Before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the pinnacle of the Yom Kippur service was the moment that the high priest would enter the holy of holies.
Dressed in pure white robes, he would enter the innermost chamber with a golden rope tied around his ankle. The high priest was allowed in this special chamber, the holy of holies, only once a year and only for a very short time. It was an intense moment because if the high priest was not completely pure, if he had committed even one transgression for which he had not previously atoned, he would die immediately. This was the purpose of the rope so that if he died, the other priests could drag him out without entering the holy place. The holy of holies was so pure that even one blemish was intolerable.
I’m sure the high priest felt a heavy dose of fear before entering. “Did I repent properly?” “Am I pure enough?” “Did I make all relationships in my life correct?” “Am I good enough to stand before God?”
Sometimes Yom Kippur can feel that way to us as well. On face value, it can certainly seem like a doomsday holiday. Fasting, repenting, the gates of heaven closing, if we will or will not be inscribed in the book of life; all of it can feel very overwhelming, and the length of the prayers can make it even more painstaking to get through the day.
Today we do not have a Temple, nor a holy of holies, which makes our Yom Kippur day even longer as we include prayers of repentance. Mystical Judaism teaches that the holy of holies has moved into our souls and is the purest place in which we can connect to God. To get to that pure place, however, we must first check ourselves. We are required to ask, “What is it in my life that is keeping me from returning to God?” “What relationships need to be fixed in my life?” “What areas did I fail in this year?” Through the process of being honest with ourselves—checking our hearts—we begin to return to the pure goodness that HaShem placed in each one of our souls.
It is only through true repentance—true acknowledgment of our shortcomings—that we can enter into the purest place with God. Yom Kippur can feel intimidating; it feels heavy as we begin to approach it. But HaShem gave us this day as a gift of returning. Returning to Him, back to ourselves and finding God again in that purest place of our souls.
Take the next couple of days to evaluate your life, write down all the relationships you wish to fix, perhaps even write a letter to HaShem about where you fell short. When the day comes, embrace the gift of renewal and forgiveness that is given to us on behalf of his Son, Yeshua.