Seder HaAvodah (the Avodah Service) recalls the approach of the High Priest into the Holy of Holies and the sending off of the scapegoat into the wilderness. With the destruction of the Temple, sacrifices ceased, and the ancient rite of Yom Kippur came to an end. The sole means for effectuating national atonement—and ensuring that God’s presence would remain with the people—was suddenly gone. The Rabbis responded by substituting repentance (t’shuvah), prayer (t’filah), and charity (tzedakah) as the primary means for achieving atonement. Yet, the original ritual of Yom Kippur, with its religious drama culminating in national atonement, could not be entirely con- signed to ancient history. Seder HaAvodah as liturgy is one example among many of how the Rabbis adapted to their new and radically different reality and how words came to replace the very acts they described.
For about fifteen hundred years, the Avodah service of Yom Kippur has provided a historical link between the most ancient elements of Yom Kippur and our contemporary post-Temple observance. Seder HaAvodah reminds us of the origins of this most sacred day and serves to underscore both elements of continuity and discontinuity between that time and our contemporary practice.
Download the Pardes Companion to Yom Kippur, a collection of articles by Pardes faculty members to help prepare and guide you through the highlights of the Yom Kippur rituals and prayer service.
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