The Origins Of Yom Kippur Is Found In 400 BCE

Sep 29, 2017 | | 1 comment

“Thus, it seems that the three biblical mentions of the Day of Atonement (Numbers 29:7-11, Leviticus 16:1-34, and Leviticus 23:26-32) were inserted by priests during the Second Temple period to validate new rites added to purify the Temple in advance of the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar at the time, Sukkot.
The priests of the Jerusalem Temple who inaugurated Yom Kippur seem to have had the 12-day Babylonian festival marking the new year, Akitu, in mind, particularly the fifth day of Akitu, which has some striking similarities to Yom Kippur that are unlikely to be coincidence.
That fifth day involved a purification ceremony called kuppuru, which involved dragging a dead ram through the temple, supposedly purifying it of impurities. Kuppuru and its Hebrew cognate kippur meant “to uncover” or specifically in this case “to remove impurity,” which means a better translation of Yom Kippur to English would be “Day of Purification.””

For religious Jews, #YomKippur is a scary time of praying to an ancestrally imagined ‘God’ for another year in the book of life – full of lamenting, fasting, and begging forgiveness for perceived ‘sins’. For secular Jews, Yom Kippur is an opportunity to reflect upon how we treat people, and resolve to be more attentive to our reactive behaviors in the coming year.

The Obscure Origins of Yom Kippur
It is the holiest day in Judaism, yet its intent has markedly changed and its practice today is a far cry from the rites of ancient times.
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The Temple priests, the Zadokites, saw themselves as descended from Aaron and backdated their legal prescriptions to him. The practice of transferring the disfavor of a deity to an animal that is then removed from the community, what we call a “scapegoat”, was common in the ancient Near East. It was probably practiced by at least some of the Hebrews from time immemorial long before incorporation into Yom Kippur ritual.
The earliest known reference to the practice was found in Ebla (in what is today war-torn Syria), in 1975, at a site archaeologists called “Palace G.” Among the texts found there dating from 2,400 to 2,300 BCE were two descriptions of a scapegoat ceremony, which are very similar to those found in the Jewish tradition. One reads: “We purge the mausoleum. Before the entry of Kura and Barama, a goat, a silver bracelet [hanging from the] goat’s neck, towards the steppe of Alini we let her go.”

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One Response

  1. He gets the ‘source’ of meaning, where it comes from. If the entire world of humans got this, we’d have a world of peace here on Earth. Meaning does not come from on high, it comes from within.

    “we, like the sukkah, are impermanent structures flimsily existing without meaning in an existential nightmare. It IS that way — but it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. We sanctify the flimsy structure” – Patrick Aleph Beaulier on #Sukkot

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