By far, the most solemn event on the Jewish calendar is Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement. Like Rosh Hashanah 10 days earlier, the annual High Holy Day of Yom Kippur was instituted at God’s directive to Moses in the wilderness following Israel’s exodus from Egypt.
Austerely called “The Day,” Yom Kippur is the seventh feast listed in Leviticus 23 and the one commemoration that nearly all in the Jewish community observe.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Also the tenth day of this seventh month [Tishri] shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.
And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.
For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.
You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your Sabbath.”
Regardless of affiliation or religious conviction, most refrain from work as prescribed and “afflict their souls” by spending a 24-hour day (from sundown to sundown, plus one hour before and one hour after) fasting and/or attending five prayer services associated with the High Holy Day. (1)
The Psalms are recited at every possible moment and the Al Chet prayer of confession is said at least eight times during the course of the day.
YOM KIPPUR OCTOBER 6, 1973
Yom Kippur also marks the anniversary of one of the most devastating attacks ever perpetrated against the modern State of Israel and the subsequent demonstration of God’s miraculous protection.
It is not difficult to visualize how the cleverly planned stealth attack on Yom Kippur on October 6, 1973 had the potential to devastate the newly reborn state of Israel.
Because of the nature of the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur, all day-to-day activity in Israel was at a standstill. The Jewish community had not eaten since an hour before sundown the day before in observance of God’s directive.
Virtually all of Israel’s Jewish citizenry were attending High Holy Day services at their respective synagogues when Egypt and Syria simultaneously attacked in a joint strategy successfully kept hidden from the world.
It was a shock attack that commenced at 2:00 P.M. on Israel’s holiest day at a time Israel was most vulnerable—a strategy followed by Israel’s enemies to the present day.
Only a few Egyptian officers were aware that the “exercises” in which they participated were actually a prelude to war.
Suddenly, an Egyptian strike force of 240 fighter planes attacked positions in the Sinai and returned to their bases with all airstrikes taking place within 15 minutes. At the same time, 2000 Egyptian guns opened fire in an artillery barrage hammering Israeli positions for almost an hour; 10,000 artillery rounds pummeled the Israelis during the first minute. Simultaneously, 8,000 Egyptian troops crossed the Suez Canal in a push toward Israel’s border.
Egyptian war architects calculated their coordinated attacks would ensure 10,000 Israeli deaths by the end of the first day.
What these warmongers had not anticipated was the combined tenacity of the Israeli army and God’s watchcare.
In all, 208 Israeli soldiers—2.08% of the enemy’s projected mortality—gave their lives in preservation of the nation of Israel during the heat of battle.
While Egypt strengthened a grip on the Sinai, 1,400 tanks advanced across the Golan Heights systematically pushing back the Israeli defense.
That evening, Prime Minister Golda Meir reported the attack and addressed the nation—even as mobilization orders were broadcast. She concluded her remarks in a strong and resolute affirmation: “I have no doubt that no one will give in to panic. We must be prepared for any burden and sacrifice demanded for the defense of our very existence, our freedom and independence”. (2)
By midnight of October 6, 1973, 200,000 Israeli soldiers had been mobilized to confront as many as 850,000 Egyptian and 300,000 Syrian soldiers. Israel was outnumbered by a ratio of six to one.
The Israeli army fully mobilized on October 8, and at that point, the conflict changed as Israel began a counter attack. Two days later, Israeli armored divisions had regained the Golan Heights and pushed the Syrian tanks back to the lines from where they had launched their assault four days earlier leaving behind them a battlefield littered with the remnants of immobilized Syrian tanks.
On October 13, Egyptian reinforcements began crossing the Suez Canal and the following morning launched a principal attack. In some places, tanks battled at ranges closer than 100 yards. Israel lost 10 tanks that day, but destroyed 264 Egyptian tanks sending a severe blow—not only crippling Egypt’s fighting capabilities—but also enemy troop morale.
To the north, an Iraqi tank brigade had been brought into the battle threatening the flank of the Israeli attack. Before the end of the day, every one of those 80 tanks had been destroyed.
A second Iraqi tank brigade, sent to replace the first, was again effectively halted by an Israeli commando unit that destroyed the lead tank and blew up a bridge in its path.
While the war raged, Egypt and Syria received shipments of the latest arms and ammunition from the Soviet Union including surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank weaponry.
On October 13, after an impassioned plea from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, President Richard Nixon ordered the airlift of United States military supplies enabling Israel to continue its fight for survival in the face of overwhelming odds.
It has been often reported that as Golda Meir was pleading for help, President Nixon recalled a boyhood conversation with his Quaker mother who declared he would one day be in a position of influence to save Israel. Despite the fact that he was dealing with the Watergate Scandal, Nixon arranged to convey the arms that were so desperately needed to Prime Minister Meir.
Nixon prefaced his argument to supply aid to Israel saying, “We are going to get blamed just as much for three planes as for three hundred . . . Use every [plane] we have—everything that will fly.” (3) “Later in her life, Golda Meir would admit that upon hearing of the airlift during a cabinet meeting, she began to cry.” (4)
The battle raged on for nine more days as Israel defended borders and held tenaciously to territory gained in the fighting.
At 1:00 P.M. on October 22, Israel radio announced that a cease-fire was in effect on all fronts; and, for the first time in eighteen days, the blackout imposed upon Israel was lifted. That night the lights came back on again in Israel!
Casualties were heavy. When the battle was over, Israel’s death toll had climbed to 2,522—three times greater than that of the Six Day War.
The surprise attack on Yom Kippur 1973 endangered both Israel’s security and survival as a nation. There is no question the pusillanimous assault caught Israel unprepared.
The invading armies, however, were ignorant of not only God’s ability, but willingness to intervene on behalf of Israel whom He identifies as, “The apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:8). (5)
Although intelligence services of the world either missed or ignored the red-flag-warnings leading up to the Yom Kippur attack, God sees all. As the psalmist explains, “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:4).
As one Israeli Defense Force medic wrote, “For Jews who have lived through the Yom Kippur War, the holiest of the High Holy days will never be the same. For us, it stands not only as a day of atonement but as day of gratitude to God for the miracle of survival.” (6)
The State of Israel is a striking reminder that the vicious attacks of surreptitious enemies failed because God intervened to protect His Chosen People on the day when the nation was most vulnerable—the very day they seek His atonement.
The outcome of the Yom Kippur War is a historically documented example of the reciprocal action implied in God’s words to Abraham,” I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you” (Gen. 12:3). May we, as people of faith, take note.
1) Prayer services associated with Yom Kippur are as follows:
• Maariv with solemn Kol Nidrei (the actual prayer recited) at sundown,
• Shacharit, the morning prayer, featuring a reading from the book of Leviticus,
• Musaf that recounts the Yom Kippur Temple service,
• Minchah with the reading of the book of Jonah and
• Neilah, “the closing of the gates,” service—at sundown 24 hours later.
2) Martin Gilbert, Israel: a History (New York: Harper Perennial, 2008) 435.
3) Roger Stone, “EXCLUSIVE: How Richard Nixon Helped Save Israel (EXCERPT), the algemeiner, August 11, 2014.
5) While Christians can draw an application from this much quoted phrase, The apple of His eye, the context leaves no doubt that God is referring to the Jewish people—Israel.
6) Itzhak Brook, “A Struggle for Survival Against All Odds: The Yom Kippur War”, The Israel Forever Foundation, Archives.
1) Prayer on the Eve of Yom Kippur (circa. turn of the 19th – 20th century). This exquisite oil on canvas painting by Polish artist Jakub Weinles conveys the solemnity of the synagogue prayer service on the Eve of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Notice how the candlelight not only illuminates the setting, but draws attention to the introspective nature of the sacred observance of Yom Kippur. By Jakub Weinles (1870-1935). [PD-US, PD-Art], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios.
2) Pictured: Lt. Joshua Sherwin, Navy Chaplain, concludes the final service with the blast of the shofar signifying the breaking of the fast of Yom Kippur. By English: MC1 Gino Flores [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. With 40 plus years of ministry experience, Rev. McCracken is known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.