Yom Kippur

September 13, 2013                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       TISHREI 9, 5774


Candle-lighting time: 6:52 PM
Fast Begins 7:08 PM


  • There are many time-honored facets of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. Details can be found here: http://ohr.edu/holidays/rosh_hashana_and_yom_kippur/laws_and_rituals/1182
  • For those joining us for Kol Nidrei tonight, we start at 6:30pm in the Social Hall of the JCC. The fast begins at 7:08 pm and class with Rabbi Bergstein begins at 7:30pm.
  • The fast of Yom Kippur ends at 7:50 pm Saturday night.
  • Sukkos is approaching! Contact us for help with a sukkah, or lulav and esrog.

A Day of Atonement

 Rabbi Leban

In the big fat Webster’s dictionary that I got for my bar mitzvah (and have shlepped around the planet for the last few decades) it defines atonement as, “satisfaction or reparation given for an offense, injury, etc.” Basically, it means getting back a little of what you deserve. Most of us get a good healthy ‘atonement’ just by fasting, sitting in shul and being forced to listen to the Yom Kippur appeal. I’d say that’s about enough reparation for a year’s worth of wickedness.

Since Yom Kippur is called the Day of Atonement in English, that must be how it works.

Let’s take a look at the original sources a moment. Why does Yom Kippur happen on that day?  The Torah tells us that after we left Egypt and received the Torah at Mount Sinai, we made one of our greatest national blunders (even worse than inventing gefilte fish).  When Moshe seemed not to be returning from the mountain at the appointed time, we made the Golden Calf to replace him. For that grave error, the G-d-given tablets of the Ten Commandments were smashed. Eighty days later, after Moshe pleaded with G-d to forgive us, G-d finally forgave us (as much as He was going to) and gave us the second set of tablets. That day of Divine forgiveness was the tenth of the month of Tishrei, Yom Kippur.

In Hebrew, kippur is a form of the work kapara. Kapara means forgiveness—a powerful type of forgiveness that renders the soul of the offender clean as if the offense had never been made. Yom Kippur is a day of spiritual dry-cleaning. On that day, G-d forgives every little regrettable act we did during the past year, and returns our souls to a state of bright, shiny cleanliness.

My daughter once asked me if she could take a bath with her clothes on. She pointed out that they needed to be washed also. Maybe she had a point. I could have saved some time doing laundry. In the final analysis, however, I declined. I wasn’t quite sure that the little girl inside would get as clean bathing with the dirty clothes still on.

The day of Yom Kippur is detergent for the soul. But you have to make the soul accessible. If it’s all covered up with bad habits, negativity, arrogance and mistreatment of others, the cleanser just doesn’t work.

We have to do teshuva.

Very simply, we have to regret what we did wrong (if we haven’t completely blocked it out of our memory), admit it (quietly in prayer will do, we don’t have to take out an ad in the paper), and make up never to do it again (hopefully with a little strategy how that will work.). And if the offense was committed against someone, you have to obtain their forgiveness first. That’s what enables the day of Yom Kippur to work.

I don’t know if that’s what ole Webster had in mind, but it doesn’t have to be so painful. Your soul is certainly happy to be rinsed off for another year, and everybody likes to be forgiven. Just make sure that you take your clothes off before you get into the tub, and enjoy your sparkling clean new soul.


 Rabbi Nussbaum

Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. We beseech Hashem to grant us clemency for an entire year of misdeeds and perhaps worse. The contract between us and Hashem states that if we do not repent with sufficient gravity, then we are liable for punishment, and even death. It certainly is a time for tremendous introspection and hopefully to chart a new, more elevated approach to life.

The language that we use when we daven on Yom Kippur is very intriguing. We mention that Hashem has given us this day with love. However, one might question where is the loving concern of our King when we could quite possibly be condemned to death or serious illness if we do not find favor in the eyes of the Heavenly Court? If we would know that we will be granted a stay of execution, then we would certainly believe in Hashem’s kindness. However, we are not guaranteed such a verdict from Hashem. How can we truly appreciate Hashem’s love when the possibility of a negative sentence hangs heavily over our heads?

However, to answer the above question, we need to ask another one. When a person is summoned to appear in court for some offense that he has committed, he certainly doesn’t publicize all of his wrongdoings and wrongful acts. Yet we are busy the entire day of Yom Kippur divulging all of our sins, as though Hashem doesn’t know about them anyway. Why is this the way that we approach the throne of our Creator to gain favor, by mentioning all of the wrong things that we have done the entire year?

In order to address these issues appropriately, we first need to gain a deeper appreciation of the protocol of the Heavenly Court and how it functions when judging us. In contrast to an earthly tribunal, the Heavenly Court is actually not interested in punishing us. Rather, the intent of judgment is that we make a strong, concerted effort to consider the dangerous nature of our deeds and plan a solution so that we can live in a more harmonious relationship with Hashem.

The first step in creating a healthier bond with Hashem is to have a clear understanding of what has gone awry. If something is not broken, it cannot be mended. But once we have a clear perspective on our many problems, we can begin the rebuilding process which will guide us to an improved and more satisfying lifestyle. If we blindly extol our previous manner of behavior, then we are locked in and it is very difficult to alter our lives. However, if we seriously focus on the many deficiencies that we experience as responsible human beings and members of the Jewish nation, then we have the potential to revamp and renovate ourselves.

This is the love professed by Hashem. He doesn’t wish to destroy His people, rather He beckons us to return and follow His example, to live a wholesome and healthy life in sync with the mandates of the Torah. However, the divine assistance that we receive on Yom Kippur is not only for strengthening our connection with Hashem, rather it goes much further. This is the only day of the year when the Evil Inclination has been removed from our midst. We are free to perform our obligations as angels, no longer anchored to our earthly lusts.  We can reach higher and higher and uplift our spirits to new dimensions of greatness and comprehension of life’s meaning and significance. However, we need to tap into these immeasurable resources and utilize them to their fullest. Then we can look forward to a year full of happiness and success.

It is a mitzvah to eat on Friday, erev Yom Kippur in order to strengthen ourselves so that we will be able to fast easily the next day. The Talmud equates eating on Friday to that of fasting on Yom Kippur itself because it enables us to perform that mitzvah.


Joke of the Week

Q: How does Moses make his tea?

A: Hebrews it

(….Israeli how he does it!)

A Question for the Rabbis

The question of disinterring a body buried in the Diaspora for burial in the Land of Israel is one which has been discussed extensively from Talmudic times until the present day. One of the central sources of the discussion appears in our parsha. The verse states, “[A]nd His land will atone for His people” (Deuteronomy 32:43). The Code of Jewish Law allows the body to be disinterred in order to bury it in Israel (Yoreh Deah 363:1), and the commentaries cite as the reason that the “very earth of the Land of Israel atones” (Siftei Cohen ad loc.). This verse is also the source of the custom mentioned in theCode of Jewish Law (ibid.) to place earth from the Land of Israel in the coffin when someone is buried outside of Israel.