Teshuvah…Sin takes us away from YHVH, repentance brings us closer

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Romans 3:23
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of YHVH,

Yom Kippur - teshuvah means returning to YHVH

We all sin, no matter how hard we try not to. We are human – we sin in our thoughts, in the words we speak and in the things we do. You don’t have to go far to see the result of sin. In other people’s lives and even our own lives. How do we define sin? Sin is not keeping YHVH’s commandments; sin is compromising in doing the commandments; sin is speaking evil of another; sin is thinking evil thoughts; sin is eating unclean foods; to give you but a few examples. Some of these things we do unintentionally, but it still is sin. Sin takes us away from YHVH. It separates us from His presence; it prevents us from hearing His voice. That is what I experience when I sin or compromise! However, there is restoration through teshuvah (repentance) and forgiveness through the atoning work of Messiah Y’shua.

What does the Hebrew word “teshuvah” mean?

A very wise Jewish lady once explained the concept of teshuvah to me. Teshuvah is to turn back, to turn back is the answer. If you were to say this in Hebrew you would say תשובה התשובה – in English it would be “teshuvah ha teshuvah” because the word for both repentance and answer is teshuvah. That is beautiful Hebrew poetry! Repentance is the answer! Teshuvah ha teshuvah!

Teshuvah is the Hebrew word for repentance and literally means to return to YHVH… and obey Him.

Deuteronomy 4:30
30 “When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to YHVH your Elohim and listen to His voice.

Shuv, “return,” is the verb from which teshuvah, the Hebrew term for repentance, is derived. As the final phrase in the verse shows, the Hebrew term does not refer only to contrition(deeply felt remorse) but to a change of behavior, literally a “return” to Elohim and to the behavior that He requires. The concept of returning to YHVH in the Torah is not identical to its better known form in the Prophets. In the Torah it is mentioned only as something that occurs after punishment has taken place: if the people take their punishment to heart and return to YHVH, He will terminate their punishment. The prophets developed the concept further. They called upon people to repent before it is too late, and to thereby avert punishment altogether. The concept of teshuvah in classical Judaism combines both ideas, with emphasis on the latter. 1

The concept of teshuva (repentance) is also well illustrated by James; he also explains it in a very practical manner:

James 4:8–10
8 Draw near to Elohim and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of YHVH, and He will exalt you.

We are approaching the Fall Feasts of YHVH: Yom T’ruah and Yom Kippurim – a Season of Repentance. We live in a world immersed in evil. We need to repent of our sins and the sins of our fathers. These feasts help us focus on the need for repentance. It teaches us about repentance; about drawing near to our Elohim. It does not mean that we only have to repent once a year on Yom Kippurim, and all is forgiven until next year. This is a special day for repentance, but we can and should seek forgiveness or atonement for wrongs committed always and at any time.

What does the Scripture teach us about Yom Kippurim

We are given specific instructions with regard to these two feasts. Let us examine the Scripture:

Leviticus 23:24–25
24 “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 ‘You shall not do any laborious work, but you shall present an offering by fire to YHVH.’ ”

You can refer to two of our previous articles for more information on Yom T’ruah and why Rosh haShanah is not the new year.

Leviticus 23:26–32
26 YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, 27 “On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to YHVH. 28 “You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before YHVH your Elohim. 29 “If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people. 30 “As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 “You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. 32 “It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath.”

There are two more references regarding the instructions for Yom Kippurim: Num 29:7 and Lev 16:29-34

Yom Kippurim follows 10 days after Yom T’ruah. Yom Kippurim or “the Day of Atonements” is detailed in Leviticus 23. What does the word atone mean?2

Most directly translated it means “cover”, spread over, wipe off. Also rendered as ransom, compensation, reconciliation. The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (105). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

What a rich meaning! If you look at all the possible meanings of the word atone, it gives a clear understanding of the meaning. It is for this reason that Yom Kippurim is also known as the Day of Coverings.

Instructions for observing the day

Let us look at the instructions regarding this special Moed.

The first instruction is to have a holy convocation. Do we understand the word correctly? I have always understood it to mean an assembly, but there is more to it. You can learn more about a holy convocation if you click on the above hyperlink.

It also means to make a holy proclamation. Allow me to explain using the meaning of the Hebrew word:

If you look at the meaning of the word מִקְרָא (miqrāʾ) 4 : it can mean proclaim or invite.

The root qrʾ (kof resh) denotes primarily the enunciation (proclamation) of a specific message. In the case of the latter usage it is customarily addressed to a specific recipient and is intended to elicit a specific response (hence, it may be translated “proclaim, invite”). Infrequently, qārāʾ denotes just an outcry (e.g. Ps 147:9; Isa 34:14). The most frequently recurring synonyms are ṣ/zaʿaq, šāwaʿ (to cry out urgently for help, Jer 20:8). The root occurs 689 times.

The verb also connotes calling one to a specific task. The maidservant of Pharaoh’s daughter asked if she is to go and “summon” a nurse (Ex 2:7). The most prominent usage here has to do with calling on the name of YHVH. Usually, the context has to do with a critical (Ps 34:6, 81:7 [H 8]) or chronic need (e.g., after Cain killed Abel, man realized the full effects of the curse and began to call on YHVH’s name–Gen 4:26). The godly recognize the presence of original sin by their continual calling on God (Gen 12:8; Gen 13:4; Ps 116:2). God responds to all who thus call on him (Ps 145:18).

Psalm 145:18–19
18 YHVH is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. 19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.

The Hebrew of the word cry used here is šāwaʿ which is a synonym for miqrāʾ and means to cry out urgently for help.

The way I see it is that we are called upon -this day- to call out and cry out to YHVH in repentance. We are Israel His chosen people! We have not replaced His people, we are part of His people.

Here is what the word means in the context of the moed or appointed time:

מִקְרָא (miqrāʾ). Convocation, reading. ASV and RSV similar. This noun denoting the result of qārāʾ is used, first, for convocations and secondly, of the result of reading aloud (Neh 8:8). One should compare its synonym mōʿēd, an appointed time therefore also an appointed gathering (q.v.)
miqraʾ designates the weekly Sabbaths (Lev 23:2) and the new moons (Ezk 46:3; cf. Isa 66:23). However, its most usual meaning is reserved for the seven special convocation sabbaths. These were observed in the course of the five annual feasts (Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles were opened and closed with a special convocation Sabbath). Such days (and the weekly Sabbath as well) included a formal summoning of people to worship by the blast of trumpets (Num 10:2, 10; cf. qôl). Physical presence was mandatory, however, only for the three festal pilgrimage feasts and only for males (Ex 23:14, 17). The Sabbath and Day of Atonement were further distinguished by the divine prohibition excluding all labor (Lev 23:3, 31), indeed, any pursuit of other goals (Isa 58:13f.). The godly were to focus their time and effort on worship. The six other special convocations did not exclude the preparation of food even though servile labor was prohibited (Lev 23). 5

Yom Kippurim is a day of rest – a Sabbath. We are not to work on this day. The Sabbath starts on the evening of the ninth until the evening of the tenth. It is also stated that it is a perpetual statute which means it is an everlasting commandment.

Yom Kippurim is a solemn day of rest kept by fasting. The wording ‘you shall humble your souls’ implies fasting.

But why fasting? What exactly is fasting and what is the purpose of doing it?

Fasting is depriving the body of nourishment as a sign that one is experiencing great sorrow. Mourning is further expressed in weeping and lamentation and in putting on sackcloth and ashes (Est 4:3). He who fasts claims to afflict himself or his soul, i.e. his inner person.5

We are literally told to” humble our souls”. Let us look at the word “humble” used in Lev 23:29 and verse 32

1651 עָנָה (ʿānâ) II, be occupied, busied with

We have to be occupied with or busy with our souls. How are you busy with your soul? How do you do that? I see a connection with James 4:8-10. We should be busy with our souls through introspection and repentance!

Fasting is a form of affliction and can assist us in being busy with our souls on this very important day – thus to focus on introspection, on repentance, but also on forgiveness.

Read James 4:8-10 again:

James 4:8–10
8 Draw near to Elohim and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of YHVH, and He will exalt you.

Several words are used here to describe how to draw near to YHVH:

  • cleanse your hands: How do you cleanse your hands? You regret sinning and forsake it, you turn away from sin.
  • purify your hearts: How do you purify your heart? Through the process of confession and repentance which include: being miserable, mourn, weep and humbling yourself before YHVH. “be miserabe” is the Greek word talaiporeo which means afflict. The word afflict depicts suffering, the act of humbling oneself, torment, embarrassment, unbearable pain and suffering. 3
  • humble yourselves (to be occupied with your soul) see explanation above.

After this, the process is complete by resolving to refrain from sin. “Repentance is completed when an opportunity to commit one’s original transgression again arises but one doesn’t and repents instead.” (Rambam)

These three verses in James describes the process of returning to YHVH very well. This process is the process of repentance. This is what we ought to do on Yom Kippurim. The only joy on this solemn day is knowing that we receive complete forgiveness from all and every sin through the blood of our Redeemer Y’shua our Messiah.

Titus 2:13–14
13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great Elohim and Savior, Y’shua Messiah, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

When we sincerely repent, we will be completely forgiven and our relationship with YHVH – the Creator and King of the Universe – will be restored!

Psalm 103:11–12
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Acts 5:31
31 “He is the one whom YHVH exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Very important: after we have repented, received forgiveness and enjoy a restored relationship with YHVH, it is very important to live a life worthy of being forgiven. The life we should lead is described very well in the book of Titus:

Titus 2:11–12
11 For the grace of YHVH has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great Elohim and Savior, Y’shua our Messiah, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Yom Kippurim is about repenting and returning. Yom Kippurim is a special day for us -His called out ones – to call on Him – to cry out to Him- for repentance of our sins and the sins of our fathers. We are Israel His chosen – set apart people.

May this coming day of atonement mark the start of a life as described in Titus. Keeping YHVH’s commandments will enable us to live a godly life of righteousness here and now because His commandments are righteousness!

Psalm 119:172
172 Let my tongue sing of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness.


1 Tigay, J. H. (1996). Deuteronomy. The JPS Torah commentary (54). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

2. A. Old Testament The word “atonement” occurs nearly one hundred times in the Old Testament, always translated from a form of Heb. kippurîm (e.g., Lev. 23:27; 25:9; Num. 5:8) or kāp̱ar, usually rendered “make an atonement” (cf. Lev. 16:20, “atone”). Both Heb. kpr and kprym can be related to Arab. kpr “cover” and Akk. kapāru “spread over,” “wipe off” (KoB, p. 452). Given the context at Gen. 32:20, Heb. kpr can most directly be translated “cover” (RSV, KJV “appease”; JB “conciliate”; NIV “pacify”; cf. Prov. 16:6, 14) or “to blot out” guilt (cf. Isa. 6:7).

Heb. kpr is also rendered “ransom” (Exod. 30:12) or “compensation” (Prov. 6:35, paralleling “gifts”; KJV “ransom”). The KJV also translates the term as “reconcile” (Lev. 6:30; 16:20; Ezek. 45:20; RSV, JB, NIV “atonement”), “purge” (Prov. 16:6; Ezek. 43:20, 26; RSV, JB, NIV “atone/make atonement”), and “put off” (Isa. 47:11; RSV “expiate”; JB “avert”; NIV “ward off with a ransom”); and translates kprym as “reconciliation” (e.g., Lev. 8:15; RSV, JB, NIV “atonement”).

B. New Testament The New Testament retains the Old Testament meaning of atone (ment), though it uses the word specifically only once, at Rom. 5:11 (Gk. katallagḗ; RSV, JB, NIV “reconciliation”). Gk. hiláskomai and cognates are synonyms of Heb. kpr and, likewise, designate “cover,” “blot out,” and “remove guilt.” See also EXPIATION; RECONCILIATION; REDEMPTION. Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (105). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

3 5003 ταλαιπωρέω [talaiporeo /tal·ahee·po·reh·o/] v. From 5005; GK 5415; AV translates as “be afflicted” once. 1 to toil heavily, to endure labours and hardships. 2 to be afflicted. 3 to feel afflicted and miserable. 4 to afflict. Strong, J. (1996).

af•flict \ə-ˈflikt\ verb transitive

[Middle English, from Latin afflictus, past participle of affligere to cast down, from ad- + fligere to strike — more at PROFLIGATE] 14th century

  • 1 obsolete
  • a : HUMBLE
  • 2 a : to distress so severely as to cause persistent suffering or anguish 〈afflicted with arthritis〉


synonym AFFLICT, TRY, TORMENT, TORTURE, RACK mean to inflict on a person something that is hard to bear. AFFLICT is a general term and applies to the causing of pain or suffering or of acute annoyance, embarrassment, or any distress 〈ills that afflict the elderly〉. TRY suggests imposing something that strains the powers of endurance or of self-control 〈children often try their parents’ patience〉. TORMENT suggests persecution or the repeated inflicting of suffering or annoyance 〈a horse tormented by flies〉. TORTURE adds the implication of causing unbearable pain or suffering 〈tortured by a sense of guilt〉. RACK stresses straining or wrenching 〈a body racked by pain〉. Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

4 2063d מִקְרָא (miqrāʾ) convocation.

Coppes, L. J. (1999). 2063 קָרָא. In R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (810–811). Chicago: Moody Press.

5 Hartley, J. E. (1999). 1890צוּם. In R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (758). Chicago: Moody Press.

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