FROM THE CHASSIDIC MASTERS
“We are before You [now, this day,] as a
vessel filled with embarrassment and shame.” [Yom Kippur Confession - end]
We are comparable to filthy vessels that require hard scraping
and cleansing, but so long as the vessel itself is whole, it is always possible
to thoroughly clean it.
Rabbi Shlomo Rokeach of Belz
FROM THE KABBALISTS OF ZEFAT
occurs by G-d’s grace; purification by dint of one's own efforts. Although
Yom Kippur brings with it atonement and forgiveness, its ultimate objective is
that you “purify yourselves before G-d,” inside and out, by your own efforts,
even in those matters visible only to G-d Himself.
Rabbi Moshe Alshech
(based on Ascent Quarterly #16)
Yom Kippur has been on the Jewish calender for 3324 years, starting with
10 Tishrei 2449 (1312 BCE), when Moses descended from Mt. Sinai bearing
the second set of the Tablets of Law and bringing word of G-d's forgiveness
of the Golden Calf incident. Ever since, G-d's mercy and forgiveness
has been an integral part of this day. Sensitivity to this theme
of Yom Kippur yields an unshakeable feeling of confidence in G-d's mercy,
providing an upbeat counterpoint to the seriousness of the day.
The Talmud declares that the inherent holiness of Yom Kippur in itself
effects atonement, but in order to benefit from this, a certain level
of participation on our part is required. The three principle modes for
our efforts are: TESHUVAH, TEFILLAH AND TZEDAKAH, which will be explained
The basic meaning of the term teshuvah is to return to G-d with all of one's
heart and soul, and to serve Him and keep all His commandments. Yet teshuvah
can take place on varying levels, from actual remorse for severe transgressions
to subtle self-refinement that leads to lofty spiritual growth.
is a return to one's true essence, which for a Jew means living in accordance
with G-d's will as revealed in the Torah. Fulfillment of the mitzvah of
repentance requires simply the confessing of one's transgressions, accompanied
by a sincere resolve never to repeat them. This cleansing experience is
exhilarating for some, alienating or depressing for others; but, in any case,
this is not what Yom Kippur is supposed to be all about. Therefore, it should
be initiated well in advance (ideally in Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah)
and completed before Yom Kippur.
"Higher teshuvah" goes much further.
It requires a primary identification with one's soul rather than one's body and
moving (returning!) towards increasing closeness with G-d. Needless to say,
no time is more suitable for this than the holiest of holy days, Yom Kippur.
Oral confession, in the form of the
Al Cheit prayer, is both the initial stage of teshuvah and the focal point
of the Yom Kippur prayer services. It is recited at ten different times
during the course of the holiday. One reason is that as Yom Kippur progresses
and we become more refined and wish to be closer to G-d, we are better able to
perceive our flaws and more sincerely seek to improve the relationship.
five levels of the soul — nefesh, ruach, neshamah, chayah, and yechidah
— correspond to the five prayer services prescribed for the day: Ma'ariv, Shacharit,
Musaf, Minchah, and Ne'ilah. They also relate to the five forms
of abstinences obligatory on Yom Kippur (see below). These physical restrictions
enable innate spiritual powers to gain expression.
Yechidah, the fifth and
and most exalted level of the soul, constitutes the essential bond between the
soul and G-d, transcending all limitations and boundaries. On Yom Kippur, the
innate level of yechidah is accessible to every Jew; through concentrated effort
in the prayers, and in the purification of thought, speech, and deed, a person
may reach this highest of levels.
may not be handled on Yom Kippur, tzedakah is given liberally on the days before
and especially on the day preceding Yom Kippur. The merit of charity is
a shield against evil decrees. It is said that the jingling of the coins of charity
given on the day preceding Yom Kippur creates such a great clamor in Heaven that
all of the forces of impurity together cannot stand in their way.
Some Laws and Customs -
THE FIVE ABSTENTIONS
A distinctive feature
of Yom Kippur is its designation in the Torah as both a 'Sabbath' and a
fast day. Fasting on Yom Kippur (from before sunset until after dark
the following night), which the Torah expresses with the term ‘affliction,’ is
a broader concept than a mere abstention from food and drink. The Sages
(see Yoma 76a-77b) derive from Biblical exegesis that affliction implies abstention
from five activities: (a) eating and drinking; (b) washing one's
body; (c) anointing oneself with oils; (d) wearing leather shoes;
and (e) marital relations. In addition, all labors that are forbidden
on the Sabbath are forbidden on Yom Kippur as well. (from
"Out with the old year and its curses!
In with the new year and its blessings!"
Tova tikateiv v'tihateim
MAY YOU BE INSCRIBED AND SEALED
FOR A GOOD AND SWEET YEAR
HAPPINESS AND GROWTH!
The ASCENT staff
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