The secret of Yom Kippur is difficult to understand. Why this one day? Why cannot one who has strayed from the path turn to G-d and return at any time? Furthermore is this day all about sin and atonement or is there some higher and deeper level?
We read the following regarding this Day of Atonement;
For this day shall atone ( Yechaper) for you to cleanse ( LeTaher) yourself. Before HaShem, you shall be cleansed from all your sins .It is a shabbat of solemn rest unto you, and you shall afflict your souls; it is a statute for ever.(Leviticus 16:30-31).
It seems as if the Day itself has the power to atone and cover.
In truth Hashem is available every moment of our existence. “For I, Hashem, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says Hashem of hosts. (Malachi 3:6-7)
Yet the rushing river of life throws us forward and we sometimes lose our anchor and miss our opportunities .As a result Hashem creates an oasis in time and a city of refuge in our lives. A day in which repentance would spring forth easily.
In metaphorical terms our sages describe the power of the day in the following manner;
Rama bar Chama taught that the numerical value [gematria] of the word HaSatan [“The Adversary”] is 364. This is to teach us that out of the 365 days of the Solar year there is one day, on which HaSatan is not given permission to be the spiritual adversary. (Yoma 20a).
Yom Kippur calls forth the potential spark of repentance. It impacts the soul in such a way so as to empower it to seek repentance.Yet one needs to understand how that is accomplished.
We have seen that the Torah tells us :” For this day shall atone ( Yechaper- cover) for you to cleanse ( LeTaher) yourself. Before HaShem, you shall be cleansed from all your sins .(Leviticus 16:30).The Day itself seems to have the power to atone and cover.
To understand this one must ask another question .Who are we covering the sin from? The instinctive answer is that we are attempting to hide or cover our sins from G-d. Yet that cannot be true as nothing is covered from G-d. King David declares in psalms ” For He knows the secrets of the heart.(psalms 44:22) and in the book of Job we read” I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose can be withholden from You.”( Job 42:2).
The day or even the sacrifice covers the sin from us.
As a result of our sins, we have begun to feel so unworthy and we have turned further from away G-d. Isaiah declares “” But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.”( Isaiah 59:2).
Yet just prior to this verse we read “Behold, the Hashem’s hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. “( ibid 1)
To understand this seeming contradiction we need to realize that sin does not keep G-d away from man, sin keep man away from G-d. We begin to feel so unworthy that we cannot even “look upon His face”. Ezekiel declares;
” Therefore, O you son of man, say unto the house of Israel: Thusly you speak, saying: Our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we pine away in them; how then can we live?”(Ezekiel 33:10)
Yet Hashem assures us “Return to Me, and I will return to you,” (Malachi 3:7). He waits for us to take a step into holiness. In order to do that Hashem creates a day wherein our failures are covered from us. We are empowered by His loving Kindness.
Which brings us to the essence of it all.
The preoccupation with sin and atonement is a focus on the “means” and not on the “end “or on the purpose. The purpose is simply “Holiness”
Hashem tells us in the Parshah of Kedoshim” You shall be holy, for I, Hashem, your G-d, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2). The very words seem daunting and overwhelming.
Hashem then created a day wherein the possibility would exist of feeling utterly and completely holy. Even if it is for only a minute, or perhaps for an hour and maybe even the whole day. Yet once that sense of being Holy is experienced nothing will ever be the same.
It will be the task of each one of us, as we enter that inner sanctum, to yearn for and reach for that infinite moment of true holiness and as a result we will truly be inscribed in the book of Life.
GMAR CHATIMA TOVA
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved