The holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, is almost upon us. This day, when
our fate for the coming year is sealed, has been set aside for prayer and
repentance. We hope and pray that G-d forgives us for our shortcomings, and
grants us another year to prove ourselves to be loyal subjects.
The Torah describes Yom Kippur by saying (Vayikra 16:30): "For on that day he
will make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from
all your sins before G-d." Yom Kippur, the Torah is telling us, is a day on
which atonement will indeed come. However, the Kotzker Rebbe explained this
passage in another fashion.
On Yom Kippur eve, the Kotzker Rebbe made his way to his Bais Medrash, where
prayers were to be conducted. Upon entering, he saw hundreds of his
followers, each in one his special garb for the day, enveloped in his Tallis.
Many were standing, and the crowd was involved in varying activities. Some
were pouring out their hearts to G-d through the recitation of Tehilim,
Psalms. Others were reciting Tefilla Zakah, the special prayer in which we
ask G-d for forgiveness for using our bodies improperly and in which we
forgive our fellow man for that committed against us. There were those
studying Torah with fervor. Another group was deep in thought, engaging in
introspection and dwelling on plans for improvement in the coming year.
Surrounding the face of each person was an aura of holiness.
The Kotzker Rebbe interrupted all of this activity. He stated aloud: "Do not
rely upon the power of Yom Kippur for forgiveness! Each and every person in
this room must realize that he has to work upon himself to merit
forgiveness. The verse in Vayikra 'For on that day he will make an atonement
for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before
G-d,' should not be read only in the way we have all been taught. Yes, the
verse does say 'for on this day he will make an atonement.' Yom Kippur does
have the power to atone. However, do not forget the rest of the verse: 'For
you, to cleanse yourselves. . . .' The verse is telling us that although on
this day, an atonement will be made for us, it nevertheless incumbent upon
us to cleanse ourselves and to rid ourselves of our sins."
May our prayers be heartfelt and meaningful. May our repentance be sincere
and genuine. And may we all be granted absolution and forgiveness, and a year
of health and happiness.
K'Siva V'Chasima Tova, with wishes for a meaningful fast.