I have seen many people decide to not fast on Yom HaKippurim in the past few years. The main reason for this is because the large ministries teach that “afflicting” your soul doesn’t mean fasting. We are going to take a look at this in a simple scriptural study we like to call “Fasting Is Afflicting.”
26 Yehovah spoke to Moshe, saying, 27“On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be set apart convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to Yehovah. 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 Yehovah 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.”
What is this word humble? It has been translated from the Hebrew word עָנָה (anah).
Let’s take a look at what the Strong’s Dictionary has to say.
to be bowed down or afflicted
afflict (16), afflict him at all (1), afflicted (22), affliction (1), disturbed (1), do violence (1), force (1), humble (12), humbled (6), humbling (1), mistreat (1), oppressed (1), oppressors (1), ravish (1), ravished (2), silenced (1), submit (1), treated her harshly (1), violate (1), violated (5), weakened (1)
You can see that this word literally means afflicted, or to bow down. This is the problem with this passage. It doesn’t say the Hebrew word for fasting here. This is where many justify the observance of Yom HaKippurim without a fast. Sadly, this is a very wrong interpretation of the passage that is caused by casual study and fleshly desire. I too once believed that it wasn’t that big of a deal whether or not we fasted on this day. That changed as I took the ENTIRE Scriptures into account on this subject of affliction, or fasting.
It is also important to note how severe the punishment is for NOT afflicting our souls on this day. In other words, we should probably put a lot of study into this so that we avoid being cut off and destroyed!
So let’s get back to the Hebrew word for fasting. Why is it not used in this passage? Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to prove a fast if the actual word was used? Let’s find the word in Scripture and then look it up in the Strong’s dictionary. We will go to Daniel chapter 9 to start.
3So I gave my attention to Yehovah Elohim to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. 4I prayed to Yehovah my Elohim and confessed and said, “Alas, O Yehovah, the great and awesome Elohim, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 5we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. 6“Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land. (Daniel 9)
Ok, so before we get to the Hebrew word for fasting, I would like to point out a few things here. Daniel is fasting because they had TRANSGRESSED the Torah. He was fasting as an act of repentance as he was recognizing that he needed forgiveness. This is VERY important. This is EXACTLY what Yom HaKippurim is for, ATONEMENT. It seems that Daniel understood how serious this transgression was. Now on to the Hebrew word for fasting. This word is צוֹם (tsom). Here is the Strong’s definition.
fasting, a fast
fast (17), fasted (1), fasting (7), times of fasting (1).
We can see that there is no question that this word means to fast. Let’s look at another passage where Daniel is referencing fasting…
2In those days, I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. 3I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all until the entire three weeks were completed. (Daniel 10)
Daniel is saying that he fasted for 3 weeks. Why is this significant? We have to keep reading.
12Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. (Daniel 10)
It is interesting to note that the word for humbling used in this passage is the same word used in Leviticus 23 for the instructions on Yom HaKippurim. Why would the Messenger of Yehovah refer to what Daniel did as affliction? This is a question that is important to answer. Remember, the punishment for NOT observing Yom HaKippurim is a serious thing, and should not be taken lightly. Let’s look at some more examples of this idea of affliction.
13But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth;
I humbled (anah) my soul with fasting (tsom),
And my prayer kept returning to my bosom. (Psalm 35)
3‘Why have we fasted (tsom) and You do not see?
Why have we humbled (anah) ourselves and You do not notice?’
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers. (Isaiah 58)
Here is another one…
21Then I proclaimed a fast (tsom) there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble (anah) ourselves before our Elohim to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. 22For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our Elohim is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.”23So we fasted (tsom) and sought our Elohim concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty. (Ezra 8)
So we can see that there are many clarifying passages to help us understand the meaning of this word AFFLICTION. In the Ezra passage above, we can see this idea of fasting is directly linked to transgression again. I think this is pretty clear, but still there are those who are not willing to hear.
We must not just take the easy road, but we must study to show ourselves approved. It is very clear that the idea of Yom HaKippurim is more than just feeling sad. It involves affliction. If you look up the many definitions for affliction, most of them have to do with things that we are not permitted by Torah, to do to ourselves. Things that involve causing harm to our own bodies. There is a difference between being afflicted, and afflicting yourself. This is an important thing because why would Yehovah instruct us to do something to ourselves that was against Torah? HE WOULDN’T! He is calling us to fast.
Oh, but what about Isaiah 58?
6“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
7“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58)
This is the passage that many use when justifying their tradition of NOT fasting on Yom Hakippurim. When looking at this passage in context, as well as using all of the other information we have covered so far, it is very simple to see that Isaiah was not prophesying against the fast of Yom HaKippurim. Let’s take a closer look. Lets go back to verse 3…
3‘Why have we fasted and You do not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers. (Isaiah 58)
First off, it is VERY interesting that Israel couples fasting with humbling here… Secondly, why did Yehovah not accept their fast? Because they were NOT following all of the commands. They were driving hard their workers which is a transgression of the basic instructions for Shabbat. Israel was not obeying the simplest of commands, so why would their observance of this day be accepted? If we move on, we see that Yehovah instructs His people to take care of the needy. Share bread with them. This is usually used to say that we are to eat on Yom HaKippurim. But if we keep reading, we can clearly see that that is NOT the case. Yehovah is trying to communicate that we should give of ourselves EVERY day to the needy. We should take care of the poor, the orphan, the widow EVERY day. When we do that THEN He will accept our humbling on Yom HaKippurim.
8“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of Yehovah will be your rear guard.
9“Then you will call, and Yehovah will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, (Isaiah 58)
You see, they CRIED out to Yehovah “Why do you not see? Why do you not notice?” And He told them it was because they were not taking care of the needy people around them. He then says when you take care of the needy, THEN I will hear your cry and notice your offerings. We also have to look at verse 10.
10And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
The word for afflicted there is the same word used in Leviticus to instruct us to be afflicted. ANAH. Isn’t it interesting that it is used interchangeably with HUNGRY?
Oh, and we MUST keep reading!
13“If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot
From doing your own pleasure on My holy day,
And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of Yehovah honorable,
And honor it, desisting from your own ways,
From seeking your own pleasure
And speaking your own word,
14Then you will take delight in Yehovah,
And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
For the mouth of Yehovah has spoken.”
What Yehovah is trying to tell His people is this… If His people would take care of the afflicted, AKA HUNGRY, He will provide something much greater than food to Israel. He will feed them with HERITAGE. We need not worry about afflicting ourselves, AKA going hungry, on Yom HaKippurim, but trust that Yehovah takes care of us and blesses us when we OBEY ALL that He commands us.
Are You Still Doubting This?
Are you still not convinced? Its ironic that most of the people who decide to refrain from a fast on Yom HaKippurim are messianics or hebrew rooters who follow the “spirit” of the law over the “letter”. Why is this ironic? Let’s take a look at a passage that most of these people overlook within their own messianic writings.
9When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them, (Acts 27)
So what does this have to do with fasting on Yom HaKippurim? let’s take a look at the word used here for fast…
nésteia: fasting, a fast
Original Word: νηστεία, ας, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Phonetic Spelling: (nace-ti’-ah)
Short Definition: fasting, the day of atonement
Definition: fasting, the day of atonement.
If you study the weather patterns of the ancient middle east, you will find that the time of year after Yom HaKippurim was not a great time to sail. This was the winter, or rainy season, and storms were popping up all over the place. While I think Paul is very wrong on some things, I find it interesting that he calls this day THE FAST. Why did he say that? Maybe because he knew that it meant fasting, and so did everyone else. He joined Daniel, David, and Ezra and many more in their understanding of this topic.
May you repent, and find TRUE understanding as we approach this Day of Atonement. May you not worry about going without for one measly day out of the year, but be ready to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to receive atonement from our savior, Yehovah. Don’t be cut off for not following a simple instruction to humble yourselves. If fasting is not required, oh well, you acted above and beyond the instruction. On the contrary, if it is how we are to humble ourselves, well, you might be cut off from your people for being to weak to go without food for 24 hours….
May your name be found in the book of LIFE!
10When I wept in my soul with fasting,
It became my reproach. (Psalm 69)
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