Yom Kippur Melodies
By: Rabbi Yehudah Prero
As mentioned, Yom Kippur, is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Because
we are asking G-d for atonement, we spend the entire day engaged in prayer.
We do not eat or drink. We pray to G-d that He should forgive us for our sins
and grant us a good year. Because our prayers are so important on Yom Kippur,
the Rema (Shulchan Orech Orech Chayim 619:1) writes that "a person should not
change from the custom of the city, even the tunes used or the additional
prayers said there" lest one be distracted from his or her prayers.
The significance of the tunes used for the prayers is discussed in Sefer
Ma'avar Yabok. There, it says that the soul benefits greatly from tunes sung
during prayer. G-d's ministerial angels sing praise of G-d constantly. When
the soul hears such singing, it experiences great pleasure and satisfaction.
It is reminded of the overwhelming closeness it has with G-d when it and the
angels up high sing songs of praise. Because of the great sense of unity and
closeness with G-d the soul feels when our bodies are engaged in song, G-d
comes close to us here on earth, and a heavenly spirit rests upon us. When
the cantor leads us in song, he is leading us in presenting the holiest
melodies to G-d, which ascend before His throne. Song causes us to be
uplifted and our prayers to rise to the highest levels, where G-d eagerly
Although singing clearly plays an important role during our prayers, the
Chasam Sofer notes that there is one place where it appears inappropriate.
When the entire congregation together says the Confessional, it is customary
for the cantor to lead the recitation in song. The congregation sings the
Confessional as well. One would think that a confession of a person's sins
for an entire year should be said with bitter tears and crying, not with a
sweet melody sung in unison. Yet, the Chasam Sofer writes, the Confessional
should be sung. Why? When we perform the commandments of G-d, we are supposed
to do them with happiness. We should be happy that we have the opportunity to
fulfill the dictates of G-d. The act of confession is one of G-d's
commandments. Crying is definitely appropriate when we are asking for
atonement. However, when we, together, do the Mitzvah of confessing, we
should be doing so with a sense of happiness as well. We should feel
fortunate to have been presented with this opportunity to do the will of G-d.
This delight is expressed through our singing of the confessional. At this
crucial moment, when the power of our combined prayers is mighty, we ask for
forgiveness with joy.
The Chasam Sofer continues to say that when we express this joy, we are
illustrating our love for G-d and his commandments. Our Sages have taught
that when repentance is done out of love, our sins are converted into merits.
By singing the Confessional, we are bringing ourselves close to G-d. We are
expressing our love for G-d. We vividly demonstrate how we happily perform
the command of G-d. We are repenting out of our love for G-d. The act of an
entire congregation singing tunes of love to G-d rises before Him, and He
turns our sins into merits. The confessional has a great power, and this
power is enhanced by song.
When we pray on Yom Kippur, we should remember that our repentance is an act
of love. While we beg for forgiveness, we should keep in focus that we regret
our sins because they were acts of rebellion against the One who we love.
Singing helps us express our true feelings on Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur, we
should all merit to have our prayer readily accepted and be sealed in the
Book of Life for the coming year.
(From Sefer Minhag Yisroel Torah)
Together with my family, I would like to wish you and yours a k'sivah
v'chasimah tovah. You should all be written and inscribed for a year full of
health, happiness, success and nachas. I look forward to continuing my
learning with you throughout the holidays in the year 5758.
---R' Yehudah Prero
Check out all of the posts on Elul and Rosh HaShana. Head over to
http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/ to access the YomTov Page. Then click on the icon for the holiday of your choice.
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.
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