The high holidays bring a feeling of belonging with family and community, but also a time of introspection and reckoning that can bring one to examine and consider his or her life and actions. There is a richness in the traditions associated with the high holidays. There is a pattern in the observance of these special days; the feasting to fasting cycle is like taking a journey filled with great joy and intense trials that force you to grow!
These celebrations are not just the product of Jewish culture. The structure of the holidays comes from the God of Israel Himself. He gave Israel these special times as a gift thousands of years ago and has embedded deep spiritual significance in each of them. Themes of repentance and atonement, in which we humbly acknowledge our shortcomings before God and find forgiveness through the substitutionary death of an innocent being, permeate the biblical descriptions of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
On Yom Kippur in Temple times, all Israel would wait with fearful expectation for the high priest to come out of the Temple after his service in the Holy of Holies. The people hoped that he would return from his duties, having paid the price and atoned for their sins. When he would emerge, the Israelites—filled with reverence, awe, and gratitude—would bow down and
worship God, praising Him for the forgiveness they now enjoyed.
God has made it possible for us to be forgiven through Jesus the Messiah. The New Testament presents Jesus, whose Hebrew name is Yeshua, as the high priest—the Cohen HaGadol—and the offering.
“But when Messiah appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11–12).
He was set apart to serve and bless us and lay down His life for us. We no longer have to wonder if God has forgiven us. Instead, by believing in the One whom God sent as a substitutionary offering, we can be filled with joy, hope, and assurance that we are forgiven. In this forgiveness we find the deeper significance of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Repentance and atonement, the primary themes of the high holidays, characterize Jesus’ message. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). His undeserved suffering and death have provided the means for men and women, Israel and the nations, to be forgiven for all of their failings. Just as Isaiah described nearly 750 years before Jesus walked the earth:
But He was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:5–6)
Forgiveness is the key to hope. When we know we are forgiven and accepted by the God of the universe, we have confidence to face whatever hardships come our way. We know in the depth of our souls that we will live with God forever. If this is true, then what can man, virus, or any other circumstance do to harm us? We have a hope that is literally “out of this world.”
A better world is everybody’s dream—a paradise without disease, war, or injustice. This utopia is the Hebrew Bible’s vision and carried forward into the New Testament. In God’s kingdom, hatred is replaced with kindness, greed with generosity, and worry with confidence. This imagery has sustained the hope of the Jewish people and many others throughout the centuries.
The Jewish people hope for the Messiah to bring His kingdom of shalom in a world desperate for peace. Isaiah said of the Messiah, “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7).
One day, He will turn hopelessness into hope!
However, because of the Almighty’s great compassion, He allows humanity, which is the pinnacle of His creation, time to change and thereby dwell with the Messiah in eternal peace. God has already enacted part one of His majestic and everlasting plan through Jesus.
Jesus is the one who fulfills the “messianic” requirements outlined in the Jewish Bible. He was a faithful, Torah-observant man who taught people the ways of God according to the Law of Moses. He said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). His goal was to draw men and women to God.
The prophet also said of Him, “He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due” (Isaiah 53:8), and “He would render Himself as a guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:10). He fulfilled every detail of this ancient prophecy and willingly died so that God would forgive our sins.
Jesus offers you, me, and all people on the planet the gift of eternal life in His glorious kingdom of peace and joy, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).
Humanity seems to be suffering on every front. The Bible teaches that we have drifted far from God. We are separated from our Creator and do not know why. Isaiah tells us, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God…” (Isaiah 59:2). The Scriptures also teach that the pathway back to God’s presence and His kingdom of peace and joy is receiving the gift of forgiveness for our sins. But how do we find this depth of forgiveness today?
As the New Testament describes Yeshua, He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He also refers to Himself as “the door,” and He invites us to knock and enter His gracious presence forevermore (Revelation 3:20). He opens the door to a blissful paradise beyond imagination!
He awaits your knocking on His door. He stands ready to give you entrance to His kingdom.
It is time for you to make the most important decision of your life. If you have never received Yeshua the Messiah as Lord of your life, stop and do it now. If you know He is who He says He is, the one who the Bible promised would come, then do not hesitate and invite Him into your life. You will never be the same!
Three Jewish Hippies Find Unexpected Hope
Mike, Ron, and Debra
Mike was raised in a Jewish home, but he said, “I felt that there was so much more there, so much more that I wanted to know about God. There was just this deep longing in my soul that there was more to life.” Ron shared a similar background. “I was born into a Jewish family. My parents decided to send me to a boarding school, which started a journey of adapting to things that I was just not prepared to adapt to.” Debra grew up Jewish, too, but recalled, “I searched out Hinduism, Buddhism, transcendental meditation, chanting. I was disillusioned, just searching to know God.”
Their Journey Together
Mike and Ron were good friends. Mike would visit Ron from time to time when they were in college. They decided to drop out and go to California and “find themselves,” along with so many other Jewish men their age.
So, they travelled west, where they acquired twenty acres of land in southern Oregon. Mike was living his dream in the Pacific Northwest, but he was not satisfied. “I was more depressed, more discouraged than ever!” As a result, they decided to hitchhike to Mexico.
“Almost every ride we were getting were from these long-haired hippies (remember them?),” Mike said. They shared with the two friends about the Bible and Jesus.
Ron and Mike found themselves in Mendocino, California, standing on the Pacific Coast Highway. As Ron recalled, “A pickup truck pulls up about a hundred feet away from us. A guy gets out of the passenger side, comes right up to me, and says, ‘Do you know that Jesus loves you?’”
This was just the beginning of the road trip to end all road trips!
“On our way back from Mexico, we stopped in San Francisco, where Ron had introduced me to a girl,” Mike said. When Mike met Debra, he opened his heart and started sharing all that he was feeling. Debra believed that everything began with this conversation. “We talked about our hopes, our dreams, our fears,” she said. “We talked about our thoughts about God. We were amazed at how similar we were.” Something happened in Mike’s heart that weekend. “I was in love, and I had never experienced this incredible feeling before,” he said. “I knew that God had brought Debra into my life.”
Several months earlier, someone had given Mike a Bible. And as God was working in Mike’s heart, something was stirring in Ron’s soul. Ron bought a Bible from a local drugstore and opened it to the New Testament. Everything he read was very meaningful, and he was attracted to the person of Jesus. Simultaneously, Mike was also reading the New Testament and began feeling close to God. One night, while standing under the stars, Mike said, “God, if you and Jesus are the same, would show me that this is the right thing to do.”
Ron kept his Bible studies secret from Mike. Ron was also becoming increasingly overwhelmed with the good news of Messiah and could not stop reading about it! He walked up the hill behind their house, closed his eyes, and said, “‘God, if you’re there, if you’re real, I want to know.’ I opened my eyes and I just knew. I knew God was real.”
Mike told Ron what happened, and Ron could not believe it! “All this time, the truth was right in front of our noses,” Ron exclaimed. The next day, Mike told Ron that he had asked Jesus into his life, and then Ron told Mike that he had done the same.
“Jesus was the Messiah,” Mike said. “That prayer that I had asked God, ‘God show me that this is the right decision,’ I felt so secure and so satisfied,” he recalled. Ron was sensing God’s work in his life as well. “I was falling in love with Jesus who had every answer for every question that I had,” Ron confessed. “Jesus has become everything to me.”
A month later, Mike told Debra that he believed in Jesus. She was devastated!
Mike started reading Scripture to her and she eventually believed too. “Here I was, twenty years old, raised in New York City and never once had I heard or read anything from the New Testament,” Debra said. “I had no idea that Jesus was Jewish. I had no idea He claimed to be the Messiah my Jewish people were waiting for all of these years. I couldn’t deny the change I saw in Michael’s life.”
A few months later, Mike and Debra were married.
“God had a big cleanup job to do with us, being two drug-using hippies,” Debra said. “But He did an amazing job. He taught us how to be responsible, which was no easy task for two very irresponsible hippies. And over the years, we had two children and raised them to know the Lord. Everything I always wanted as a little girl in my home, God has blessed me with in my own family.”
Ron got married, too, and he and Roxanne had four boys! Then Mike and Ron started a lighting company together. The two Jewish men from Queens, New York, are best friends to this day. Yeshua brought them together but deepened their friendship when they accepted Him as their Messiah. Ron, Debra, and Mike became examples of hope and peace for their families, hundreds of employees, and many others whose lives they touched together and as individuals throughout the years.
You can watch their full stories and many others at ifoundshalom.com.