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Sunday School

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For many living in ancient Israel, the only relief from the drudgery of everyday life was provided by the occasional festivals that were scheduled throughout the year. All the festivals except one were times of feasting. The Day of Atonement was an annual time set aside for fasting. This was the day when all Israel sought divine forgiveness from their sins and the sins of the nation. The Day of Atonement in Hebrew is Yom Kippur. “Yom” means “day” in Hebrew and “Kippur” comes from a root word that means “to atone.” Yom Kippur is usually expressed in English as “Day of Atonement” and is observed by Jews on the tenth day of Tishri, the seventh month on the Hebrew religious calendar (see Leviticus 16:29-30) which correlates to our months of September-October. According to Jewish tradition, God writes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the seventh month and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. The nine days leading up to the Day of Atonement beginning with Rosh Hashanah are called the Days of Awe. During this time, a Jew tries to change his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private prayers and confessions of guilt. At the end of Yom Kippur, the repentant Jew hopes that they have been forgiven by God. This week’s lesson focuses on God’s instructions for the ceremonies the high priest was to perform to make atonement for Israel’s sins.

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