Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Yom Kippur 5777

Yom Kippur 5777:

Okay everyone:  This is also the week of the Holy Yom Kippur!  It is hard to believe!  The Aseres Yi’mei Teshuva/Ten Days of Repentance are almost over!  Elul, Rosh Hashanah, and basically all the Ten Days of Repentance are over. But it is not too late: It is never too late. We still have the holy day of Yom Kippur! And now, it is time to make some resolutions for the next cycle. Let’s not just leave Yom Kippur on the tenth of Tishrei; we need to, B’Ezras Hashem/With the Help of Hashem, take it with us throughout the entire year.

Now, Rabbeinu Yehuda HaNasi zt”l said in a Baraisa (recorded in Gemara Yoma 87a) that Yom Kippur itself atones for our sins by itself – whether we do Teshuva or not. But the Halacha/rule follows the view of the Rabbis, who said that we must do Teshuva to gain atonement. And, Baruch Hashem, as we are told, at this time, Hashem makes it easier to return to Him in truth. We must do Teshuva in order to be forgiven. And not fake Teshuva – actual Teshuva. Actually returning to Hashem! We likely all know that the root of the word ‘תּשׁוּבה’ is ‘שׁוּב’ which means to return. We have strayed from the Holy House of our Father in Heaven and it is time to return. Let us not, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid, squander this great opportunity that Hashem has given us.

The founder of the Mussar Movement, HaRav Yisroel Salanter zt”l used to say that how great is Hashem’s mercy to us! For if He had given us Yom Kippur – the day when it is so much easier to do Teshuva – but once every 70 years, we would consider it our great fortune. “Now that this opportunity is given to us every year” concluded Reb Yisroel zt”l “How intensely happy we must be with Hashem’s kindness!”[1]

Arguably the holiest day of the year is almost upon us, and we must wake up. We cannot sleep any longer. Hashem has given us life, and it is up to us to live. I would like to, B’Ezras Hashem Yisbarech/With the Help of Hashem, He is Blessed, share with you an absolutely beautiful, heart-piercing explanation and parable from the Maggid of Yerushalayim (HaRav Shalom Schwadron zt”l), that honestly should melt the hardest of hearts, and make us all break down into tears: The passuk/verse says (Shir HaShirim 5:2) ‘I am sleeping, but my heart is awake. My Beloved’s voice – He is knocking; “Open for Me! My sister, My friend, My dove, My pure one!”’ Reb Shalom zt”l says that these words are directed specifically for this time of year, and he composed the following parable:

(Note: The father in this parable we’ll call Yaakov, and the son Yosef): Yaakov’s only son, Yosef, went to live in a far-off land. He got married, and he and his wife had children. Yaakov really wanted to see his son, and in every letter he sent to him, he invited him and his family to come for a visit. But every time that Yosef would try to come, something would happen and he ended up not being able to.

Seeing that it was very hard for his son to visit him, Yaakov decided to travel and visit him. So he made preparations, and boarded a ship. It took a long time, but finally he reached the port, and the ship docked. Yaakov was ecstatic – he was about to see his son! But, to his surprise, Yosef, his son, was not waiting for him at the dock.

He was disappointed, but immediately began making excuses for Yosef: He likely was busy, making preparations for his arrival, so that’s probably why he couldn’t greet the ship. Yaakov found a train quickly, and rode it to his son’s city. But when the train reached the station, Yosef and his family were not waiting for him! Now Yaakov was worried; maybe something was wrong.  His heart was full of worry, and he hired a taxi to take him to his son’s address. But when he arrived there, everything in the house was dark except for a weak light. Now Yaakov was extremely, extremely worried. Was everybody alright? Was somebody ill? His hands were shaking as he knocked on the door; once, then twice. Finally, a voice called “Who’s there?”

Now Yaakov relaxed, recognizing his son’s voice, and said “Your father, who has made such a long trip to visit you, is knocking; open up the door my son!”

There was a moment of silence, before Yaakov heard his son reply “Father, I have already gotten into my pajamas and washed my feet. It’s awkward for me to get out of bed and come to the door now. Please, if you don’t mind, there is a hotel next door. Spend the night there, and in the morning we will meet.”

When Yaakov heard his son’s reply, he almost collapsed. His head began to reel, and he thought about how he had wanted to see his son for so long. And he saw that his son couldn’t visit, so he decided to come to him. He kept making excuses for him and everything, but should he stay at a hotel? Certainly not! Yaakov took a taxi back to the train station, took a train back to the port, and then booked a return trip on the very first ship. Yosef awoke in the morning, full of regret about his foolish behavior the previous night. He quickly got dressed got out bed, and ran to the hotel. But his father wasn’t there. His pain was deep when he realized that his father was nowhere to be found.

Adds HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Beifus zt”l in his masterpiece, Lekach Tov: Hashem waits for us the entire year to return to Him. But we don’t – each with our own excuse. He comes to us on Rosh Chodesh Elul, and the days of Elul are imbued with Hashem’s Mercy; days when it is so much easier to return to Him wholeheartedly. Yet, many are not wise enough to take advantage of this great opportunity.

But Hashem, in His Great Mercy sends us Rosh Hashanah, and the Ten days of Teshuva, when He moves even closer, and makes it even easier to feel Him and return. Isn’t it strange that a lot of people seem to ignore this gracious gift?[2]

Yet Hashem, the Blessed King, goes further still: On Yom Kippur (this is the climax) He knocks on the very doors of our hearts, asking us all to return to Him in truth!

Wow! This is so powerful, and the message is heart-piercing. It is almost hard not to start crying after reading this! Hashem. Our Beloved Father has been waiting patiently for us to come back to Him and stop sinning. And right now is the time!

May every single Jew take the message of this parable, return to Hashem completely, and stay with Him always, Amein. And if we do so, Hashem will write and seal all of us for a year of good life. May our Father and King, HaKadosh Baruch Hu, help everyone to return to Him in total truth, and then write and seal everyone for a year of good life, Amein, vi’Amein, so may it be His Holy Will.

I wish every single person a wonderful, wonderful Yom Kippur, full of meaning and Teshuva!!

G’mar Chasima Tovah, si’kaseivu vi’sichaseimu, li’chaim tov everyone!!!

[1] Sparks of Mussar, page 46.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publication Ltd©.
[2] The Torah of Brisk and Other Gedolim: Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, pages 46-50.  By HaRav Shimon Yosef Meller shlita.  Cited in Yalkut Lekach TovFeldheim Publication Ltd©.

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