Tuesday, September 29, 2009

closing thoughts on Yom Kippur

Some closing Yom Kippur thoughts:

1) The Kohein Gadol's prayer ended with a special plea for the safety of the residents of the Sharon whose homes collapsed every few years because of the weather conditions where they lived. Isn't it a strange way to end off the tefilah which otherwise includes general requests for the welfare of Klal Yisrael by focusing on a specific group of people? I think the answer is that these people demonstrated a remarkable trait. The residents of the Sharon could have simply packed up a moved to some other area where their homes would not continue to collapse, but they chose to remain put rather than abandon this area of Eretz Yisrael. The tenacity and commitment to the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael deserves extra bracha.

2) The gemara tells us that the Kohein Gadol would make a Yom Tov in celebration of completing the avodah successfully. What the gemara apparently means is that the Kohein Gadol would make a seudah and invite others to join him. R' Tzadok is medayeik: why does the gemara not simply say the Kohein Gadol would make a seudah -- why phrase it as making a "Yom Tov"?

If, for example, I got a new car, I might tell you about my car, let you test drive my car, invite you to a little car party to celebrate my car, etc. all of which you might enjoy and partake of, but at the end of the day the car will still just be my car and the party my party. The celebration of the Kohein Gadol was not like that. The joy upon completion of the avodah was infectious. It wasn't the Kohein Gadol's party that others joined, but it became their party, i.e. there was a sense of personal joy that each and every person experienced.

Why is that the case? I think it has to do with the role played by the Kohein Gadol, and in our times, the shaliach tzibur. We sometimes lose sight of the fact that the shliach tzibur is no more than our agent -- in fact, the Mishna in Brachos applies the idea of "shlucho shel adam k'moso" to the shat"z. We depend on the shat"z or the Kohein to fulfill the job we assign to them, but their success depends on more than going through the motions of an assigned task. The shat"z and the Kohein carry with them the kochos hanefesh, the hopes and aspirations and thoughts of the tzibur, without which tefilah and avodah is an empty shell. Their success means the emotions which we invested in them have been accepted, and we therefore we each have good reason to make a Yom Tov.

3) The transition from Yom Kippur to Sukkos may seem for some like going m'igra rama l'beira amikta as we switch gears from the solemnity of tshuvah to the joy of Yom Tov. I think the following story is a good response to that. In one of the Shlomo Carlebach bios there is the tale of a Jew who davened with R' Shlomo on the Yamim Noraim and afterwards complained that he just didn't feel uplifted by the tefilah. R' Shlomo replied that he noticed that whenever he was singing this individual did not join in; "You never responded when I said 'Give me harmony!'" The Jew answered that he was so focused on praying and repenting that he did not feel much like singing. R' Shlomo replied, "Don't you know that just like you can pray your way to Heaven you can also sing and dance your way to Heaven?"

On Yom Kippur we repent and pray our way to Heaven. On Sukkos we sing and dance our way there. And on that note, time to start preparing for the next chag.


  1. To point 3, I see it as adaraba - from the simchah of mechilas hacheit and the yechidus as it were with the aibershter during neilah, we can truly be happy and rejoice on sukkas!

  2. Unburdened by past sins, we can rise to spiritual heights of true simcha.