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Thought for the Day: How Yom Kippur Can Work

At the s'udas mafsekes this year, my wife and I were having an appropriately light conversation in preparation for the day.  I was saying that I had just learned (michtav mei'eliahu, end of first volume), that really every moment of every life is necessary for HaShem's plan to reveal all dimensions of Kavod Shamayim.  Therefore, I continued, every moment of sinning is destroying worlds that need to be rebuild.  So how does Yom Kippur work?  Imagine Hitler, yimach sh'mo v'zicrhono, coming to a beis din and -- with full sincerity -- saying, "Ashamni, Bagadni, Gazalni, .."  How big and impression is that going to make?  Yet we are doing the same thing, aren't we?  (There are those who say, and I am among them, that living with me is more than sufficient kapara for anyone.  My wife, she should be strong and healthy for many years, has been living with my for a very long time... you can't even begin to imagine what a tzadeikes she is/must be.)

That's how we left things when I went to kol nidrei.  Don't worry, my wife has learned over the years to appropriately ignore me, but I haven't; I was still thinking about how does this really work .  After kol nidrei and before ma'ariv I had a few minutes, so I looked into my machzor.  My machzor (Machzor HaM'foresh) is a treasure trove of little nuggets from all over.  I opened to a medrash that said, "What is Yom Kippur like?  If a nut falls into a dirty street and get covered with filth, it can be washed, rinsed, and cleaned up to be fit again for consumption.  So to Yisrael, even though they are covered with sin, Yom Kippur cleanses them to be fit again to enjoy the Divine Presence."

Nice.  But a nut has an impenetrable, hard covering that protects it from the filth.  No matter how dirty it looks, the dirt is all external.  No matter how disgusting the filth, none of it touches the edible fruit.  The medrash must mean that we also have an impenetrable, hard shield that keep the filth of sin from touching who we really are.  A Jew can be covered with sin, but it is only external, it can be washed away.  HaShem, in His unbounded kindness, put us into a world of temptations to allow us to exercise our free will and thus forge a relationship with the Creator Himself.  But that's dangerous!  So at the same time, out us His unbounded love for us, He put us in a protective shield.  Once a year we come for a cleaning.  And every year we seem to need just as much cleansing as before (if not more).  We should try to do better.  But we can know with perfect certainty that Yom Kippur can and does work.

By they way... this should help us to also realize that every Jew, no matter how far away, can be reached.  A Jewish co-worked just walked by and I mentioned Sukkos.  "Hey... it might be fun for the kids to build a sukkah.", he mused.  I agreed with him... who knows...


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