The Jews were to afflict their souls

Old Testament: Lev 16.29–31

To read the Bible in a year, read Leviticus 15–17 on February 13, In the year of our Lord Christ 2021

By Don Ruhl 

During the annual Day of Atonement, the Lord wanted the priests performing various duties, but He also wanted the average Israelite involved by refraining from a couple of things: 

“This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.”

– Leviticus 16.29–31 

Afflicting the soul generally meant for the children of Israel to refrain from eating and along with that, they were to refrain from working, that they might think on the significance of that day, that they might see that the Lord had cleansed them from all their sins. 

We want to be busy, and we need to eat nourishing food, but sometimes we have to stop those activities that we might give attention to deep spiritual thoughts. 


  • On what date would Israel refrain from food and work? 
  • Did this include Israel only? 

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One thought on “The Jews were to afflict their souls

  1. An Introduction to the Rif learning on the High Holy Days. טוב

    יומא פרק ג’ משנה ח: בא לו אצל פרו; ופרו היה עומד בין האולם ולמזבח, ראשו לדרום ופניו למערב, והכוהן עומד במזרח ופניו למערב, וסמך שתי ידיו עליו והתוודה. וכך היה אומר, אנא ה’–עוויתי פשעתי חטאתי לפניך, אני וביתי; אנא ה’–כפר נא לעוונות ולפשעים ולחטאים, שעוויתי ושפשעתי ושחטאתי לפניך, אני וביתי: ככתוב בתורת משה עבדך לאמור “כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם, לטהר אתכם: מכול, חטאותיכם, לפני ה’, תטהרו” (ויקרא טז,ל)

    On dof לו: the Gemara brings the famous מחלקת between Rabbi Meir and the Sages on the matter of a making a confession of dedication unto HaShem. R. Meir brings the language of Moshe, whereas the Sages bring the NaCH sources to support their opinion.
    אמר רבה בר שמואל, אמר רב, הלכה כדברי חכמים. פשיטא?! יחיד ורבים הלכה כרבים
    When does this כלל apply? In all rabbinic disputes. Hence the language of the Shemone Esrei does not bring within its language the rabbinic dedication unto HaShem. What separates and distinguishes a וידוי דרבנן from a וידוי דאורייתא? This distinction, perhaps it explains how the Rambam in his Book of Commandments includes tefilla as one of the 248 positive commandments.

    The B’hag, too held that tefilla qualifies as a mitzva from the Torah. It appears to me that the B’hag learns from oaths, based upon the other name for the Shemone Esei – Amida; the gemara of Shevuoth learns that a person has to stand before a Safer Torah to swear a Torah oath. To make a ברכה requires שם ומלכות. Why?

    The latter key terms of k’vanna (שם ומלכות) raise a lower order ‘praise’ to a higher order ‘blessing’. A blessing qualifies as the “offspring” of oaths. If so, how then did the B’hag learn the above quoted Mishna and Gemara? In קפ”ח הלכות יום הכיפורים the B’hag prioritizes the dedication of intent over the lower order of casting blood upon the altar. But there he does not elaborate the distinction between a וידוי דאוריית כנגד הוידוי דרבנן.

    Therefore, based upon the B’hag’s opinion wherein he lists lighting the lights of Hanukkah, lighting the lights of Shabbot, and reading Megillat Esther as mitzvot from the Torah. The logical דיוק made therefrom, that raising halachic rabbinic mitzvot to positive time oriented commandments, defines the k’vanna of making a וידוי דאורייתא.

    Hence all halachot affixed to a given Mishna, and that given Mishna, in its turn, affixed (as a consequence of learning either Aggadita or Midrashim, to ascertain prophetic mussar) to a specific blessing within the language of the Shemone Esrei … this k’vanna of dedication raise all rabbinic halachot unto positive time oriented commandments from the Torah. The term תרי”ג commandments takes on new meaning.


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