web analytics
March 1, 2015 / 10 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Yom Kippur Thoughts


Under the eye of eternity our lives are a shadow’s shadow. Said at the end of the Day of Atonement, this prayer stands in its unrelieved austerity. But when we recite it at other times we follow it with a momentous “nevertheless”:

Nevertheless we are Your people,
The children of Your covenant…

Individually we are small. But collectively we are capable of greatness. Such at any rate is our belief. It is the “I” who sins, the “we” who atone.

* * * * *

In 1798 the great chassidic leader, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Ladi, was imprisoned for spreading religious faith (and thus subversion) among the Jewish population. It is told that while he sat in prison awaiting trial, his warden, conscious of being in the presence of a holy man, asked him a question that had long been troubling him. He said: “We read in the Book of Genesis that when Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves among the trees of the Garden of Eden, and God called out, ‘Where are you?’ What I want to know is this. If God knows and sees everything, surely He knew where they were. Why did He need to ask: ‘Where are you?’ ”

The rabbi replied: “The words of the Bible were not meant for their time alone but for all time. So it is with the question God asked Adam and Eve. It was not addressed to them alone but to each of us in every generation. We do wrong and then we believe that we can hide from the consequences. But always, after we have done wrong, we hear the voice of God in our hearts, asking: ‘What have you done with your life? Where are you?’ ”

That is the great question of Yom Kippur. God has given us one thing: life itself, this all-too-brief span of years. There may be days, weeks, even months when we lose ourselves in the pace of daily routine, never looking upward. We can even go through the motions of a religious way of life without the divine presence ever really penetrating to our core of consciousness. We hide. But on the Day of Atonement there is no hiding. We read the Book of Jonah, whose message is that one cannot escape the call of God. And we become Jonah by being summoned and addressed. God asks us: How have we spent our lives? Where are we?

Yom Kippur is a day of awe. Yet the Talmud calls it one of the most joyous days of the year. Rightly so, for its message is that as long as we breathe, there is no final verdict on our lives. “Prayer, penitence and charity have the power to turn aside the evil decree.” God has given us free will and thus the strength to turn from bad to good. He has granted us a Day of Atonement, and thus the chance to unwrite our wrongs and find forgiveness. There is no equivalent in Judaism to the Greek ideas of fate and tragedy, the decree that cannot be averted and the futility of our attempts to escape it. Those concepts are utterly alien to the Jewish mind along with all theories that see our behavior as determined by causes outside ourselves. Instead, we believe that there is always a chance to begin again. For though we may lose faith in God, God never loses faith in us. On this day of days we hear His voice, gently calling us to come home.

G’mar chatimah tovah!

Adapted from “Covenant & Conversation,” a collection of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s parshiyot hashavua essays, to be published by Maggid Books, an imprint of Koren Publishers Jerusalem (www.korenpub.com), in conjunction with the Orthodox Union.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth since 1991, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently “The Koren Sacks Rosh HaShana Mahzor” (Koren Publishers Jerusalem).

About the Author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.”


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Yom Kippur Thoughts”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Hamas terrorists manage  to find their way to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as well.
Egypt Formally Designates Hamas as Terrorist Entity
Latest Judaism Stories
Esther Denouncing Haman

Purim is the battleground of extremes, Amalek and Yisrael, with Zoroastrian Persia in between.

Niehaus-022715

One should not give the money before Purim morning or after sunset.

Mendlowitz-022715-Basket

The mishloach manos of times gone by were sometimes simple and sometimes elaborate, but the main focus was on the preparation of the delicious food they contained.

Winiarz-022715-Kids

Does Hashem ever go away and not pay attention to us?

In other words, the Torah is an expression of the Way that we must follow in order to live a divine-like life and to bond in the highest way possible with God or Being Itself.

The Chasam Sofer answers that one of only prohibited from wearing a garment that contains shatnez if he does so while wearing the garment for pleasure purposes.

The avodah (service) of the kohen gadol is vital and highly sensitive; the world’s very existence depends on it.

Moreover, even if the perpetrator of the capital offense is never actually executed, such as when the fatal act was unintentional, Kam Lei applies and the judge cannot award damages.

Forever After?
‘Obligated for Challahh and Not Terumah’
(Kesubos 25a)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

“We really appreciate your efforts in straightening the shul,” said Mr. Reiss. “How is it going?”

This was a spontaneous act of rest after the miracle of vanquishing their respective foes. The following year they celebrated on the same days as a minhag.

The way we must to relate to our young adult children is to communicate with genuine loving-kindness

Jewish prayer is a convergence of 2 modes of biblical spirituality, exemplified by Moses and Aaron

In holy places it’s important to maintain a level of silence permitting people to dialogue with God

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks

Jewish prayer is a convergence of 2 modes of biblical spirituality, exemplified by Moses and Aaron

Rabbi Sacks

With the synagogue, “Judaism created one of the greatest revolutions in the history of religion”

By wisdom, we come to understand G-d via creation; By Torah we understand G-d through His revelation

Torah opposes slavery; G-d desires the free worship of free human beings, yet slavery’s permitted-?!

Pharaoh perverted symbols of life (the Nile and midwives) into agents of death.

The 5th cup is supported by a 5th expression of Deliverance: “And I will bring you to the land…”

The first recorded instance of civil disobedience is the story of Shifra and Puah, defying Pharaoh

Truthfulness is a fundamental value in Jewish yet truth isn’t its highest value. Peace is. Why so?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/yom-kippur-thoughts/2012/09/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: