In Part One of this three-part series, we discovered the significance of Yom Kippur, as well as the three most common symbols of Yom Kippur—white garments, shofar, and Torah.
In Part Two, we uncovered artifacts from many places and times that show not only the commonality of the shofar in Jewish life, but of its importance to their faith in God and the collective unity it brings.
In Part THREE we will examine artifacts related to the Torah to gain a fuller picture of Yom Kippur and the Jewish roots of our faith. We will discover how Yom Kippur brings unity to the Jewish community. And finally, we will discover how Believers can benefit from the lessons our Jewish family have to teach, as well as the benefits of Jew and Gentile being brought together as One New Man.
“…to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.”—Ephesians 2:15
Symbols of Torah Found in Archaeology and History:
While the shofar is one of the more common symbols of Yom Kippur and is often found in the archaeological record, the Torah is just as important, if not more so. For the Torah is God’s Word, it is law and life, and it keeps the lives of those who follow it. God’s Word is responsible for not only the Ten Commandments, but commandments relating to God’s Holy Days such as Yom Kippur.
For these reasons, and many more, the Torah is commonly depicted on everything from Temple items to Jewish cemetery carvings, such as the one shown below…
This tattered and virtually worthless (monetarily) stone, comes from a Jewish gravesite in Turek, Poland. Presumably standing since the late 1800’s with only minor wear… until tombstones, such as this—torn from the Turek Jewish cemetery—were broken and used as paving stones for the courtyard of an ‘Organization Todt’ headquarters (a Nazi organization), sometime between 1933-45.
This fragment of a tombstone from generations past indicates that the person buried was a reader and lover of Torah. That they were remembered not with symbols of achievement, but with the Torah, indicates how important God’s Word was to communities such as these. That it was held with reverence.
“Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel.”—Jeremiah 2:4
Still, the Torah is not merely a carved image, for many are made of parchment and ink—example shown below…
This Torah was desecrated by the Nazis before the end of 1944, along with the synagogue it resided in. The Jewish community would have, according to their reverence for the Word, always kept the Torah protected by a cloth covering when not in use and placed within a cabinet—ark—especially made for it. They would never have allowed God’s Word to be misused had they the power to stop it; God’s Word being loved by the Jewish people the world over.
When the Nazis burned God’s Word, they not only made war against God Himself, they scorched the heart of His people. Scorched, but not burned.
Sometimes, as shown above, Torah scrolls were simply stolen for research by the Nazis into ‘The Jewish Question.’ Other times, as shown below, God’s Word was misused in industry—used as lining for purses, wallets, toys, shoes, insulation, etc. The Torah, which was loved and never disrespected by Abraham’s children, was continually misused by those who did not understand the importance of the Word nor the Jewish roots to faith in Yeshua the Messiah. It was trampled underfoot, as if in pitiful efforts to stomp out its power.
Yet, while many artifacts may appear humble—though powerful—others do not. Such as the golden medallion found at the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem…
This gold medallion, which includes a gold chain, is believed to have been a Torah scroll ornament used during the First Temple period. Depicting not only the Torah, but a shofar and menorah—all common symbols relating to God and Holiness—it would have been a prized display of the reverence and respect for God’s Word and His ways… and it is one of the oldest examples of the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem and Israel.
“…I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”—Genesis 26:4-5
Finally, one of the most famous archaeological finds in the world worth examining are the Dead Sea Scrolls. These segments of Torah, including previously unknown portions, were found hidden in clay jars in high caves near the Dead Sea. Discovered by a Bedouin shepherd throwing rocks into a cave entrance in 1947—soon after the end of the persecution of God’s children—these scrolls are prized not only by the Jewish community, but by various faiths and academic professionals the world over.
Yet, of these scrolls, the Psalm Scroll, particularly the scroll containing Psalm 133 is so very apropos for Yom Kippur—a day on which Jews the world over unite together for prayer, fasting, repentance, and of course, the reading of the Torah. It is a day of unity for Abraham’s children, one that is pleasing to the Lord.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
“It is like the precious oil upon the head,
running down on the beard,
the beard of Aaron,
running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
descending upon the mountains of Zion;
for there the Lord commanded the blessing—
Life forevermore.”—Psalm 133:1-3
Why is Yom Kippur Important? How Does it Bring About Unity?
Despite the focus of Yom Kippur being repentance and redemption, unity is perhaps the central force behind this Holy Day. Unity with God, with His laws, His commandments, and His ways. Yet, the importance of unity doesn’t stop there… it begins.
Those going to the synagogue ask not only for their own forgiveness, but for the redemption of their family, their community… even their people and country. Each individual enters the synagogue as emissary for the entire Jewish people and prays for divine blessings over the entire world!
This unity and worldview can be seen in a common prayer on Yom Kippur:
“By the authority of the Heavenly Court, and by the authority of the earthly court, with the permission of God and by the permission of this congregation—all agree that on this day, there are no differences between Jews. They all stand united on the ‘one day of the year’ in the presence of the one God.”
In Yom Kippur there is unity amongst the people in fasting and prayer. There is unity in the central focus on God and to come in repentance before Him. There is unity as the people speak and think in one accord, following God’s Word in everything. There is unity in their love for God, the Word, and one another, in both action and utterance… a behavior harkening unto God, for God is love (see 1 John 4:8).
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”—Philippians 2:1-2
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”—Matthew 18:20
Unity is a powerful thing when focused on God. For God is love, and unity in Him is the embodiment of love. Where love and unity reside, God moves mightily!
The blessings of Yom Kippur—or at least, those we expect would come from its observance—we do indeed have by the Blood, such as the forgiveness of sin. Yet, when we explore Yom Kippur more closely, we discover that while Jesus took the place of the scapegoat, there are still many more benefits to its observance… Ranging from a deeper realization of the importance of Jesus’ Blood through our repentance, to a fuller understanding in learning of our heritage.
Yet, much of the power of Yom Kippur resides in corporate prayer, corporate fasting, and corporate repentance; all of which allow the glory of God to flow through us. For while He listens to us when we are alone, the Word says that where WE are gathered in His name, He will be there.
Unity is perhaps one of the greatest blessings found through the observance of Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement. And what better time to be in unity than a time God commanded long ago for us to gather together and repent.
“‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord,
‘Turn to Me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’
So rend your heart, and not your garments;
return to the Lord your God,
for He is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and of great kindness;
and He relents from doing harm.”—Joel 2:12-13