“For on that day shall the Kohen make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before Hashem.” Leviticus 16:30 (The Israel Bible™)
While many might know that Yom Kippur is the holiday of atonement for sins, they might not be aware that the Hebrew language reveals incredible clues as to the nature of sin as defined by God.
With the holiday arriving on October 12, Jews worldwide are focused on the most important day of the Hebrew calendar. Roni Segal, the academic adviser for eTeacher, an online language academy specializing in the Hebrew language, shared some fascinating insights with Breaking Israel News.
“We know that Hebrew is God’s language. Studying Hebrew brings to life God’s intentions for the world and how people should relate to it,” Segal told Breaking Israel News. “On Yom Kippur, we are commanded to fast for 25 hours in order to spend a significant amount of time reflecting on our past sins and praying to do teshuva (repentance) and come close to God.”
On Yom Kippur Jews repent for any sins they might have committed over the past year. In Hebrew, sin is chet – חֵטְא. “Chet is written with three Hebrew letters – chet-ח, tet-ט and aleph-א. Yet, the aleph in this word is silent,” noted Segal. “We know that in Hebrew, the aleph represents God. The word chet – sin – teaches us that a person comes to sin when they have silenced God in their lives.”
Segal also pointed out that the letter chet, which is pronounced the same way as the word for sin, does not appear in any of the Hebrew names of the 12 tribes of Israel. “This teaches us that, although the Bible publicly discusses the areas where the tribes sinned, they fully repented before their death. They were free of sin,” noted Segal to Breaking Israel News. “When someone knows Hebrew, hidden Biblical insights are revealed.”
The “Day of Atonement” in the Bible is called Yom HaKippureem–יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים.
The Lord said to Moses, “The tenth day of this seventh month is Yom HaKippureem–יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves.” (Leviticus 23:26-27)
Kipporeem כִּפֻּרִים can also be read K’Purim– כִּ פֻּרִים . “K” in Hebrew means “similar to”. So Biblically, Purim can be compared to Yom Kippur. Given that Purim is the most festive Jewish holiday and is celebrated through drinking and feasting, it is shocking that the Sages connect it to Yom Kippur, which is the most solemn and deprived day of the year.
“On Yom Kippur, the Jewish People elevate themselves and connect to God through refraining from bodily pleasures,” explained Segal. “This comparison teaches that on Purim we can achieve spiritual heights and connection to God through doing the exact opposite of denying the physical world. Judaism teaches that everything in this world is a vehicle for serving and coming close to God.”
On Rosh Hashanah, we are inscribed in the heavenly “Book of Life” or the “Book of Death”. During the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, the judgement is sealed for the year. “Of course, all year round we can repent and make amends,” said Segal. “However, it is Rabbinical tradition that at this auspicious time of year ‘The King is in the field.’ meaning that now is the easiest time of year to repent and come close to God.”
To learn more about the Hebrew language, click here.