Lift Your Spirit on Yom Kippur
Shanah Tova, Tizku leshanim tovot, rabot, uneimot.
May we be written and inscribed for a sweet and healthy year.
Let’s send a prayer to Hashem for a Bracha- a blessing for the entire Kahal Joseph congregation: May we have a tremendously successful year in our spiritual and physical endeavors. May all our hearts’ desire for good be fulfilled and our lives be filled with health, growth, and harmony. Amen.
We are celebrating Yom HaKippurim, the day of atoning. It is the Holy of Holies of the Jewish year, a time when we can almost touch the divine presence and feel the spirituality in the air.
This day is set apart by Hashem. It is likened to ‘a lighthouse on the shore of eternity that has cheered, guided, and sustained us for over a hundred generations.’ We eat a festive meal before the fast, for we are certain of HaShem’s favorable decree. We come as one dressed in white, to signify that on this holy day of the year, we are on par with the angels.
This day gives us the power to master our destiny. It is a day of intense soul-searching and sincere communication with the Almighty. This search requires internal calm.
Our calm is strengthened by the slowing down of our biological rhythm through fasting, providing the foundation for our inner awakening. Our fasting on Yom Kippur demonstrates our willingness to submit to discipline in order to deepen our relationship with Hashem. We atone for our excesses in life by curbing our appetites on this day.
On Yom Kippur, we seek reconciliation with HaShem and humanity. “Teshuvah”, or Returning to G-d, involves a self-assessment of the past year and the desire to avoid lapses in our sensitivity to Hashem and to others in the future. Teshuvah requires discipline.
An integral part of this return is requesting forgiveness from human beings against whom one has committed transgressions. This is necessary in order to wipe the slate of our personal relationships clean before the start of the holiday, since only transgressions between man and HaShem are addressed during Yom Kippur itself.
During Yom Kippur, we come in touch with the deepest part of souls, and the highest levels of the spiritual realms. As the Torah says, the essence of the day atones for us. We reach the essence of who we are, which is good, and pure. We are completely renewed, and this seals our blessing for the entire coming year.
During our prayers on Yom Kippur we also say, “we have transgressed,” “we have sinned,” using the plural in our confessions. Society is one organism. Yom Kippur reminds us that we are all responsible to help each other.
There is a story told of a lonely traveler crossing mountain heights of heavy snow. He struggled against the fatal sleep falling over him. Just as he was about to fall asleep, he stumbled against a heap lying on his path. It was a half-frozen human body. He held the frozen man in his arms, rubbing his limbs. In his effort to restore another to life, he brought warmth and energy to his being, and in this way, he was able to save himself and another. This story has much relevance in the realm of souls. When we help others, we are really enlivening ourselves. An old poem reads: “Heaven’s gate is shut / To him who comes alone. / Save thou a soul / And it shall save thine own.”
For Further Thought…
On this holy day we remember and read the words of the prophet Isaiah. “Pave the way for G-d. Lift the obstacle from my people’s path. For so said the High and Exalted One, Who dwells for eternity, and His name is Holy, ‘With the lofty and the holy angels I dwell, but I am with the crushed and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the crushed.’ Is this not the fast I will choose? To undo the chains of wickedness, to dissolve the groups that pervert justice and to let the oppressed free. Share your bread with the hungry, take care of the poor, and from your flesh, you shall not hide, do not ignore your kin. Then your light shall burst forth as the light of dawn, and your healing will speedily sprout. Your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall gather you in.
Then you shall call and the Lord shall answer, you shall cry and He shall say, ‘Here I am.’ Remove perverseness from your midst, finger-pointing, and evil speech. And if you offer of your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then your light will shine in the darkness, and even your deepest darkness will shine like noon. And the Lord shall always lead you, and He shall satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones, and you shall be like a well-watered garden and like a spring of water whose water does not fail. And those coming from you shall build ancient ruins, you will erect generations-old foundations, and you shall be called the repairer of the breaches, restorer of the paths for habitation.”
The last part of the prophecy is extremely poignant, as we can already see part of this prophecy has been fulfilled in the land of Israel.
Shabbat Shuva Thoughts
from the Accidental Talmudist
Rosh Hashanah begins the ten days of repentance when Hashem determines the life flow of all of creation, and the whole world is judged. These ten days correspond to our ten soul powers. By rectifying each day, we rectify each of these spiritual powers.
We cry to Hashem, as stated, ‘seek Hashem when he is found, call him when he is close.’ With our prayers and blessings on Rosh Hashanah, we hope to influence Hashem to rule over the world with mercy. The special meals of Rosh Hashanah commemorate our strong faith in Hashem’s eternal blessing.
Hashem comes closer in the month of Elul, when ‘the king is in the field’. Elul stands for ‘I am to my beloved as he is to me’, which strengthens our prayer and teshuva (returning to Hashem). Elul is also connected to our rededication to Torah, and the empowerment this brings to our lives. By preparing for the High Holidays in Elul with prayer, repentance and charity, we strengthen Hashem’s desire to judge us favorably on Rosh Hashanah, and seal us for a good year on Yom Kippur. ‘Love causes one to forgive all blemishes’. The love Hashem has for us helps him forgive us for our sins. May we be blessed with a sweet new year.
We all feel how challenging and difficult a year this has been for everyone. It has shown us that inner strength, positivity, calm, compassion and humility are crucial emotions that carry us through demanding times.
Baruch Hashem, we have reached a time of renewal. On Rosh Hashanah, we start setting up a renewed year. Hashem created a process that allows the world to reset and recalibrate to a higher spiritual level each year during Rosh Hashanah. We have been blessed as a nation to partake in this process, to be in on this special secret. This is a sign of Hashem’s great love for us. We are partners with Hashem in creation.
There are ten days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, also known as the ten days of awe, or as the ten days of repentance, meaning, returning to Hashem.
The number ten represents wholeness and completion in Kabbalah. There are ten soul powers we all have.
By beginning the year with the powerful service of Rosh Hashanah, and continuing to elevate ourselves each subsequent day through Yom Kippur, we build up our ten soul powers, and also affect the higher spiritual worlds which depend on our spiritual service. We know in our heart that we have room to improve, that our essence is better than some of our actions may be. HaShem wants us to achieve true forgiveness for ourselves and for the world, the existence, which surrounds us.
Hashem helps us achieve this atonement on Yom Kippur. The slate is wiped clean and we are renewed for the upcoming year. During prayers on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we recite the word ‘purify’, teet’haru, numerous times to invite the purification our souls may achieve on these holy days. Hashem begs us to give him power through our deeds. We are his chosen nation on this earth, and have been blessed to know his ways.
Our soul, and the mitzvot have been likened to a candle. There are different parts of a traditional candle—the oil, the wick, and the vessel they rest in. Our soul on its own is an incomplete candle, waiting to be kindled. HaShem made mitzvot so we could spiritually connect to him through physical actions and ignite our soul. In this way we create a holistic, integrated relationship with HaShem, a connection felt and expressed through our minds, hearts and deeds.
The holidays in Tishrei, the Jewish month that begins with Rosh Hashanah, guide us to the highest levels and influence all realities and all spheres of existence. We manifest our spiritual influence through the abundant mitzvot we perform during this special month. HaShem’s great love for us becomes evident in these rituals and traditions, and in the Jewish wisdom bequeathed to us through them and shared throughout our generations. May we be blessed with health and abundance, in’shallah.
Much love and best regards,
Rabbi Natan Halevy