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.
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.