Kenneth Cohen

Yom Kippur in the Temple

Yom Kippur during the days of the Temple, was an incredible day of sanctity. It was a convergence of the holiest day of the year, in the holiest city in the world, Jerusalem, celebrated in the holiest building in the world, the Temple.

The officiating of Temple service was conducted by the holiest individual in the world, the Kohein Hagadol, the High Priest. He went through a week long preparation for this great day of forgiveness. He was the messenger of the Jewish people, who had the responsibility of achieving a clean slate, and fresh start for everyone.

We can only read about this Temple service, known as the “Avoda” in Mussaf on Yom Kippur. When we get to the description of how the Kohein Hagadol uttered the holy name of G-d, we bow on our faces as they did in the Beit Hamikdash.

We are meant to imagine what the scene was at that time, and how the nation was elevated to incredible spiritual heights. And we describe how memorable it was to see the radiant face of the High Priest at the end of the fast, as it was clear that he succeeded in his mission.

It is useful to use a Machzor that has pictures depicting these Temple scenes. The desired outcome of carefully reading of this Temple service, should be a longing for the rebuilding of the Third Temple. May it come speedily in our days.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at
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