In What Year Did Israel Not Keep Yom Kippur?
We learn in the Bible that there is one instance when Yom Kippur was not observed in Israel!
In the year when King Solomon finished building the Temple and celebrated its dedication,
we learn from the Bible that the festivities continued for 14 consecutive days. As it is
written, “And Solomon celebrated together with all the people of Israel fourteen days.” Yom
Kippur was one of those days! The famed sage Rashi writes: “We find that they ate and drank
on Yom Kippur!”
The Gemara, part of the rabbinical commentaries in the Talmud, recounts: “That year, Israel
did not keep the Day of Atonement. And they were worried about it and said: ‘Why should the
haters of Israel be allowed to punish us? A daughter of Zion lifted up her voice and said to
them: ‘All of you are invited to enter the life of the next world.’” In other words, it was
understood that missing Yom Kippur that year would be covered.
But how was it excusable not to keep the holiest day of the Jewish calendar? “Only if you
understand that Yom Kippur is atoning for the previous year, for all 12 months that went before,
can you clarify this amazing fact,” (that Yom Kippur was not practiced) writes Rabbi Yoel
Ben-Nun the founder of Gush Emunim, an Israeli Orthodox Jewish movement committed to establishing
Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. “One could not
make atonement for impurities that had occurred in the Holy Place (crucial to begin the atonement
ceremony) because the Temple had not yet been operating during the previous year” (thus there
could not be anything to atone for). “Therefore,” explains the rabbi, “during the celebrations
of Solomon’s Dedication of the Temple it was impossible to observe Yom Kippur!