The days before Yom Kippur are the days of reflection, in which our eternal fate hangs in the balance. During these days of awe and self examination, all Israel stands before the Supreme Judge, wanting the assurance that our names have been inscribed in the Book of Life. If repentance is sincere we must be prepared to really allow God to examine our hearts and to bring to our awareness anything which is displeasing to Him. King David wrote, “Search me, O GOD, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts: and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Can we be assured of a part in the world to come no matter what choices we make? ‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered (atoned for). Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile’ (Psalm 32:1).
To be assured of forgiveness there has to be sincere repentance and fasting and a sacrifice of atonement according to the Torah:
“On the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be a holy gathering to you; and you shall afflict your souls, and present an offering made by fire to the LORD. And you shall do no work on that day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your GOD. (Leviticus 23:27)
While it is true that, “all Israel have a part in the world to come”, the Torah also gives solemn warning of many things for which a person would be cut off from the people of Israel, and hence no longer considered part of Israel:
- Anyone who does not deny himself on Yom Kippur will be cut off from his people. (Vayyiqra 23:30)
- Anyone who defies the Torah, despising the word of the LORD, shall be completely cut off – his guilt remains on him. (Bemidbar 15:30-31)
- Anyone who profanes the Sabbath shall be put to death. He shall be cut off from among his people. (Shemot 31:14)
- Anyone who consults mediums or spiritists will be cut off from among his people. (Vayyiqra 20:6)
What does it mean to be “cut off”?
Surely to be cut off is the opposite of having one’s name inscribed in the Book of Life. Cut off from what? The Torah speaks of being cut off from the people, from Israel, and from before the God of Israel. Rashi comments on Leviticus 22:3, that it cannot mean that the person will be forced to leave his native land, since the text adds ‘from before Me,’ i.e. from before God Who is omnipresent. Rabbi Obadiah Ben Jacob Sforno comments on Leviticus 20:5, “This must be an allusion to the world to come.” No person who defies the Torah can have any comfort or assurance in the promise that, “all Israel have a part in the world to come,” for in his rebellion he has been cut off from Israel.
Considering the seriousness of being cut off and the assurance that “all Israel have a part in the world to come,” what then constitutes all Israel?Rabbis who assure all Jews that they have a part in the world to come merely by virtue of their descent are giving false comfort. A person who has been cut off from Israel, unless they are redeemed, is no longer part of Israel. The seriousness of God’s judgement for transgressing the Torah cannot be underestimated.
At the end of days all will be raised, but not everyone’s name will be found in the book of life. The prophet Daniel wrote, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).
For what other reasons could the wicked be cut off from among God’s holy nation? King David says: “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself” (Psalm 4:3), but concerning his enemies he prayed, “May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous” (Psalm 69:28).
If David prayed that his enemies be blotted out from the book of life, what will become of those who are enemies of the Son of David, the Messiah, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom? This is something for which Israel will be called to give account:
The LORD said to Moshe, “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And it shall come to pass, that whoever will not hearken to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:19).
Quoting this to his Jewish brethren in reference to Jesus the Messiah, the apostle Peter said, “Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people” (Acts 3:23).
The LORD said through the prophet Isaiah, “But the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary, and a stone of offense, and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 8:13-14).
The Psalmist predicted the very same thing:’The stone which the builders rejected has become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.’ (Tehillim 118:22-23)
As predicted in the Scriptures, the Rabbis of modern Judaism, following the destruction of the temple which brought an end to Biblical Judaism, rejected the Messiah, the very Cornerstone of the faith of Israel. Isaiah prophesied this concerning the leaders of the people: ‘Therefore the LORD doth cut off from Israel head and tail, both branch and rush, in one day; the elder and the honourable man, he is the head; and the prophet that teaches lies, he is the tail. For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led by them are destroyed’ (Isaiah 9:14-16).
Nothing may be added to the Torah or taken away from it, yet the Rabbis assure you that you can redeem yourself and make atonement for your own sins through good deeds and repentance. Repentance is turning from your own way to follow God’s way.
How can we be sure of a place in the world to come? The LORD said, “I have set before thee life and death, blessings and cursing; therefore choose life…” (Deut. 30:19). If we live in perfect obedience to everything that is written in the Torah we will gain life. However, King Solomon wrote, “There is not a just man upon earth, that does good, and sins not”(Ecclesiasates 7:20). Even a righteous man like Daniel confessed: “All Israel have transgressed thy Torah, and have turned aside, so as not to obey thy voice” (Daniel 9:11). There are 613 commandments and by destroying the Temple God Himself has made it absolutely impossible for anyone to observe all of these commands. However, God has provided atonement for you, as he promised to do through the prophets, and it is not by your righteous acts, which the prophet Isaiah compares to filthy rags (64:6).
There is One who was cut off not on account of any transgression or sin of his own, but for our transgressions in order to make atonement for our sins: “For he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due … Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin…” (Isaiah 53:8,10).
You cannot redeem yourself. You cannot make atonement for your sins. Do you want an assurance that your name is inscribed in the Book of Life? Repent and turn to God and receive the atonement that he has provided through the Messiah.
Be comforted O Israel, the LORD’s mercy endures for ever. Jesus the Messiah, who is the resurrection and the life, the Holy One of Israel, the Redeemer, still says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
He has made atonement for your sins and will remember your sins no more according to the promise of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
“May your name be inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”