Yes, you read that correctly. I am looking forward to Yom Kippur. Why? Because it is a time that YHWH designated as different from the rest of the year. He made it distinct from the other set apart days. Yom Kippur is worth celebrating and we should be excited about it.
I don't want to give you the idea that I've always felt this way. Yom Kippur used to be a day of trepidation and dread for me. An entire day without eating and drinking? That doesn't exactly sound like a joy. But it is.
It is important to know that Yom Kippur (like the rest of YHWH's festivals) is not a "Jewish holiday." While the majority of those who observe Yom Kippur may be Jewish, YHWH's intention was not to create festivals and set apart times only for a tiny fraction of His people. Yom Kippur is for all of YHWH's people, whether or not they are from the tribe of Judah.
Yom Kippur is such a strong reminder of how upside-down YHWH's ways are from what we know. It's one of those things that sounds a lot like, Blessed are the poor.... It's something totally backwards from our culture. Interestingly, YHWH deliberately placed an all-day fast in the middle of harvest season. Not eating for a day would make a little more sense in say, February, when most of us haven't seen a plant growing in months. But right now? I have tomatoes and squash in the garden, fresh peaches and a huge watermelon on my counter, just canned jars of salsa and applesauce that need put away, a bowl of peppers that need to be frozen, and a huge pile of greens that need to be dealt with. Food is in abundance right now in most of the world, and if you grow your own you're well aware of what needs picked and how you're going to freeze or store the rest. We would never pick this as the time to fast. It doesn't make sense not to partake in the good things we have. This doesn't seem like it's the best time to fast. But it is.
Why should we be excited about an all day fast?
We should have joy that we have this instruction from YHWH. In Nehemiah 8 Ezra read the Torah scroll to those in Jerusalem; many heard it for the first time and wept. While the text doesn't give a specific reason for the crying, we can surmise that they were mourning that they had not been keeping the instructions of YHWH. In Nehemiah 8:10 it says, "This day is kadosh to our YHWH: neither be sorry; for the simcha of YHWH is your strength." Don't be sad or regret this. This day is set apart to YHWH. He will give you gladness. Our greatest joy is being able to keep YHWH's word.
We are no longer dependent on the blood of animals. While we praise YHWH for providing the Levitical temple system as a temporary appeasement for our ancestors, we can be joyful that Yeshua has once and for all provided the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
It is a day of forgiveness. On Yom Kippur we should spend time in prayer asking for forgiveness and forgiving others. It is a joyous thing to be forgiven of the sins we have done. We should be happy to let go of the burden of unforgiveness against others as well.
Yeshua praises fasting. He taught that fasting, when not done to impress others, would be rewarded. Yeshua also famously fasted for forty days. One day doesn't seem so hard when we remember that.
Fasting is used to make teshuvah. In Joel 2:12 YHWH says, "Make teshuvah to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and mourning." We can use this day of fasting to return to YHWH in all areas of our lives and repent of the wrong paths that we have been on.
It gives us compassion for those with less than us. Some 800 million people, or more than 10% of the earth don't have enough food to lead a healthy life. Going without food, even for one day gives us a tiny idea of what it's like to really be hungry.
We can focus on YHWH. My favorite part of the all day fast is how much more time it gives me for study and prayer. I don't need to make lunch or keep going to the kitchen for water or figure out what to have for a snack. Each year it surprises me how much of our time is spent preparing and consuming our meals. A day set apart for Scripture reading with no distractions is okay with me.
For these reasons we can have gladness in our hearts during Yom Kippur. Why will you be joyous?