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18 Issue #1
Yom Kippur יום כפור
10 Tishrei 5774
The Dual Nature of Yom Kippur
The haftarah of shacharit on Yom Kippur, drawn mostly from Yeshayah 58, is known for discussing the pitfalls of insincere fasting and describing what an acceptable yom inuy consists of. Bnei Yisrael complain to Yeshayah that they have fasted and afflicted themselves, but Hashem has seemingly ignored them. Hashem responds that although Bnei Yisrael may pretend that they are righteous, in fact on the very day that they are fasting they are spiritually negligent – they simply continue to go about their business and fight with one another. In 58:5, Hashem poignantly criticizes Bnei Yisrael:
Yisrael’s teshuvah and will remove their pain. Verse 19 declares that “Hashem has declared peace for the near and the far.” The end of the haftarah (58:13-14) seems to, almost randomly, discuss Shabbat:
,שי ִ ק ְד ָּ שבָּ ת ַּׁרגְ לֶָך עֲ ׂשוֹת חֲ פָּ צֶ יָך בְ י וֹם ַּׁ מ ִ שיב ִת ָּ אם ִ" ו ֹ מכֻבָּ ד וְ כִ בַּׁ ְדת ְ קד וֹש יְה וָּ ה ְ ִענֶג ל ֹ ַּׁשבָּ ת ַּׁ ת ל ָּ ק ָּרא ָּ ְו תעַּׁ נַּׁג עַּׁ ל ְת ִ ָאז:דבָּ ר ָּ דבֵ ר ַּׁ ְצָך ו ְ ְמצוֹא חֶ פ ְמ ִ מֵ עֲ ׂשוֹת ְד ָּרכֶיָך תיָך ִ ְ וְ הַּׁ אֲ כַּׁל,ָארץ ֶ תי ֵ ֳתיָך עַּׁ ל (במותי) בָּ מ ִ ְה ְרכַּׁב ִ ְיְהוָּ ה ו ":נַּׁחֲ לַּׁת יַּׁעֲ קֹב ָאבִ יָך כִ י פִ י יְהוָּ ה ִדבֵ ר
“If you turn away your foot because of Shabbat, from pursuing your business on My holy day; and call Shabbat a delight, and the holy [day] of Hashem honorable; and shall honor it, not doing your wonted ways, nor pursuing your business, nor speaking thereof; Then shall you delight yourself in Hashem, and I will make you ride upon the high places of the earth, and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father; for the mouth of Hashem has spoken it.” Though this ending could simply be construed as an example of something Bnei Yisrael must do to make their fasts meaningful – that is, in addition to feeding the poor and not fighting, they must keep Shabbat – its prominent placement at the end of the haftarah on the holiest day of the year must mean something more. Perhaps it is a deliberate attempt to end on a high note – to couch the intense, scary message that makes up the bulk of the haftarah in hopeful ones. This structure of the haftarah perfectly reflects the dialectical nature of Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is simultaneously terrifying and joyful; our attitude is one of extreme anxiety mixed with assured hope. While we pour our hearts out to Hashem, asking Him to judge us favorably, we also know from our mesora that Yom Kippur works. We know that if we do Yom Kippur right – if we band together as a community and truly do teshuvah and ask Hashem for mercy – we will achieve atonement. It is often wondered why when we say the viduy (“ashamnu, bagadnu”) together on Yom Kippur we use a relatively happy tune. The answer is that the tune perfectly
;ֹ נַּׁפְ שו,ָאדם ָּ י וֹם עַּׁ נוֹת--רהּו ֵ ִָּהיֶה צ וֹם אֶ בְ ח ְ י,כזֶה ָּ ֲ"ה - ק ָּרא ְת ִ לזֶה ָּ ֲה-- ַַּּׁׁציע ִ ׂשק וָּ אֵ פֶ ר י ַּׁ ְ ו,ֹלכֹף כְ ַאגְ מֹן רֹאשו ָּ ֲה "?צוֹם וְ יוֹם ָּרצוֹן לַּׁיהוָּ ה
“Is such the fast that I have chosen, the day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to Hashem?” A true, acceptable fast, says Hashem, is one on which Bnei Yisrael “lose the shackles of wickedness” and “deal the bread to their hungry” – that is, they abandon their aveirot and begin to do mitzvot. In its own right, this is an essential message of Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is not an automatic erase of all aveirot from the past year – it requires work: true hitbonenut and cheshbon hanefesh, not to mention tikkun hamidot. Even fasting and other inuyim are only means to those ends and are valueless when taken alone. However, upon further analysis of this passage as the haftarah for Yom Kippur, one can derive a larger message about the nature of the day itself. In the haftarah, this intense message is actually couched in more upbeat messages using much more hopeful language. The haftarah, in fact, does not begin with chapter 58 but with the last eight verses of chapter 57. These verses exhort Bnei Yisrael to do teshuvah but emphasize that Hashem has seen Bnei
וו ו fits our underlying attitude – we are confident that Hashem will in fact deliver His forgiveness. Similarly, we sing and dance at the end of Yom Kippur, as an expression of our confidence that we have been forgiven.
Vol. 18 Issue #1 ש עק surroundings is one that is crucial to our growth as bnei torah. This is what Chazal refer to with the well-known idiom:
With this in mind, it makes perfect sense that the haftarah contains hopeful messages on either end. We first express our surety that Hashem will forgive us. We then emphasize the all-important caveat that we need to be sincere on Yom Kippur for it to work. And we end not only with more hope, but discussion of a day of “oneg” – pleasure, the exact opposite of the inuy we self-impose on Yom Kippur, because we are attempting to, on some level, compare the two days. If not for the fact that we need inuy to bring us to teshuvah, Yom Kippur really should and would be a day of celebration, the ultimate Shabbat. May Klal Yisrael experience a Yom Kippur just as Yeshayah prescribes, one infused with meaning and true teshuvah as well as confidence and joy. Tov Letzaddik Vetov Leshcheino
". טוב לצדיק וטוב לשכינו,"אוי לרשע ואוי לשכינו
“Woe to the wicked, woe to his neighbor; it is well with the righteous and well with his neighbor.” This is an idea that is preeminent in the following firsthand account of a story I heard recently: A number of years ago, a boy in a particular school was a very poor student. He lagged behind his peers both in terms of limmudei kodesh, religious studies, and secular studies. This was a boy who was certainly not known for his affinity for learning Torah or for his skill in it. His parents were dissatisfied greatly with his performance in school. The boy’s Rebbi recommended to his parents that he switch to a different yeshiva, one that had a less intense program for secular studies and focused more on religious studies. The boy switched to the other school, and the following year the Rebbi received a call from the boy. The boy informed him that in the other school his grades had taken a huge turn for the better and that he was making a siyum celebration the completion of a very large amount of Gemara that he had learned since he had switched to the other yeshiva. Upon hearing this, the Rebbi asked him how it was that in such a short period of time the boy had been transformed from someone who never learned to one who was finishing a large amount of learning. The boy replied: “It’s easy- here, everyone learns.” This lesson is simple, and yet profound. In growing as bnei torah, it is essential that we put ourselves into environments that will be conducive for such growth. By doing so, hopefully we can succeed in growing and achieving in our avodas Hashem.
Rosh Yeshiva: Rabbi Michael Taubes Rabbinic Advisor: Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson Editors in Chief: Philip Meyer and Ori Putterman Executive Editor: Yehuda Tager Associate Editors: Asher Finkelstein and Yisrael Friedenberg Distribution Coordinator: Ezra Teichman
In viduy on Yom Kippur we say a series of lines beginning with the words “al chet,” meaning: “for the sin.” In these lines we enumerate the many sins for which we hope God will grant us pardon. One of these lines is rather puzzling:
""על חטא שחטאנו לפניך ביצר הרע
“For the sin that we have sinned before You with the evil inclination.” This is truly perplexing- what is the meaning of this line? Is it not true that that the yetzer hara is an independent entity that works to lead us to sin, and that all sins are committed because of his influence? Rabbi Avraham Pam gives a magnificent answer. It is true, says Rabbi Pam, that in the majority of scenarios one is lead to sin because his yetzer hara pursued him and drove him to do it. Other times, though, we ourselves are the ones who act as the catalysts of our sins, as we put ourselves in situations where our yetzer hara will be more likely to lead us to sin. An example of this, says Rabbi Pam, is if one goes to a place where he knows there will be inappropriate behavior. This includes inappropriate behavior with regards to tznius, lashon hara, or other unacceptable behaviors. As such, in this al chet we beg forgiveness for any time that we may have put ourselves in such situations, where we, in essence, brought the effects of the yetzer hara on ourselves. This idea of the supreme importance of our