A Guide to High Holiday Thought

What do the rabbis tell us about the following key theological themes? And what can we learn from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament understanding? This chart will help you prepare your heart for the High Holidays.
Justification Definition: To be just or conformable to law, justice, right or duty.Justification can also be seen as 1) the act, process or state of being justified by God or 2) the act or an instance of justifying: vindication or 3) something that justifies. To justify has two senses: in the transitive senses it means or 1) to prove or show to be just, right or reasonable; 2) to show to have had a sufficient legal reason or 3) to qualify (oneself) as a surety by taking oath to the ownership of sufficient property; 4) to judge, regard, or treat as righteous and worthy of salvation. It is also used in the archaic: to administer justice to or to absolve. In the intransitive senses it means 1) to show a sufficient lawful reason for an act done or 2) to qualify as bail or surety. God will justify us through repentance, prayer and obedience to the Law or acts of charity (i.e. teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah). He is the Judge of the Whole Earth. His Judgments are always just (Aboth IV.29). He cannot be flattered or bribed (Ber. 28b). He is not arbitrary in his judgments (Num R. III.2). His compassion is always victorious over stern judgment (Gen R. VIII.4). Some say that God justifies as a result of maintaining a Jewish identity and betterment of self and society. The term “righteous” in Dan. 12:3 is used in Aboth 5:26,27 as “to make righteous” or “turn to righteousness.” The noun “justification” is not in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, the verbal form is translated from the root tsa-deek, which means rightness; righteousness; that which is right, just, normal.To impute or make a judgment refers to both God and man. Shimei beseeches David not to “impute” sin to him (2 Sam. 19:20); Abraham believed God and God accounted (imputed) it to him for righteousness (Gen. 15:6). A judge’s decision must be according to truth and without partiality (Lev. 19:5). It also applies to weights and measures (Lev. 19:36). The sense is of “not deviating from the standard” and just therefore covers ethics, forensics and theocracy. The verb translated “justify” can have the nuance of “declare innocent, acquit” (Is. 53:11; Ex. 23:7, Deut. 25:1; 1 Kings 8:32; Is. 5:23), “administer justice, vindicate” (2 Sam. 15:4; Ps. 82:3; Is. 50:8), “recognize as in the right” (Job 27:5), and “lead toward righteousness”(Dan. 12:3) The judicial act of God, by which He pardons all the sins of those who believe in Yeshua, and treats those individuals as righteous in the eye of the law, i.e., as conformed to all its demands. In addition to the pardon of sin, justification declares that all the claims of the law are satisfied in respect of the justified. The law is not relaxed or set aside, but is declared to be fulfilled; so the person justified is declared entitled to all the advantages and rewards arising from perfect obedience to the law (Rom. 5:1-10). It proceeds on the crediting to the believer by God himself of the perfect righteousness of Messiah (Rom. 10:3-9). Justification is not the forgiveness of a person without righteousness, but a declaration that the redeemed person possesses a righteousness that perfectly and forever satisfies the law, namely, Messiah’s righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 4:6-8). The sole condition on which this righteousness is imputed or credited to the believer is faith in Messiah.
Redemption Definition: The act of redeeming, or the condition of having been redeemed; repurchase; release; ransom; rescue. Deliverance on payment of ransom; as, redemption of prisoners taken in war or salvation from sin. That one day the Jewish people will be vindicated. The Day of the Lord is a day when Israel’s enemies will be vanquished. The merit or faith of our Fathers “earns” the preservation of our people. In the literature of the rabbis, redemption is an idea that is more developed in regard to performing or the act, not as a concept. The verb goel can be used in respect to the part of a kinsman (to do the part of a next of kin), the force of ransom by payment of value assessed, of consecrated things by the original owner (Lev. 27). God redeems as part of his covenant relationship (Ps. 103). The Hebrew verb padah means ransom, but it is also translated as redemption. One can be ransomed from bondage, from exile, from inequities. The land can be ransomed.The common usage in the Psalms and Prophets is that God is Israel’s Redeemer who will stand up for His people and vindicate them. The primary meaning of the root goel is to do the part of a kinsman and redeem relatives from danger or difficulty. The best-known example of redemption of the poor is in the story of Ruth. Another instance can be found in Job 19:25, when he refers to the work of God as a kinsman who will ultimately redeem Job from the dust of death. The procuring of God’s favor by the sufferings and death of Messiah; the ransom or deliverance of sinners from the bondage of sin and the penalties of God’s violated law. The Greek word is apolutrosis, a word occurring nine times in Scripture, always with the idea of a ransom or price paid, i.e., redemption (see Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45). The idea running through the NT is that of payment made for our redemption. The debt against us is not viewed as simply canceled, but is fully paid. Messiah’s blood or life, which He surrendered for us, is the “ransom” by which he deliverance of His people from bondage and slavery to sin and from its consequences is secured.
Atonement Definition: Reconciliation; restoration of friendly relations; agreement; concord. Satisfaction or reparation made by giving an equivalent for an injury, or by doing of suffering, which will be received in satisfaction for an offense or injury; expiation; amends or the discharge of a legal obligation or claim; vindication. Atonement is normally seen as outcome of genuine repentance. The sinner atones for wrongdoing through repentance. Atonement can come through suffering (Ber. 5a). The synagogue ritual is a path to purification. Joma VIII.8 indicates that the Day of Atonement is needed for more serious sins and repentance covers “light transgressions.” No amount of prayer or confession will secure atonement without a change of conduct. Like redemption, atonement is more fully developed in the rabbinic literature with regard to performing or the act, not as a concept. The meaning of the word is simply at-one-ment (i.e., the state of being at one or being reconciled) so that atonement is reconciliation. Divine forgiveness required payment. Man, by his sin, owed his life as a forfeit to God, so God provided through animal sacrifice. Relief was provided and sins forgiven on the basis of the word of a faithful God and his approved substitute as well as the internal state of the penitent’s heart.The word kaphar means to cover over; to make reconciliation; to appease. This Hebrew root can be used of washing away or obliteration of sin. The purpose of the covering is stated in Lev. 16:30and Num. 8:21. The idea of cleansing is central to these passages. Underlying the offerings for sin in these chapters is the concept that the individual’s offerings are covered by that which is regarded as satisfactory by the Lord. It is used to denote the effect that flows from the death of Messiah. By the atonement of Messiah we generally mean His work of cleansing us from our sins. But in Scripture usage the word denotes the reconciliation itself, and not the means by which it is affected. When speaking of Messiah’s saving work, the word “satisfaction” is preferred to the word “atonement.” Messiah’s satisfaction is all He did on behalf of sinners to satisfy the demands of the law and justice of God. As a result of His suffering and obedience our Sin is covered. Atonement is the consequence of God’s love in action (John 3:16; Rom. 3:24, 25; Eph. 1:7; 1 John 1:9; 4:9). The atonement may also be regarded as necessary, not in an absolute, but in a relative sense, i.e., if man is to be saved, there is no other way than this which God has devised and carried out (Ex. 34:7; Josh. 24:19; Ps. 5:4; 7:11; Nahum 1:2, 6; Rom. 3:5).
Repentance Definition: Remorse or contrition for past conduct or sin. The act of repenting, or the state of being penitent; sorrow for what one has done or omitted to do; especially contrition for sin Given by God even before the world was formed (Pes. 54a). Without it mankind could not endure and wickedness would abound. It stems and neutralizes the tide of evil. “There is nothing greater than Repentance” (Deut R. II.24). The God of Israel is always open to receive penitents (Deut R. III.2). Death cannot bring atonement unless it is preceded by repentance (Joma VIII.8). The Day of Atonement of itself does not provide repentance (Joma VIII.9). The Hebrew shuvmeans to turn back, return (Ezek 14:6; 18:30). The Hebrew nacham means to be sorry, to regret, to comfort. If the Lord “repents,” nacham is used, not shuv. Shuv is used in an ironic sense (Is. 11:10) to illustrate that the people’s actual response was diametrically opposed to the Lord’s intent. In several passages it refers to a turning back to God (repentance). However, it also appears in Is. 34:15-16in speaking of both the people’s short-lived repentance and their turning back to their former unjust practice. Repentance consists of 1) a true sense of one’s own guilt and sinfulness; 2) an apprehension of God’s mercy; 3) an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6;) and turning from it to God; and 4) a persistent endeavor after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of His commandments. The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps. 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he sees himself to be just what God has always seen him to be. But repentance points out not only such a sense of sin, but also of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps. 51:1; 130:4). There are three Greek words used in the New Testament to denote repentance: 1) The verb metamelomai means a change of mind, such as to produce regret or even remorse on account of sin, but not necessarily a change of heart. It is used with reference to the repentance of Judas (Matt. 27:3); 2) metanoeo, which means to change one’s mind and purpose. This verb, with 3) the cognate noun metanoia, is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised.