From the Kabbalists
Why do we mention so many times in the Yom Kippur (and daily throughout
the year!) confessional prayers that "our ancestors also sinned"?
It seems not nice.
There is the literal understanding that "ancestors" represent
the previous generations of our families, and then there is the spiritual
concept of "ancestors," in which they represent ourselves and
our own pasts. Spiritual ancestors refer both to our past lives and reincarnations,
as well as our own past in the life we are currently living.
The Hebrew word for "past" is "avar" and shares
the same root as "aveirah" meaning a transgression. The
concept is that what was done in the past is limited and not sufficient
for the present, let alone the future. We must look to our past for lessons
in improving ourselves, to ensure that our present be that much more productive.
No matter how great we were yesterday, if we haven't improved or done
more today, then we are still living in the past, meaning that we are
living in a state of transgression.
We are all familiar with people who are incapable of living in the present
state, and comfort themselves with their previous accomplishments. Yet
the past is almost irrelevant if it does not become a springboard for
active and changing work towards the future. Merely reminiscing as to
what one has done is a waste of time at best, and can lead to depression
at worst. And this is even a case where one's past is something positive.
The idea of focusing on the negative of one's past, is to recognize how
far we have come, and to inspire us to want to change. The fact that we
have been given another chance at life, despite all of our past failings,
should make us aware of our opportunity and ensure that we use all our
strengths to change that which was improper and live a life that we can
be proud of.
From the Chasidic Masters
The dynamics of forgiveness between human beings are different from the
dynamics of forgiveness between man and G-d. When a human being wrongs
another person and apologizes, the wronged party will find it difficult
to forgive him if he goes and does the exact same thing again; a third
or fourth time. But this is not the case with G-d. Because His forgiveness
is derived from the Divine attribute of mercy, which is endless and infinite,
there is no difference between a first and thousandth offense, provided
our repentance is sincere. (Tanya)
From Ascent Staff
Forgiving One Another
Almost all of modern psychotherapy encourages people to forgive those
who have hurt them. Achieving forgiveness may be a long process, but is
considered to be a crucial element to self-healing. But how can I forgive
people who have really hurt me? Certainly, forgiveness is not equated
with justifying a hurtful act as being commendatory.
In Judaism, forgiving another person is considered Divine, since G-d
Himself is the ultimate Forgiver. (And we are commanded not to bear a
grudge, and forbidden to hate any other Jewish person (except for certain
specific exceptions)). Just as there are numerous challenges to living
a truly spiritual life, learning to forgive is another obstacle that we
can learn to overcome.
Jewish mysticism teaches that everything that happens is under G-d's
guidance and supervision, and that 'nothing evil descends from Above',
meaning whatever happens can never be to a person's detriment. When we
consider the different tragedies and suffering that people face, this
may be hard pill to swallow. It is likely a concept that we can not rationally
fathom and must leave to the realm of faith in G-d.
Let's give an example of how someone can forgive: Jon's business partner
embezzled all of Jon's money leaving him bankrupt. As a result Jon's family
life suffered greatly, his business reputation was ruined, and he only
found work in minimal pay jobs. Needless to say, he was angry, resentful,
and guilt-ridden for having trusted his former partner. As an honest businessman,
he also upset seeing that dishonesty prospers. How can he forgive his
If Jon believes that everything in his life is directed by G-d, then
he knows losing his money could have been through any means (stock market
crashes, deals that backfire, natural disaster, etc.). The fact that his
former partner chose to be the vehicle for Jon's loss (and for which the
partner will surely be judged by G-d), is not Jon's concern. Going bankrupt
was part of G-d's plan for Jon.
How do we explain G-d's plan as being 'nothing evil'? Perhaps surviving
bankruptcy is G-d's way of teaching Jon to build his character and faith,
to strengthen his family ties as they struggle together, to lead him to
eventual greater wealth, to avoid severe spiritual punishments in the
afterlife, or to reconcile some unfinished business from a past incarnation,
or any number of other reasons. What we may perceive as bad, may in fact
be the best possible option for a person. If Jon will believe that his
loss was Divinely planned and for his benefit-and this may be a tremendous
leap of faith for him-then he will be able to forgive his former partner.
May G-d help us forgive others and strengthen our faith in Him, even
Some Laws and Customs
"Angels" in White
On Yom Kippur, the Jewish People ascend to a spiritual level normally
not accessible during the rest of the year. So sublime is our level of
sanctity on Yom Kippur, that rabbinic literature likens us to angels on
this holy day. Angels (or the more literal Hebrew translation, "[supernal]
messengers") are from a supernal spiritual plane beyond free-choice,
merit and sin, right and wrong; it is perhaps for this reason that, metaphorically,
angels are said to wear white garments, whose color is the source of all
other colors of the rainbow - before its refraction into the realities
of multiplicity and diffusion. Thus white, the color of supernal unity,
the color of the garments of the angels, is the traditional color of clothing
for most Jews on Yom Kippur, the holiest of our holy days, when, like
angels, we, too, do not eat or drink, and are immersed in spiritual matters.
According to Jewish mysticism, white is the color associated with G-d's
Essence (just as white in its essential state has not yet been dyed to
any other specific color, so too, G-d, at His Essence, is not expressing
Himself through any of His lower attributes). White as representative
of G-d's Essence relates to Yom Kippur since on this day we have the unique
ability to relate to G-d from our souls' essence to G-d's Essence.
Also, on Yom Kippur, we pray to G-d that "our sins should be white
as snow" (Isaiah 1:18), and in keeping with this theme we present
ourselves as worthy of such a state before the Heavenly Court.
Many married men have a tradition to wear specifically a white 'kittel'
(thin robe with a belt). One reason is that a kittel reminds us of the
white shrouds in which a dead person is dressed for burial. This instills
within us the consciousness of the fleeting nature of our earthly existence
and a deep sense of humility, and encourages us to sincerely repent.
(In many communities, women do not specifically wear white on Yom Kippur.
In some communities, men wear the white kittel also on Rosh Hashana, and
also for Hoshana Rabba for the lengthy morning prayers, and some do also
for the Seder night(s) of Passover.)
The color white corresponds to the level of Supernal Compassion, a level
that supercedes all of the created worlds, physical and spiritual. Certainly,
Yom Kippur is a time when we seek G-d's compassion, as we pray that He
seal us for a good and sweet new year.
"Out with the old year and its curses!
In with the new year and its blessings!"
L'shana Tova tikateiv v'tihateim
MAY YOU BE INSCRIBED AND
SEALED FOR A GOOD AND SWEET YEAR
OF HAPPINESS AND GROWTH!
The ASCENT staff
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