GOOD MORNING! I am still in a daze from last week's events. With Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur coming upon us, one question we should be asking ourselves is, "What can I do to improve my relationship with the Almighty and my observance of His commandments?"
The Rambam, Maimonides, teaches that each individual's life is always on a balance -- like the old-time scales where the weights were put on one side and the produce on the other side -- and that each of us should think before doing an action that this transgression or that this mitzvah (commandment) could tip the scales.
Likewise, Rambam teaches, that each community, each country and ultimately the world is judged in the same manner. Thus, an individual should not only think that his transgression or fulfillment of a mitzvah tips the scale for him alone, but may very well tip the scale for all of mankind!
Yom Kippur begins Wednesday evening, September 26th (Yizkor is on Thursday, the 27th) and Sukkot begins Monday evening, October 1st. May we all make good use the opportunity of Yom Kippur and may we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year!
Q & A: WHAT IS THE ESSENCE OF YOM KIPPUR AND HOW DO WE OBSERVE IT?
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the anniversary of the day Moshe brought down from Mount Sinai the second set of Ten Commandments. This signified that the Almighty forgave the Jewish people for the transgression of the Golden Calf. For all times this day was decreed to be a day of forgiveness for our mistakes. However, this refers to transgressions against the Almighty. Transgressions against our fellow man require us to correct our mistakes and seek forgiveness. If one took from another person, it is not enough to regret and ask the Almighty for forgiveness; first, one must return what was taken and ask for forgiveness from the person and then ask for forgiveness from the Almighty.
In the prayer service we say the Viduy, a confession, and the Al Chet, a list of transgressions between man and God and between man and man. It is interesting to note two things. First, the transgressions are listed in alphabetical order (in Hebrew). This not only makes a comprehensive list, but gives a framework to include whatever transgression you wish to include under the proper letter.
Secondly, the Viduy and Al Chet are stated in the plural. This teaches us that we are one people and that we are responsible for each other. Even if we did not commit a particular offense, we carry a certain measure of responsibility for those who transgressed --especially if we could have prevented the transgression.
On Yom Kippur we read the Book of Jonah (i.e.. "Jonah and the Whale" -- though, it was a fish and not a whale...). The essence of the story is that God readily accepts the repentance of anyone who sincerely desires to do teshuva, to return to the Almighty and to the path of the Torah.
There are five prohibitions on Yom Kippur (from before sunset Wednesday, September 26th until nighttime-- when the stars come out --Thursday evening, September 27th) -- eating, wearing leather shoes, marital relations, anointing the skin with salves and oils, and washing for pleasure.
The essence of these prohibitions is to cause affliction to the body, thus negating it and giving preeminence to the soul. From a Jewish perspective a human being is comprised of a yetzer tov (the desire to do the right thing, which is identified with the soul) and a yetzer hora (the desire to follow your desires, which corresponds with the body). Our challenge in life is to get our bodies in line with the yetzer tov. A comparison is made in the Talmud to a horse (the body) and a rider (the soul). Better to have the rider on top of the horse!
Jewish tradition teaches that on Yom Kippur the yetzer hora, the desire to follow your desires, is dead. If we follow our desires, it is only out of habit. On Yom Kippur we can break our habits! Here are three questions to think about on Yom Kippur:
- Am I eating to live or living to eat?
- If you're eating to live, then what are you living for?
- What would I like written in my obituary or on my tombstone?
Portion of the Week
On the last day of Moshe's life he passes the torch of leadership to Yehoshua (Joshua). Moshe then gives Yehoshua a command/blessing which applies to every Jewish leader: "Be strong and brave. Do not be afraid or feel insecure before them. God your Lord is the One who is going with you, and He will not fail you or forsake you."
Moshe writes the entire Torah and gives it to the Cohanim and Elders. He then commands that in the future at the end of the Shmita (Sabbatical Year) the king should gather all the people during the Succot festival and read to them the Torah so "... that they will hear and learn and fear the Lord your God and be careful to perform all the words of the Torah."
The Almighty describes in a short paragraph the course of Jewish history (that's starting from Deuteronomy 31:16 for the curious).
Lastly, before Moshe goes to "sleep with his forefathers," he assembles the people to teach them the song of Ha'azinu, next week's portion, to remind them of the consequences of turning away from the Torah and against the Almighty -- and the benefits to individuals and the Jewish people because of our keeping the Torah, fulfilling the positive commandments and not transgressing the negative commandments.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "And Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel" (Deuteronomy 31:1). Why does the Torah add the words, "And Moshe went"? They seemingly add nothing to our understanding; we don't even know where Moshe went! What do we learn from these words?
The great commentator, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (Spain, 1089-1164 CE) explains that before Moshe died he went to each tribe to notify them that he was about to die, but that they should not be afraid because he was leaving them with Yehoshua (Joshua) who would be a reliable leader.
What lesson for life can we learn from this? If we see that someone has fears, we should do all that we can to alleviate those fears. It is a great act of kindness to help a person overcome a fear; and it is a great cruelty to laugh at someone's fears. Be sensitive to others and help them where you can.
CANDLE LIGHTING - September 21:
(or go to http://aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:41 Hong Kong 6:03 Honolulu 6:10
J'Burg 5:45 London 6:43 Los Angeles 6:24
Melbourne 5:58 Miami 7:01 Moscow 6:13
New York 6:37 Singapore 6:44
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
A clear conscience is
usually the sign of a bad memory.
In Loving Memory of