Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord. (Shemot / Exodus 30:10; ESV)
I grew up knowing about and to some extent observing Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish year. But like most of my friends, I knew very little of its background and meaning. I knew that the main aspects of this holy day were that it was to be treated as a Sabbath, so we didn't go to school, a complete fast, including no food or water, and hours and hours in the synagogue. I was aware that Yom Kippur had to do with forgiveness of sins, but beyond that I knew next to nothing about its historical or contemporary significance.
So on that day over thirty years ago, when I first heard about Yeshua being the Messiah, I was a little surprised to hear that sacrifice was a key aspect of the ancient Yom Kippur rituals. Of course many Jewish people are much more informed than I was when I was 19 years old, but then again many are now still just as uninformed as I was back then.
I don't blame them, because Judaism today is a bloodless religion. Those who are in the know are fully aware that the blood-soaked sacrificial system was foundational to ancient Judaism. But with the destruction of the Temple in the year 70, the sacrifices ceased. After almost two thousand years of no sacrifices, the importance of blood in Jewish ritual slowly (excuse the pun) dried up, so that now the place of blood is more or less forgotten. I had forgotten about it. My parents had forgotten about it. Or at least they forgot to tell me.
Until that day when I first heard about Yeshua, that is. I was told then that the sacrifices done year by year didn't really accomplish anything - at least not permanently - as they had to be repeated. The Cohen HaGadol (English: the High Priest) made atonement through sacrifice every year. Whatever good it did, it didn't last, as it had to be repeated every year. Every year until Yeshua offered himself as the final and permanent sacrifice. If this concept is new to you, please don't turn off yet. For many the reason why Yeshua's sacrifice is difficult to comprehend is because our Judaism is bloodless. But according to Torah a bloodless Judaism is not true Judaism.
I am also aware that any concept that Messiah or any person would give themselves in sacrifice may be repugnant to you. But I have come to see this has far more to do with rabbinic anti-Christian rhetoric than it does Torah truth. Abraham and Isaac foreshadowed Messiah's sacrifice, not to mention the prophetic writings of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, where we see God's representative unjustly suffering and dying for sins. If you don't believe me, check it out yourself.
The truth is contemporary Judaism is bloodless. That's a problem. No blood, no atonement. No atonement, we remain separated from God.
What I was told that day is correct: the ancient sacrifices which are no longer offered due to the Temple's destruction, were designed to prepare us for the Messiah's perfect sacrifice. And so if we admit our sins and put our trust in Yeshua, then we can be completely forgiven and have unhindered access to the God of Israel. Blood is not my favorite topic, but we can't live without it.