Yom Kippur Observances Through The Second Temple Period

The biblical observance of Yom Kippur became more elaborate in the Temples.

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These changes mark an overall trend toward inwardness and ethical‑moral concern within Jewish spiritual practice. What had begun as a problem of ritual impurity developed into a concern with human decency. The Prophets' focus upon moral concerns became incorporated into ritual observance. Isaiah's words challenging the value of fasts, incorporated later by the Rabbis into the Yom Kippur services as the prophetic reading, took on new significance:

"Is such the fast I desire, A day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, A day when the Lord is favorable? No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock the fetters of wickedness, And untie the cords of the yoke To let the oppressed go free; To break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, And to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him, And not to ignore your own kin. Then shall your light burst through like the dawn. And your healing spring up quickly"(Isaiah 58:5‑8).

Despite this change in focus, the ancient rituals of the day were in no way devalued or minimized. On the contrary, ceremonies in the Second Temple were much more magnificent than those in the wilderness Tabernacle or the First Temple, as was the building itself. Rituals in the Second Temple were carried out with great splendor. if anything, the presence of so many pilgrims at these rites made them more solemn and impressive than ever before.

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Rabbi Dr. Reuven Hammer

Rabbi Dr. Reuven Hammer is a former President of the International Rabbinical Assembly, he is one of the founders of the Masorti Movement in Israel and is currently Head of the Masorti Beth Din in Israel.