Yom Kippur 5780

Holiday #2 (264)
Yom Kippur 5780
Oct. 8 (sunset) - Oct. 9 (nightfall)
From the Chasidic MastersFrom the Kabbalists From Ascent Quarterly Laws & Customs

Come to ASCENT for Erev Yom Kippur ("kapparot" at dawn) and Yom Kippur

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    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

N.D. Kumer

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 former partner?

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 without suffering.

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



The ASCENT staff


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