Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement
A fresh start & a clean slate
The literal translation of Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. We are all hopeful that Hashem, in His kindness, will give us another chance, a new beginning with a clean slate. While we acknowledge Hashem’s tremendous kindness there is a huge lesson here for us.
The Gemara (Taanis 25b) relates the following story: There was once a drought. Rabbi Eliezer acted as the Chazzan and recited twenty-four Berachot, yet he was not answered. Rabbi Akiva replaced him as Chazan and said: “Our Father, our King, You are our Father! Our Father our King, We have no King other than You! Our Father Our King we have sinned before You! Etc. Rabbi Akiva’s prayer was immediately answered.
The people started to murmur, thinking that Rabbi Akiva was greater than Rabbi Eliezer. A heavenly voice came out and explained; it wasn’t because Rabbi Akiva is greater than Rabbi Eliezer; rather the reason is because Rabbi Akiva concedes and holds back from retaliating and Rabbi Eliezer doesn’t.
- Yom Kippur candle lighting times
- Candle lighting blessings
- Parshat Vayelech
- Fasting tips from the Soroka Medical Center
- Hebrew-English terminology for the Day of Atonement with transliterations – a free word sheet
I believe we can understand this through the tremendous insight of one of the great Mussar giants; we say in Psalms – “Hashem is the shadow of your right hand”. A shadow always moves in the same way as us. If we move right, it moves right, if we move backwards, it moves backwards. Similarly, Hashem relates to us in the same way we relate to others. If we are strict and demanding on others and hold everyone to a fine line, that is the way Hashem relates to us; if on the other hand we are patient, forgiving and understanding; Hashem will relate to us in a similar fashion – just like our shadow follows us.
This is the explanation; when Rabbi Akiva prayed, his prayers were answered since he was not exacting with others and was forgiving in nature.
We are approaching Yom Kippur, let us reflect on how demanding or forgiving we are with our friends and acquaintances; make a resolution to be easy on others and forgiving in nature so that we can hopefully merit a similar relationship with Hashem and all be inscribed for a good healthy happy year.
Gmar Hatimah Tovah!
Did you know that we wear white clothes on Yom Kippur in emulation of the spiritual angels?