OCTOBER 3-4, 2003 8 TISHREI 5764
"I am ashamed of my misdeeds and I am disgraced by my sins" (Shaharit of Yom Kippur)
In last week's message I discussed the importance of apologizing and admitting guilt to our fellow man. Let us now discuss our guilt to Hashem. The overwhelming theme in the Yom Kippur prayers is the expression of guilt. As a matter of fact, the first item in the viduy confession is ashamnu - we are guilty. In contemporary American culture the expression "Jewish guilt" is usually referred to as "beating up on yourself unnecessarily." However, within Jewish tradition, guilt is very different from what one would think. When it comes to repentance, teshubah, the greatest factor that can impede a person from bringing about change is his reluctance to acknowledge his guilt. After all, who wants to admit that he or she is imperfect? On the other hand, the feeling of remorse is part of the healthy human process of positive change. It shows a real desire to become closer to Hashem. This feeling of closeness to Hashem makes a person's life most gratifying and fulfilling. We live in an age where true guilt is the farthest thing from our minds. Who are we guilty to? To Hashem. How do we get to truly feel this correct guilt? The Hobot Halebabot says that one feels remorse and experiences a desire to do teshubah as a response to one's appreciation of all the good that Hashem has bestowed upon him or her. Since we appreciate all that Hashem does for us, we automatically want to do His will. How can we accept all of His bounty and disobey Him?
This reminds me of a conversation I had not long ago with a typical non-observant S.Y. After a long, friendly discussion, I asked him when he plans on becoming observant. He shocked me when he said, "Why should I change? Everything is going well!" To this we all can answer, it is precisely for that reason that we all change! Tizku Leshanim Rabot. Rabbi Reuven Semah
One of the startling differences in the prayer of Yom Kippur is that we say "Baruch Shem Kebod Malchuto Le'olam Va'ed" out loud after the Shema Yisrael. All year long we say it in an undertone because this is uttered by angels in Heaven, and we are not on the level of angels. But on Yom Kippur, we are dressed in white, and we don't indulge in physical pleasures, so indeed we are akin to angels and can say it out loud.
What is ever so interesting is that when we first start the fast, we are still full from all of our eating before Yom Kippur, and yet we say Baruch Shem out loud, but at the conclusion of the fast day, when we pray Arbit, we say it low again! We would think that by then, having fasted for more than 24 hours, we would resemble the celestial beings much more. The answer is, we are what we think about! When we start the fast, although satisfied with food, we nevertheless are looking forward to prayer and fasting and becoming closer to Hashem. Thus, we are like angels, and can say Baruch Shem out loud. However, after the fast is newly over, our minds are on the "Sembusak" and other delicacies, so we cannot emulate Heavenly beings, since our minds are on the mundane.
The lesson to learn from Yom Kippur is one which will serve us well all year long - we are what we think about. Let us focus our thoughts on Teshubah and a more spiritual lifestyle so we will indeed become more heavenly. Tiuzku Leshanim Rabot. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"May my teaching drop like rain, may my utterance flow like the dew" (Debarim 32:2)
The Alshich explains this pasuk as a prayer. Moshe asks that the effect of his words shall resemble that produced by rain and dew, in that they lead to the growth of crops. Similarly, may his words have a positive effect in developing the people to bring them closer to Hashem. The Chezkuni explains that the effects of rain are not immediately noticeable. It is only after some time has elapsed and grass begins to sprout, flowers bloom and fruits grow that its worth is appreciated. Similarly, a man cannot be impatient in the study of Torah. He should not despair when he does not realize initial success in his studies. Through patience, resolve and continued study not only will he have scholastic success, but ultimately his character and personality will be molded into that of a true ben-Torah.
There is yet another interpretation to this analogy. Rain has the natural power to spur growth only after the necessary soil preparations have been performed. Plowing, seeding and fertilizing are necessary prerequisites for rain to achieve successful results. Similarly, Torah study success can only be realized after a person has thoroughly geared himself for it. Unless one invests time and effort to ready himself for its effects, it will be similar to rain that falls on barren unseeded earth; it will be for naught. (Peninim on the Torah)
A car wash is a great business. Within thirty seconds of driving out of the car wash your car has already lost 100% of its pristine gleam and within a week it starts to look like any other dirty car. So if people know that their car is going to get dirty, why do they bother spending the time and money to clean it in the first place? Sometimes Yom Kippur feels a lot like a car wash. Is there a person in the world who repented on Yom Kippur for all his sins and never sinned again? And most of us have trouble seeing even the smallest improvement from one Yom Kippur to the next. Isn't it all a bit of a waste of time? I mean, who are we fooling? Certainly not G-d. And if we're honest - not even ourselves.
Have you ever tried to clean a car that hasn't seen water in two years? It's almost impossible. The dirt and the grime have eaten into the paint. It's impossible to make the car shine.
It's true that the gleam on our car when we leave the car wash is very short-lived, but there's a more important reason we make our weekly pilgrimage to the car wash. It gives us the possibility of returning to the shine of the original paint-work.
Yom Kippur is the same. The sheen with which we leave shul after Yom Kippur may wear off pretty quickly, but if we never experienced a Yom Kippur, soon we'd become so spiritually dulled that we would never be able to get back to the luster of our "original paint-work." (Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - Ohr Somayach)
This Week's Haftarah: Hoshe'a 14:2-10, Yoel 2:11-27, Micah 7:18-20. This haftarah begins with the words "Shubah Yisrael - Return O Israel." This is the primary theme of this ten-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Shabbat during this period is known as Shabbat Shubah after the first word of this haftarah.
The theme of the haftarah is a call for Israel to repent and return to Hashem. He is always ready and waiting to accept our repentance and forgive us. "He will be merciful to us; He will suppress our iniquities, and cast into the depth of the sea all of their sins."
In the town of Radin, there was a fellow in his fifties who never quite managed to get married. Yom Kippur was a very lonely time for him. In Europe, the Kol Nidrei service would finish well before nine o'clock and people would return to their homes. On Shabbat and Yom Tob, he had no lack of meal invitations, but on Yom Kippur evening there was no meal to which he could be invited. For this poor fellow it was the loneliest night of the year.
One year on Yom Kippur evening, he was sitting in the shul long after everyone had gone home. He leaned forward, his forehead on his arm, and gently started to weep.
After a few moments, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up and found himself looking into the eyes of the Hafess Hayim. The Hafess Hayim asked him if he could sit down. He said yes. The Hafess Hayim proceeded to talk to this fellow about every subject under the sun: His family, the weather. Anything to lighten this fellow's spirits. No subject seemed too trivial for the Hafess Hayim to speak about.
They spoke for a very long time indeed. In fact they spoke the whole night long. About this. About that. The entire night.
If you or I were to conjecture the Yom Kippur of the Hafess Hayim, I doubt that it would include a discussion on the proclivities of the weather. We would picture him immersed in study and teshubah.
The barometer of the way we feel about G-d is mirrored in the way we treat people. A lack of sensitivity to the feelings of others shows a lacking, not just in our misvot between ourselves and our fellow, but in our misvot between ourselves and G-d.
Sometimes talking about the weather can be a very great misvah indeed. (Ohr Somayach)
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