Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur: Long Term Planning

“We work and get reward and they work and do not get reward?” This statement, said when one completes a Talmudic tractate, articulates a fundamental difference between a “religious” approach to life and a “secular” one. In the world at large one is rewarded based on results. It is the bottom line that matters, and few are interested in why, what or how you accomplished – or did not accomplish – your goals. Excuses just don’t cut it regardless of how true they may be.

Aseret Yemi Teshuva: The Freedom to Choose

“In a place where ba’alei teshuva stand there, not even the fully righteous can stand” (Brachot 34b). This teaching is generally understood to mean that penitents are on a higher level than the fully righteous. The underlying premise of this teaching is that sinning is enjoyable—if it were not so, then why sin?—and it is much harder to give up something that one has already enjoyed than to refrain from starting in the first place. I imagine I would enjoy lobster, but having never tasted it, I do not miss it.

Aseret Yemi Teshuva: I Confess

Integral to the teshuva process is the act of vidui, confession. One can intellectually know one has done something wrong; one can even feel terrible about it. But unless and until one verbalizes that one has sinned—and for sins against our fellow man, vidui should be done publicly (Hilchot Teshuva, 2:5)—teshuva cannot be complete. It is precisely because it is so hard to admit a wrong, specifically stating what one did wrong with no ifs, ands, or buts, that it is so necessary.

Yom Kippur: Welcoming the Evil Inclination

“For the sin that we sinned before you with the evil inclination”. 

The double alphabetic acrostic of the al chet lists a wide range of areas in which we have not lived up to our potential. Misuse of speech, lack of integrity in our monetary dealings, getting caught up in the loose moral values of our society, infighting, and our general lack of respect for man and G-d are some of the sins mentioned.  

Let's Listen To Some Lashon Hara

“Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: the majority [of people sin] regarding theft, a minority regarding adultery, and all with lashon hara” (Bava Batra 165a).  

Not surprisingly, these three sins make up a significant portion of the al chets we recite on Yom Kippur. And if one wonders what areas one might focus on in seeking to do better, any of the above would be a good place to start. 

Yom Kippur: Bedtime Stories

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 619:6) quotes a custom to remain in shul through the night of Yom Kippur, singing songs of praise to G-d. While some question the wisdom of this custom, cogently arguing that to do so would make concentration in prayer on the day of Yom Kippur most difficult (see Mishna Berura 616:14), the custom reflects the deep yearning of the Jewish people to feel the presence of G-d on the day of the year when He is most accessible. With G-d so close, how can one sleep? 

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