Day of Atonement Doesn’t Cover Everything

For transgressions against God, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions against a fellow-man, the Day of Atonement does not atone, so long as the sinner has not redressed the wrong done, and conciliated the man he has sinned against.

Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah

This is an authoritative teaching of Judaism. Think about it. The Day of Atonement did not cover all your sins; only the sins against God. YHVH did not forgive any sins that were done against your fellow man, if you have not reconciled them with that person. These sins were not under God’s jurisdiction.

This echos Yeshua’s instruction to make amends with your brother BEFORE bringing your offering to the altar. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Today we think of forgiveness as something offered by God that covers all our sins. We don’t spend much time thinking about the people we wronged, or how to reconcile our wrong-doings toward them. Very few of us actually make amends with our brothers and sisters prior to attending the Day of Atonement.

Because of this we now have a special time, enforced in church, where we ask each other for forgiveness. Back in the day, people would stop the procession, and verbally argue at this point. They didn’t seek amends prior to coming to church. Today this “argument” or “conversation” doesn’t even happen anymore. People just go through the motions and we figure we’re all good now. It’s become a ritual, not a heart felt attempt at reconciling our sins towards others.

I speak in overgeneralizations. I’m sure there are a few people who actually seek forgiveness prior to coming to church. These few might call the offended and set a time to talk with them. They might go to their house and beseech their forgiveness. They might even offer to do something to help alleviate the pain they caused. But these people are few.

So the Holy Day of Atonement is upon us again this year. Before we go to church, it’s important to stop and reflect upon those we may have offended. And it’s even more important to reconcile our wrong-doing.

But confession is quite unreal, unless it is followed by solemn resolve not to repeat the offense. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the man of iniquity his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). Be it noted, however, that it is the sinner that is forgiven by repentence, not the sins. Therefore there must be utmost endeavor to undo the guilty action, and every effort made to conciliate him whom we have wronged. Reparation and reconciliation are the tests of our sincerity.

The Authorized Daily Prayer Book, Joseph H. Hertz, p.839


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