The solemn holiday of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) which falls between Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), is gaining recognition outside the Jewish community.
In 2016, Yom Kippur was recognized as an official holiday by the United Nations. UN employees no longer have to use vacation time and no official UN meetings take place on Yom Kippur.
Breaking Christian News reporter Julie Stahl quoted the European Coalition for Israel (ECI) Founding Director Tomas Sandell, “Spiritually, I believe it is prophetically significant that the nations are gradually adapting to His [God’s Biblical] calendar – His appointed times.” Stahl also wrote that, in an earlier interview, Sandell commented that Yom Kippur, “has a message which goes beyond Judaism.”
The messages of Yom Kippur are resonating with Christians all over the world. Although it’s impossible to know exactly how many Christians join the worldwide Jewish community in fasting from sundown to sundown on Yom Kippur, Breaking Israel News found that Christians who had voluntarily accepted the Yom Kippur fast were anxious to talk about their experiences. The following are a few reasons why:
- Identify and connect with our Jewish friends
Some Christians cited solidarity with Israel as their initial motivation for fasting on Yom Kippur. Rebecca Brimmer, International President and CEO of Bridges for Peace commented, “As a Christian living in Israel and involved in Jewish Christian relationship building, it is a way to identify and connect with our Jewish friends.”
Brimmer and her husband have been fasting on Yom Kippur for at least 25 years. “Every time we make the effort to draw near to God, we sense His nearness. Our lives are busy and having a day where we just stop and spend time with the Almighty in prayer is spiritually rejuvenating.”
2. The Bible says so
Brimmer also mentioned that their motivation to fast on Yom Kippur is simply, “Because it is in the Bible. As Bible-believing Christians, we try to follow Biblical precepts in our life actions.”
3. It’s the most awesome day of the year
Similarly, Israel-based Christian broadcast journalist Nathalie Blackham told Breaking Israel News that her initial motivation was, “First as an identification with the people of Israel and now it is the most awesome day of the year.” The Blackham family has been living in Israel and working on their show Israel First for nine years.
4. It brings a new depth every time
“We started [fasting on Yom Kippur] in the UK as a family, when we started to have more understanding of the importance of our Jewish roots as Christian believers. Every time, it brings a new depth. At the beginning it was more for identification with Israel, not knowing so much about it. It was a way of saying, ‘We are standing with you. You are not alone.’ Then when we were in the Land, it was like, we want to be part of who you are.”
Blackham described how every year, her experience of Yom Kippur evolves. “This year for me was again different. We stop everything, we look at our Creator, turning our faces to Him and say ‘Here I am.’ It’s a bit like rebooting our computer, feeling renewed, knowing that He is in charge of every minute event on earth and in the universe.”
Journalist and founder of Exploits Ministry, Christine Darg, wrote about her admiration for Yom Kippur. “I know of no other nation that engages in a total national fast annually, humbling themselves before God,” she wrote. “Those who truly know God understand that he has an eternal covenant with Israel, and the Almighty will honour their national humility and He will pour out the spirit of grace and supplication as promised.”
6. The many benefits
Indiana resident Robin Hardman has been observing Yom Kippur as a Christian for at least five years. She told Breaking Israel News, “As far as benefits, there are many. I am reminded to Whom this day belongs. It is Hashem (God) and not me.
“I ask for Him to reveal to me what it is that I need to be made aware of regarding my heart, my relationships. I often end up being very surprised and deeply humbled by what surfaces in my consciousness. And I ask that these ‘revelations’ go beyond just one day reshape who I am from this day forward.
7. A deeper level of worship
“I would and do encourage other Christians to begin to observe Yom Kippur, as well as the other holy days, as a means to deepen their walk with the One True God. I don’t personally think the thought appeals to the casual Christian, but for those seeking a deeper level of worship and understanding, it’s an excellent place to start. I know it was for me,” Hardman reported.
This year was UK-based Adrian Fry’s first Yom Kippur. He said he was encouraged to attempt the 25-hour fast by a friend in Israel.
8. A time to reflect
“I am not Catholic, but I started the day with praying the rosary and asking for forgiveness for my mistakes this year. I then reflected on who I want to be in the coming year. I then prayed for family and friends. As the afternoon passed and I got thirsty, I asked myself how much did I want the changes. [Did I want them] more than water? I spent the last few hours in church by myself, reflecting.”
South African Colleen Martin observes Yom Kippur with a community of like-minded Christians. “Our community of believers observes Yom Kippur as a high Holy Sabbath, and therefore, no work is done. We have folk in our communities who close their shops in observance of this holy day, as they do on other high holy days throughout the year, and others who take leave from their work.
9. A heightened awareness of the reverence and [awe of God]
“I find that when I totally disengage from the world, and from the flesh through fasting, there is such a heightened awareness of the reverence and [awe of God]. It’s a precious place to be.
“In the chaos of the world today, I find that through this experience, I enter a place of shalom – a place that can best be described as ‘the eye of the storm.’ While the world hurls around in chaos, I find a stillness in the center of it all.”
Reflecting on whether she would encourage other Christians to take on the practice, Martin told Breaking Israel News, “For me to encourage someone to fast on Yom Kippur, they would first have had to come to an understanding of the biblical feasts as laid out in Leviticus 23. There is a huge awakening among Christians as to the fact that [God] asked Israel to be a light to the nations by keeping His ways and His feasts,” she explained.
10. Entering a place of repentance
Colorado-based Catherine Craig has been fasting on Yom Kippur for 15 years. She reported that “The observance of Yom Kippur always brings me to a place of repentance on a deeper level for the many unintentional sins in my life and those things that are habits needing to be broken. I experience a closeness to our Father in a deeper and more solemn way.
“I experience a deep searching of my own life in comparison with what is asked of me, but also deep gratitude at the forgiveness, compassion, and grace that He extends to me. There are always many tears – both of sorrow, of gratefulness, of joy.”
11. A better knowledge of God
Michael Griffis from Atlanta, Georgia just completed his sixth Yom Kippur fast. He explained, “I started out fasting because I want to know God more. Christians should fast. I also fast for Israel. My prayer and fast is for Israel to fulfill Zechariah 8:23. I think fasting is a sign of faith.
Thus said the lord of Hosts: In those days, ten men from nations of every tongue will take hold — they will take hold of every Yehudi by a corner of his cloak and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that Hashem is with you.” Zechariah 8:23
Griffis would encourage other Christians to observe Yom Kippur by saying, “Come alongside of the Jewish people and fast. I believe there is a blessing in it.”
12. A better understanding of how sin separates us from God
Texas-based Lori Hinze finds much spiritual benefit in observing Yom Kippur, which she has been doing since 2011. “The Yom Kippur experience draws me into a deeper level of understanding the mercy and compassion of our God while also helping me realize how sin separates us from Him. And how seriously He abhors sin against Him and others.
13. A time to draw back to our Father
“We sometimes tend to gloss over sin which, if left unchecked, can lead us astray. Scripture is replete with the consequences of this dangerous ground. I see Yom Kippur as an annual time of drawing back to our Father, to recalibrate and reconnect to a call for righteousness and holy living. It’s a beautiful gift, especially knowing the day is coming. It makes me sit up straighter and pay closer attention throughout the year. It challenges me to be a better person for His name’s sake.”
14. Preparation for judgement
Rural Kentucky resident Tonya Travis wants to, “encourage all Christians to observe Yom Kippur next year, which includes fasting. I believe that Yom Kippur will be a day of judgment in the future so we need to prepare for that day.
“I know I am receiving a blessing according to the Scriptures by observing Yom Kippur,” Travis noted. “I believe it is a time of sanctification and maturity. It’s a time of introspection of sin. I believe that sin separates us from [God], so the more sin that is removed in our lives the closer we are brought to Him. I also believe it shows our obedience to [God]. Are you willing to take a day off and not eat or drink and allow the Spirit/Ruach to reveal sins in your life?”
15. A way to join with Israel
Harmony and Luke Patterson, along with their four children, have been fasting and observing Yom Kippur for eight years. “We fast on Yom Kippur as a part of the solemn day. We fast as a way to deny our flesh, so that we can take a deeper look at our being. We fast as a way to join with Israel on this day. We do not think we are fasting as a kind of atonement, but with a heart to try to keep this day as Israel is, according to Torah.”
The Patterson family adds another dimension to their fast, “Some years we have made packages of food and taken them to people on the streets, hoping to share the meal that we skipped with someone.”
David Nekrutman, Executive Director, The Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) commented on the messianic implications of this trend, “The phenomenon of non-Jews adhering to mandates within the Hebrew Bible is extremely encouraging.
“More importantly, the motivation behind many is rooted in seeing the Hebrew Bible as relevant in their walk with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and in solidarity with the Jewish people. We are living in birth-pangs of the Messianic age.
Nekrutman, whose opinion is based on traditional Jewish texts that date back more than 2,000 years, shared multiple verses from Tanach (Hebrew Bible) that, in his words, “support non-Jews observing the Torah.”
Yet even this, O Hashem, has seemed too little to You; for You have spoken of Your servant’s house also for the future. May that be the law for the people, O Hashem. II Samuel 7:19
Open the gates, and let A righteous nation (goy) enter, [A nation] that keeps faith. Isaiah 26:2
This is the gateway to Hashem— the victorious shall enter through it. Psalms 118:20
Nekrutman stated, “None of these verses talk specifically of the Jewish people or a particular group within the Jewish nation, but the universal person who wishes to live a Torah lifestyle.”