love and sensitivity that Yehowah has towards all his creatures, and how inflamed He becomes at the injustice of those who use their wealth, power, family connections and societal influence — which were given to them by Him — to oppress those who do not have such advantages. When the underprivileged, who have no other means to protect themselves, cry out to Him for protection, then He will be their advocate and their protector and will return the oppression of the oppressors upon their own heads. Even in doing so, He will do so with patience and mercy. Thus, these verses serve more as a warning to those who would oppress rather than an outright threat; the warning will only turn into action if the oppressor does not repent of his actions and change his ways.
14Similar phrases are used in two other references to Yom HaKippurim, Leviticus 16:29-34 and Numbers 29:7-11.
15On their holiday of Ashoura, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hp4hFEPneEY.
16Leviticus 19:27-28, Leviticus 21:5 (specifically for the Cohanim), Deuteronomy 14:1
17See the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shavuoth 13a. Rather, it is just another of many excuses for the Jews to act in a despicable fashion and believe that we will be magically forgiven with no effort on our part, merely because we are "the chosen people". This is the height of arrogance and goes against everything that our chosenness and specialness stands for. Rather, as the chosen people, we have an obligation — and a covenant to back it up — to hold ourselves to the highest standards of behavior and to teach the entire world the way of Yehowah. Unfortunately, looking at the current state of the Jewish people, we have roamed far from our obligation.
18Nadav & Avihu [Leviticus 10:1-2], Uzziah and the ark [II Samuel 6:6-7]
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