Yom Kippur 5781

Holiday #2 (245)

Yom Kippur 5781

September 27-28

From the Holy Ari of SafedFrom the KabbalistsFrom the Rebbes of ChabadSome Laws and Customs

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From the Holy Ari of Safed

When one returns in Teshuva, he releases all the holiness that he put into the forces of evil and returns them to holiness. This is [true] repentance, that one restores a thing to its rightful place. His reward [for doing so] is multiplied greatly because he subdues the forces of evil and releases the holiness from within them. He [thus] gives power to holiness when he brings it inside himself. With this will we understand what our Sages have taught (Yoma 86b) that, "one's sins are turned into one's merits."
(Sha'ar HaYihudim 3, 11, 40b)

From the Kabbalists

"For on this day he (the High Priest) will provide atonement for you to purify you." [Lev. 16:30]

This verse is an assurance for Jews throughout the generations that the Day of Atonement is a day set aside especially for forgiveness and pardon. When the High Priest used to recite his confessional on Yom Kippur, he would recite this verse in his prayer. The name of G-d referred to in this verse is the one comprised of 42 letters. However, some of our sages believe that Aaron mentioned the tetragramaton (and not the 42-lettered name of G-d during his prayer). Rabbi Saadyah Gaon belongs to that group of scholars.
We feel that the first opinion, that the 42-lettered name of G-d was used by the High Priest, is likely the correct one. This is why in our liturgy of Yom Kippur the wording is: "when the people outside the Temple heard the High Priest utter the holy name of G-d etc., they would prostrate themselves and proclaim G-d's majesty," using the words we use daily after the first line of the Kriyat Shma, i.e., "Blessed be the name of His glorious Majesty forever and ever." When the composer of this piece of liturgy wrote "in holiness and purity" he did not mean that the people would pronounce the tetragram as the High Priest had done. He meant that the thoughts of reverence filling the minds of the people at that moment were holy and reverent but they had not heard the tetragram pronounced.
This is also the meaning of the Kabbalists when they said that "the names of G-d are not actually uttered in holiness but the person thinking about them is filled with holy thoughts when he does so." The idea seems to be that the very air into which such words would be exhaled when someone utters them by mouth will contaminate the holiness of that name. If that were to happen the Holy Name of the Lord would have been desecrated. This is why even the High Priest when he started to form the letters of the tetragram with his lips immediately "swallowed" it, not allowing the fully formed word to escape into the air around him.

Selected from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rebbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.

From the Rebbes of Chabad

Locked In

One of the fundamental elements in the service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur was his entry into the Holy of Holies. It is written of this entry: "No man shall be in the Tent of Meeting." The Jerusalem Talmud states that this applies even to those about whom it is said, "The likeness of their face is like the face of a man," i.e., the Holy Chayot, the highest level of angels. When the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies, not even the angels may be present. This implies that Yom Kippur involves the essential bond between G-d and the Jewish people, as represented by the High Priest who serves as their agent; "Israel is alone with G-d."

The High Priest also entered the Holy of Holies in the era of the Second Temple as well, even when the Holy Ark was not there. It is as if the High Priest entered into a bond with G-d that is above even the level of engraved letters in the Torah.

There is a level of teshuvah mandated by the Torah and a level of teshuvah above the Torah. The teshuvah mandated by the Torah reflects dimensions of the soul and of G-d which are revealed. The teshuvah which transcends the Torah, by contrast, points to how the soul is bound up with G-d's essence, and is above all revelation.

In the era of the Temples, the Jews' essential bond with G-d was revealed through the entry of the High Priest into the Holy of Holies. Our Sages teach that our prayers take the place of the sacrifices. As such, it is our prayers which today express this connection.

Yom Kippur is the only day of the year on which we are obligated to recite five different prayer services. These five services reflect the five levels of the soul: nefesh, ruach, neshamah, chayah, and yechidah. Neilah, the fifth prayer service, which is recited only on Yom Kippur, thus reflects the level of yechidah, the aspect of the soul which is bound to G-d with singular oneness. At this level, nothing besides G-d and the souls of Israel is of concern.

This is the mystical meaning of the word neilah - (that the gates are) locked: no one else is allowed in. The Jewish people are alone with G-d!

This degree of connection is revealed in the Neilah prayer. In a more general sense, however, it applies throughout the day of Yom Kippur too, for Yom Kippur is "a day on which five prayer services are required." Although each service has its time (the evening service, the morning service, etc.), the entire day is "a day on which five prayer services are required," i.e., the fifth level, the level of yechidah shines throughout the day.

(Adapted from a talk and a discourse by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 5723)

Some Laws and Customs



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 Artscroll)


"Out with the old year and its curses!

In with the new year and its blessings!"

L'shana Tova tikateiv v'tihateim



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