Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Even Moses, who spoke with God one on One, was not allowed to see Him during his lifetime. “You cannot see my face, for no man shall see me and live.”

Ultimately, we shall all see God one on one, and face not only Him but also ourselves and the lives we led. Our desire to see Him will then be consummated and His existence will be proven beyond all doubt, but our ability to repent and prepare ourselves for that Day of Judgment will have passed.

Advertisement

And so one day a year God gives us the opportunity to come as close to Him as humanly possible and still repent. Yom Kippur is a dress rehearsal of sorts. We wear the shrouds in which we will ultimately face Him, and we discard the shoes we will no longer need. We don’t eat, drink or bathe as we stand alone before Him. We crowd the synagogue, just as the throngs of Israelites crowded the Temple, praying, fasting and waiting with bated breath for the High Priest to successfully complete the Yom Kippur Temple Service. For if the High Priest does not survive the day, Israel might not survive the year.

And before the silent and anxious crowd, the High Priest walks the tightrope between life and death from dawn to dusk. One procedural slip in the Temple service and it will be all over, just as it was for Aaron’s sons whose bodies had to be retrieved from the Holy of Holies. The High Priest’s task is not easy and the stakes are high. Single-handedly he has to juggle the performance of the daily Temple service and the special Yom Kippur service, darting as he does so back and forth between the Holy of Holies, the Temple Sanctuary and the Temple Courtyard.

Fifteen sacrifices, (two lambs for the daily sacrifice, one bullock, one ram and seven lambs for the Mussaf sacrifice, one bullock for the priests’ atonement, one ram for the people’s burnt offering, one he-goat for the people’s atonement and, finally, the scapegoat which is sent to die in the wilderness) have to be slaughtered and offered up by the High Priest on Yom Kippur.

The High Priest must, among other things, sprinkle the sacrificial blood on the altars, offer up the incense, burn the limbs of the animals on the altar, prepare the Sanctuary lamps for lighting, offer up the baked cakes of the High Priest, pour the drink offerings, confess his own, his family’s and the priests’ sins, cast lots for the two he-goats, tie a crimson ribbon on the head of the scapegoat, pray for the welfare of the people, confess their sins and read to them from the Torah.

Each of the five times the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies to perform the Yom Kippur service he must change out of his routine gold garments into his Yom Kippur white garments so as not to remind God of the sin of the golden calf. Each time the High Priest enters the Temple Sanctuary or Temple Courtyard to perform the daily Temple service, he must change back into his gold garments. And between each change of garments he must wash his hands and feet and then immerse himself in the cold waters of the Temple ritual bath.

The precision required and the time constraints imposed make the High Priest’s task almost humanly impossible. Indeed, according to the Midrash’s interpretation of Leviticus 16:17, when entering the Holy of Holies the High Priest was temporarily transformed into a ministering angel. We are told that when the High Priest finally emerged from the Holy of Holies, alive and well and having successfully completed his mission, he was swept up by the waiting crowds who celebrated with him deep into the night.

The Midrash relates that during Moses’s 40-day visit to the mountain of God, he overheard and memorized the angels’ secret prayer “Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto Leolam Vaed” – “blessed is the name of His Glorious Kingdom forever.” When Moses returned to the Jews he taught them the prayer but cautioned them to utter it under their breath so that the angels would not detect the infringement. On Yom Kippur, however, when we most closely resemble angels, we are asked to recite this prayer out loud.

Advertisement

1
2
SHARE
Previous articleStanding And Sitting For Kiddush On Sukkot
Next articleObama tells UN a Nuclear Iran Threatens Israel’s Existence
Raphael Grunfeld received semicha in Yoreh Yoreh from Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem of America and in Yadin Yadin from Maran Hagaon Harav Dovid Feinstein, Shlitah. A partner at the Wall Street law firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, where he specializes in cross-border mergers and acquisitions, Raphael is also the author of “Ner Eyal, a Guide to Seder Nashim, Nezikin, Kodashim, Taharot and Zerayim” (2016) and “Ner Eyal, a Guide to the Laws of Shabbat and Festivals in Seder Moed” (2001).
Loading Facebook Comments ...