KIPPUR: SELECTED THOUGHTS
Kippur, the tenth of Tishri, is the holiest day on the Jewish
calendar and the culmination of the Ten Days of Teshuvah, which
began on Rosh Hashonah. On
Yom Kippur, Moshe came down from Mt. Sinai bearing the second
tablets, after G-d had forgiven Israel for the sin of worshipping
the Golden Calf. This
act of Divine pardon marked Yom Kippur for all time as the Day of
Atonement and reconciliation with G-d.
For on this day G-d purifies us from our errors, forgives
our missteps and turns His ears to our pleas.
As the Torah states, “through this day, [G-d] will atone
for you, to cleanse you from all your sins; before G-d shall you
cleanse yourselves.” (Leviticus
16:30). Yom Kippur
also commemorates, Rabbi
Eliezer teaches, Abraham circumcising himself at G-d’s
request. Abraham’s remarkable act symbolizes the quintessential
human drive to refine and perfect ourselves, to transform our
physical bodies and drives into uplifted spiritual vessels.
Sources: Essence of
the Holy Days; Aish HaTorah Online
THE FIVE AFFLICTIONS OF YOM KIPPUR
On Yom Kippur, we are required to abstain from five forms
of physical pleasure: (1) eating and drinking; (2) washing and
bathing; (3) applying oils or lotions; (4) wearing shoes
containing leather; and (5) marital relations.
The five afflictions correspond to the five books of the
Torah (which we accept without being deterred by our physical
pleasures); to the five senses (with which we keep the
commandments or, G-d forbid, commit transgressions); to the five
times that the term nefesh
(soul) is mentioned in the Yom Kippur Torah reading; to the five
immersions of the Kohein Gadol (High Priest) on Yom Kippur; and to
the five services ordained for Yom Kippur (Maariv,
Shacharit, Mussaf, Minchah and Ne’ilah).
Source: Teshuvot Maharil; The Book of Our Heritage
By fasting on Yom Kippur, we resemble angels, who have no
natural functions and continually sing hymns of praise to G-d.
(As the Maharal of
Prague writes, “all of the mitzvahs that G-d commanded us on
[Yom Kippur] are there to remove, as much as possible, a
person’s relationship to physicality, until he/she is like an
Simpson Raphael Hirsch explains that by giving up life’s
physical pleasures and refraining from work on Yom Kippur, we are
living for 24 hours as if we were dead, thereby affirming that
this is the fate we deserved if
G-d had not granted us forgiveness for our past.
Without G-d’s gift of atonement, we would have forfeited
both our right to live (symbolized by the five afflictions) and
our right to create (symbolized by the work prohibition).
Commentary on the Pentateuch.
Throughout the year, many of us spend our days focusing on
almost nothing else besides food, sex, work, superficial material
possessions (symbolized by our shoes) and superficial pleasures
(symbolized by anointing). On Yom Kippur, we restore our priorities to what really
counts in life. Source: Aish HaTorah Online.
The indispensable condition for attaining atonement is teshuvah, “repentance” (or “return”). It is G-d’s priceless gift to us, enabling us to rise after
we have stumbled, to wipe the slate clean and return to G-d after
we have gone astray. It is a positive commandment to repent before
Yom Kippur, as the verse (Vayikra 16:30) states “Purify
yourselves before G-d.” Chazal
teach that teshuvah came
into existence before the world was created; that is, even before
Creation, G-d envisioned the possibility that we would commit evil
and provided us the remedy of teshuvah,
through which we can be reconciled with our Creator.
teaches that teshuvah is
so magnificent that it has the potential of propelling the baal
teshuvah to the immediate nearness of G-d (in fact, as close
to G-d as the Heavenly throne).
Teshuvah further brings healing to the entire world, and advances
the redemption. Source: Yoma 86a, b.
In doing Teshuvah,
we should be especially careful to first rectify those matters
that concern interpersonal relationships, for in such matters
neither Yom Kippur or even death can atone until we undo the wrong
done to others. We
must first obtain our fellow human beings’ pardon, whereupon all
that remains is between us and G-d (and, for this, Teshuvah
Book of Our Heritage
Kol Nidre, the introduction to the Yom Kippur service,
dates back to sixteenth-century Spain.
The Kol Nidre is a declaration by which personal vows are
cancelled (it is recited before sunset since it contains a formula
for the repealing of general vows and we do not absolve vows on
Shabbos or Yom Tov). Kol
Nidre impresses upon us the seriousness with which the Torah views
both the fulfillment of one’s commitment and the keeping of
one’s word. In
Kol Nidre, we make this statement: “I realize that if I have
made any verbal commitments, if I gave my word on anything, then
without recourse to some higher authority there is no backing out.
My word is my word – period.
My word locks into place a reality that I can no longer
undo. That reality
– that word – binds me.”
On Yom Kippur, “we take a searing look inside.
We ask ourselves – who can count on my word?
Can my children? My spouse? My friends? My boss?
Can G-d? Can I? Without
credibility, we have nothing.
With it – we have everything.”
Source: Rosh Hashonah/Yom Kippur Survival Kit; The Book of Our Heritage;
Essence of the Holy Days
VIDDUY (THE CONFESSIONAL PRAYER)
The two principal themes of Yom Kippur – Teshuvah
and Vidduy (confession)
are inextricably linked; the penitent must verbally confess sin.
The Vidduy is
said in plural because all Jews are responsible for one another (Shevuot
39a). The Vidduy is
recited ten times on Yom Kippur, reflecting the Ten Commandments
which we violated.
The sins in the Vidduy appear in alphabetical order as
a memory aid and to rectify the effects of our misdeeds on the 22
sacred letters with which the Torah was written.
The question is often asked, “it is fitting to recount
our sins when we stand on the holiest of days before our holy and
awesome King?” “Doesn’t
this litany merely ‘soil’ us before Hashem as we await
Judgment?” The very
opposite is true! Hashem
rejoices when we expel the impurities within us.
While we see only the external in others, G-d looks to the
innermost recesses of our heats to search for purity; there He
finds joy even if his palace is dirtied when we cast off our sins.
The Book of Our Heritage; Essence of the Holy Days.
WHITE GARMENTS / KITTEL
It is customary to wear white garments on Yom Kippur,
in emulation of the ministering angels.
Many men wear a kittel, a white robe worn over clothing. The kittel, which
is similar to the burial shroud, reminds us of our mortality and
the need for teshuvah. Also, the kittel does
not have any pockets, reminding us that when we depart this world,
we are accompanied only by our good name (and not by our material
Book of Our Heritage
Our Sages ordained that children should remember the souls
of their departed parents when praying on the Festivals.
At that time, they should pledge charity on behalf of the
departed souls, to serve as a source of merit and enable the souls
to ascend even higher. This
prayer, Yizkor, is
recited on Yom Kippur (it is also recited on the last day of
Pesach, Shavuos and on Shemini Atzeres).
The Yizkor prayer is considered to be of greater
significance on Yom Kippur, for the very essence of the day is the
quest for mercy, forgiveness and atonement, which are necessary
for both the departed and living.
Moreover, their children observing mitzvos and giving
charity after they have departed shows that the parents’
strength endures through their children’s deeds, and it is as if
the parents were still living and practicing such acts.
The Book of Our
TORAH / HAFTORAH READINGS
The Torah reading for Yom Kippur differs from that of all
the other Festivals: 6, not 5, men are called to the Torah; plus,
three men are called up at Minchah (the afternoon service) as on a
Shabbos (but not as on the other Festivals).
The Torah reading for Shacharit relates to the High
Priest’s Yom Kippur Service in the Tabernacle and Temple.
The first verse mentions the death of Nadav and Avihu,
which is a powerful call for us to do teshuvah.
The Haftorah reading from Isaiah exhorts us to demonstrate
the sincerity of our fast by “sharing our bread with the hungry
and taking the wretched poor to our home.”
The Torah reading for Minchah, which deals with incestuous
and other forbidden sexual relationships, reminds us to avoid
being complacent even when we have reached a high level of
holiness; if we are not constantly on guard, we can be overcome by
our passions and ensnared by temptation.
The Haftorah, from the Book of Jonah, demonstrates that
sincere teshuvah can
revoke even the harshest decree of G-d.
Essence of the Holy
NElLAH (THE CONCLUDING SERVICE)
As you begin Neilah, “Ask yourself – if I could accomplish
only one step of growth today, what would it be?
Neilah is the time to make sure that if you achieve nothing
else – though you surely will – that at least one step of
growth will now become a lasting part of who you are.
Who you will forever be.”
Kippur Survival Kit.
TWO PARTING STORIES
Not Too Late. Rav
Yisroel Salanter once went to a shoemaker to have his shoes
repaired. The hour
was late and darkness had already descended.
Noticing that the candle by which the shoemaker was working
was burning out, Rav Salanter suggested that he perhaps could wait
until the next day to fix the shoes. “Do not despair,” the shoemaker replied.
“As long as the candle burns, it is still possible to fix
the shoes.” As
long as the spark of life still flickers in us, we can still
repair our ways. (Source:
the Moment of Light. The
legend is told of two people – one wise and one foolish – who
were lost in the forest on a moonless night.
They wandered for hours, seemingly only going deeper and
deeper into the woods. Suddenly,
a flash of lightning as bright as the sun lit up the sky.
The fool gaped in wonderment, while the wise one used the
moment of light to gain his bearings and discover the route out of
the forest. Yom
Kippur is like that flash of lightning.
May the effects illuminate our year, and our lives for
years to come. (Source: Aish HaTorah