There are Jewish holidays that apply only specifically to Israel and there are Jewish holidays that also have a universal meaning.
In Mishna Rosh HaShanah 1:2 we read:
"At four times the world is judged: on Passover for grain, on Shavu'ot for fruit, on Rosh HaShanah they all go before Him like sheep of the flock, as it is written, " He forms their hearts as one, He understands all their deeds." (Psalm 33). On Sukkot, the world is judged for water."
Rosh HaShanah is the day of the Judgement of the hearts and deeds of all people.
We don’t see Yom Kippur mentioned.
The question then arises, what makes Yom Kippur so specifically Jewish that it would not need to be observed by Noahides. After all, doesn’t it have everything to do with repentance? We too want to repent to the Eternal One.
Let us first see what Yom Kippur is.
When we look at the date we have a clue. Yom Kippur falls on 10 Tishrei. This was the day Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the second set of Stone Tablets. Receiving that second set was the sign to the people that the Eternal One had forgiven them...for what?...for sinning with the golden calf.
Moses had gone up the mountain to receive the first set of the Stone Tablets. But it took longer than the people expected for Moses to return. And the people became impatient and afraid. They needed a substitute for Moses and so the people of the Egyptian Erev Rav [A mixed crowd (erev rav) that marched with the Jewish people out of Egypt] convinced them that they needed a golden calf, and that instead of Moses leading them, the golden calf would lead them. Many of the people still trusted in externals, in an intermediary. The full awareness that one had to rely on the Eternal One in everything, was not yet there.
The making of a golden calf, not fully trusting in the One and Only, is what the Jews then repented for, and that is what was then atoned for on that first Yom Kippur, when G-d forgave them for that sin. And in commemoration of that event, atonement for repented sins (whether intentional, unintentional, or unknown) is given specifically to Jews every year on that day, as we read in Leviticus 16:29-30:
"And this shall be a law for you forever: in the seventh month, on the tenth of the month, you shall practice self-denial; and you shall do no work, neither the native nor the convert who dwells among you. For on this day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you from all your sins; you shall be cleansed before the L-RD."
The importance of Yom Kippur for Noahides and the nations is that we can learn and realize from this that we should not make the mistake to trust in anyone or anything other than the Eternal One.
For our sins between us and G-d, and repentance for our sins against other people (which includes setting right the wrong that was done, and asking forgiveness) can be done on every day of the year, including Yom Kippur.
If the arrival of the day of Yom Kippur gives a Noahide individual some extra inspiration and motivation to repent for any of his sins, including doing the repentance on that day, that’s a good thing. But the forgiveness that will come to him will be the result of his repentance, as on any other day - and not because it is the day of Yom Kippur.
Fasting (not even a half fast) is not allowed for Noahide on Yom Kippur. But when a Noahide feels inspired by Yom Kippur to confess his sins and repent, as stated above, that is a good thing. Correcting mistakes, asking forgiveness from the people one has wronged, giving charity, good deeds, prayer etc are good practices to do on this day too.
G-d is forgiving and He forgives those who ask Him for forgiveness.
“Moreover, if the wicked one repents of all the sins that he committed and keeps all My laws and does what is just and right, he shall live; he shall not die.
None of the transgressions he committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness he has practiced, he shall live.
Is it my desire that a wicked person shall die?—says the L-rd G-D. It is rather that he shall turn back from his ways and live.” (Ezekiel 18:21-22)
He does so on all days, and He brings atonement to the Jews who repent especially on Yom Kippur.
On Yom Kippur, the Jews read the book of Jonah, which tells how the Gentile people of Nineveh repented and were forgiven by G-d. On the other hand, note that when the people of Nineveh repented and G-d forgave them, it didn't happen on Yom Kippur. It was during Sukkot that Jonah received the prophecy to go to Nineveh and warn the people. And this brings us to Sukkot, about which you can read more in the blog: "Noahides and Sukkot?"
Brought By Angelique Sijbolts
Angelique Sijbolts is one of the main writers for the Noahide Academy. She has been an observant Noahide for many years. She studies Torah with Rabbi Perets every week. Angelique invests much of her time in editing video-lectures for the Rabbis of the Academy and contributes in administrating the Academy's website in English and Dutch. She lives in the north of the Netherlands. Married and mother of two sons. She works as a teacher in a school with students with special needs. And is a Hebrew Teacher for the levels beginners and intermediate. She likes to walk, to read and play the piano.
Chabad Article: The Golden Calf - Jewish History
The Divine Code by Rabbi Moshe Weiner.
My special thanks go to Dr. Michael Schulman for the comprehensive feedback and input.
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