Friday, September 17, 2010

Yom Kippur, and Suspension of Existence

The verse says about Yom Kippur: "שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן הִיא לָכֶם וְעִנִּיתֶם אֶת-נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם..." (ויקרא ט"ז:ל"א) Chazal explained that the term שבתון implies שבות, in this case refraining from more than just food and drink. Rav Hirsch zt”l brings Rashi’s explanation that the word "לכם" in this verse means that the “resting” of Yom HaKippurim goes beyond the demonstration of Hashem’s authority embodied in the resting of Shabbos. The word שבת simply means “suspension,” but the word שבתון in our verse gives license to the Sages to add other elements of restraint onto eating and drinking.
On Yom HaKippurim, this expanded form of restraint is meant to demonstrate that our entire existence, even the furnishing of the bare necessities of life, is purely an act of kindness on the part of Hashem. Enacting our complete dependence on Hashem’s mercy is an admission that nothing is “coming” to us, and it is the ultimate act of accepting upon ourselves the yoke of the kingdom of heaven. It places on us the burden to expend every effort to do His will. If everything, even our existence, is a gift from Hashem, don’t we at least owe Him the effort it takes to repair our character defects?
When Rav Eliyahu Lopian zt”l would speak during the Yomin Noraim, he would remind his listeners to make resolutions during Neilah: “It is impossible to pass through the day of judgment in peace without making genuine and practical resolutions to improve in some way.”
Similarly, many would flock to Rav Yehuda’le of Dzikov zt”l on Erev Yom Kippur to receive a blessing for the coming year. The atmosphere was very intense, and the crowd would literally tremble with awe of the upcoming day.
The Rebbe would say, “My grandfather, the Rebbe of Dzikov zt”l, always asked: on erev Yom Kippur you cry? Now is the time to rejoice in our acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of heaven through the avodos of the day! Tomorrow night, you can cry to Hashem to help you uphold the lofty level you reach during the day throughout the rest of the year!”

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