The Holy Day
WHAT IS YOM KIPPUR?
The Jewish calendar abounds with auspicious times for different things. Atonement is one of man’s most significant spiritual endeavors, but it is especially favorable on Yom Kippur Day. We can be forgiven for sins throughout the year if we repent with a sincere heart. Still, on Yom Kippur, the gates of repentance are flung wide open, and Hashem eagerly awaits to forgive us if only we take the initiative.
When the Beis Hamikdash stood, Yom Kippur was a special day that included many unique practices recorded at length in Sefer Vayikra. These activities brought down atonement from on high, but today, we are left without the Beis Hamikdash. Rambam stresses that nowadays, there is nothing other than repentance. However, the day of Yom Kippur also provides forgiveness. This is based on the verse, “כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם לטהר אתכם מכל חטאתיכם לפני ה’ תטהרו…for on this day He will atone for you to purify you all, from all your sins before Hashem you shall be purified.” We learn that it is the day that provides attornment. Still, that additional injection of atonement requires a repentant heart. If Yom Kippur is utilized for introspection and repentance, the result of that soul-searching, combined with the cleansing agent of Yom Kippur, will produce a clean slate.
כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם… also teaches us another vital element of repentance. Note the words מכל חטאתיכם לפני from all your sins before Hashem. Sins that are before Hashem are those that are between man and G-d. These are cleansed through repentance and the day of Yom Kippur. However, sins between man and man require something else. First, the offended party must forgive, then the sinner can expect attornment from on high.
In Jewish history, Yom Kippur was when Hashem announced to Moshe סלחתי – I forgive you. Moshe had ascended the mountain and pleaded for the Jewish nation for forty days because of the sin of the חטא העגל – Golden Calf. On Yom Kippur, the Jewish nation received forgiveness, and on Yom Kippur, they receive forgiveness anew yearly.
Preparing For The Holy Day
Yom Kippur is designated for forgiveness and is the climax of the עשרת ימי תשובה – Ten Days of Repentance. It is cause for confident joy in Hashem’s mercy and forgiveness but also requires reflective preparation. The books will be sealed on Yom Kippur, and our destiny will be confirmed. If we ready ourselves properly, we can rest assured that Hashem will be there. Traditionally, there are many activities that we engage in during the days leading up to Yom Kippur. Selichos are recited throughout the Aseres Yemei Teshuva, and charity is distributed to people experiencing poverty.
It is important to add good deeds between the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Everyone’s good and bad deeds are weighed in heaven, determining which book they will be inscribed in. All mitzvos, but particularly teshuvah – repentance, tefillah – prayer, and tzedakah – charity, have the potential to tip the scales.
ARE YOU PREPARED FOR YOM KIPPUR – A Day of Forgiveness?
Give Tzedakah as a merit for a Good Year
What We Do On Yom Kippur?
Yom Kippur is the only day entirely dedicated to prayer. For one day, we emulate the angels, abstaining from bodily desires, which gives way to spiritual introspection. We reflect on our imperfections and resolve to mend our ways. Traditionally, Yom Kippur has been one of the happiest days of the year because we are forgiven and begin anew with a clean slate.
On Yom Kippur we may not:
bathe, or smear
wear leather shoes
engage in marital relations
Yom Kippur is the one day a year we strive to be like angels. We separate ourselves from our physical needs for a short time, focusing only on spiritual and lofty matters. This is one reason married men wear a Kittel – a special white garment – on Yom Kippur Day – to remind us that on this day, we are pure like angels. Many women also wear white clothes for the same reason. We also refrain from wearing gold because it recalls the sin of the golden calf. We want to put our best foot forward, and anything that is remindful of sin is to be avoided.
yom kippur Prayers
Yom Kippur centers around atonement, and as such, we spend a lot of time praying for repentance and listing off the actual sins we performed. In the Alcoholics Anonymous program, the first step toward recovery is admission. If a person doesn’t admit to the fact that they have an addictive problem, they can’t possibly be helped. No matter what actions are taken, the individual will remain in denial. The same is true of Teshuva (repentance). The first step toward atonement is admission. We must own up to our problems and the fact that we messed up. Once we declare and enumerate our sins, the next step is to resolve them. We need to commit to not repeating the offense. Once that is complete, we can expect atonement.
Yom Kippur and repentance are cleansing agents that clean our slates – but this only applies to sins between man and G-d. Yom Kippur does not erase sins between man and man so long as that person does not receive forgiveness. Therefore, asking “mechila” forgiveness from people we wronged during the Ten Days of Repentance is very important.
Forgiving others for their sins is a good idea, even if they do not ask us for forgiveness. In fact, Tefillah Zakkah, a prayer customarily recited before Kol Nidrei, includes a paragraph that states that one forgives others. One who finds it within themselves to forgive and forget can expect forgiveness from on high, while one who holds onto feelings of resentment and hate is less likely to receive forgiveness.
SEAL THE DEAL FOR A GOOD YEAR
YOM KIPPUR IN BELZ
Take a journey to Belz with images from some of the most memorable
moments with the Rebbe during these holy days.
Inspirational Yom Kippur Stories
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