Teaching My Kids About Yom Kippur

Spoiler: One is going to die.
At sundown on Friday (October 7), the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur will begin. It's not a festival as per the normal connotation, since this is the most solemn day of the year for religious Jews. I originally wrote on this topic in 2009 on the Grace Church Children's Ministry Parenting blog, but I figured it was worth re-posting with some minor edits. Hope you enjoy!


My Jewishness, My Faith, My Family
I am Jewish, by my mother's lineage. I was circumcised by a Rabbi in my grandparents' apartment when I was 8 days old (sorry, I know that's graphic). I went to Hebrew private school for 4 years. I was Bar Mitzvah at age 13.

I have also been a Christ-follower since I was 19 years old. There is much debate (especially among non-Christian Jews) about whether I can still call myself a Jew, but I think it's valid. Being Jewish is a heritage, and is different than Judaism (the religion taught by the Hebrew Scriptures, or "Old Testament"). Being a Christian is about my faith. In this country, most Jews are not particularly religious, but are still Jews.

There is a lot that I'll never be able to teach my children -- how to change the oil in a car, or how to throw a curve-ball. I'm not a theological expert or a natural teacher. But, God has given me a specific perspective and experience (Jewish background + Christian faith), in which I can equip my own kids. I have also been thankful to be able to share this with the next generation in other ways, such as with Passover Seders in our church.


Yom Kippur and Two Goats
Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. To explain this holy day to my kids, I have used stuffed animals. There were two goats (but I had to use horses, since we don't have goats). For one goat, the high priest in Israel laid his hands on its head, to impute on it all the sins of Israel. That goat was carried out of the Israeli camp and set free.

This goat, called the "scapegoat," points to Christ. I believe this is what is written in John 1 -- "Behold the Lamb of God, who carries away the sin of the world." Jesus didn't just banish sin from a distance; He carried that sin on Himself.

The second goat was slaughtered as an offering to God. This also points to Christ, as He was slain for our sins.

Yes, I do talk to my kids about the sacrifice of animals, and, no, it does not scar them. Animal sacrifice is messy and disgusting, but so is our sin to a Holy God.


Why I Love Teaching My Kids This Stuff  
God wants me to proclaim His gospel message, to teach my children about how He has worked through His chosen people. He has equipped me to help them understand truths about Him.

No matter how old my kids are, they will not understand the entire theological picture, any more than I do. One of my children was completely shocked that they actually killed the goat. It was a reminder to me that I needed to talk more with him about how our sin requires judgment.

And when I asked my daughter (8 years old at the time) why we don't have to sacrifice animals for our sins today, she replied, "Because Jesus already died for our sins."

Beautiful. I could not have been more excited that God used me to teach them the Gospel with this illustration. Our nasty sin needs an atonement, and Jesus already was our sacrifice.


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**image courtesy of nuchylee via freedigitalphotos.net

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