DAYS: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays
Yom Kippur, which is only three days away,
is called the Day of Forgiveness because this
is the day when Moses, after pleading with G-d for 80 days
to forgive the Israelites for the Sin of the Golden Calf,
finally succeeded. On this day, G-d finally said to him:
I will forgive as you have asked.
On Yom Kippur we seek to connect to the energy
of this awesome day and win forgiveness for ourselves as well.
But we can hardly expect to be forgiven by G-d if we ourselves
have not been willing to forgive others.
Forgiveness is not easy; it requires work. But,
most importantly, it requires a connection to G-d, the Giver
of Life (and now as the mother flame draws close to the spark,
is the ideal time to feel this connection).
The secret of being able to forgive others is
to remember that G-d gave you life because you matter to Himyou
have a vital and irreplaceable role to play in the perfection
of His world. When you remember that, you can have the strength
to rise above the pain others have caused you and forgive
both them and yourself.
The word for forgiveness in Hebrew,
mechilah, is related to the word machol meaning
circle. Life is meant to be a circle encompassing
all our experiences and relationships in one harmonious, seamless
whole. When someone hurts us the circle is broken. Forgiveness
is the way we mend the fracture.
Forgiveness means not merely forgiving the person
who hurt us, but forgiving ourselves, forgiving G-d, forgiving
even life itself with all its bizarre and often cruel twists
When you forgive, the circle is again complete
and you find yourself encompassed by the wholeness of G-ds
creation of which you are an integral part. And then you can
have the confidence that this Yom Kippur you will hear G-d
saying to you: I will forgive as you have asked.
Ask yourself: Whom have you hurt? Who has
Exercise for the day:
~ Make a list of those whom you must forgive.
~ Make a list of those whom you must ask for
Seventh of the Ten Days of Teshuvah.
Only three days left to Yom Kippur.
According to the Ramak, this day corresponds to chesed
According to the Ari, this day corresponds to tiferet (beauty
or harmony or compassion).
When Elazar ben Durdaia (a notorious sinner)
found that all his appeals for assistance had been turned
down, he said: It all depends entirely on myself.
He placed his head between his knees and wept until his soul
departed from him. A voice from heaven then announced: Rabbi
Elazar ben Durdaia is destined for life in the world to come!
Hearing this, Rabbi [Judah HaNassi] wept: There are
those who acquire their world in many years, and there are
those who acquire their world in a single moment.
Laws and Customs
Laws of forgiveness:
Sins between one person and another, Yom
Kippur does not atone for until one appeases his friend.
Therefore, before Yom Kippur you should do everything
possible to apologize and ask forgiveness from anyone you
may have hurt, even with words. If the person is not appeased,
you must try a second and a third time, each time employing
new methods to gain the intended forgiveness.
The one who was hurt must not be cruel and refuse
to forgive, unless he feels that not forgiving immediately
will help humble the callousness of the person who has hurt
him, or he believes that by forgiving he himself will be hurt
in the process.
He made the letter Lamed king over
coition, and He bound a crown to it, and he combined one with
another, and with them he formed Libra in the universe,
Tishrei in the year, and the gall bladder [or liver]
in the Soul, male and female (Sefer Yetzirah
5:9). The mazal (sign) for this month is moznayim
(Libra/scale), which symbolizes the Divine judgment that takes
place in this month, beginning with Rosh Hashana.
INTRODUCTION TO YOM KIPPUR
HOLIEST DAY OF THE YEAR
Yom Kippur is the holiest and most awesome of
all the days of the Jewish year, the peak experience of the
Days of Awe (Yomim Noraim) as the High Holidays are
It is the day when the verdict that was written on Rosh Hashana
(the Day of Judgment) who shall live and who shall
who by fire and who by water
is finally sealed.
It is the day when we confess our sins to G-d and beg that
they will be forgivenbanking on the energy of forgiveness
which Moses brought down on this day more than 3,000 years
ago when he won forgiveness from G-d for the Israelites
sin of the Golden Calf.
It is the day when the Ten Days of Teshuvah come to
an end, and we are presented with the last and best opportunity
to return to our own Divine essence, and by virtue of doing
so, to return to G-d.
It is the wedding day between G-d and the Jewish
people, as Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai with the second
set of tablets.
On Yom Kippur we touch the holiest part of ourselvesour
souls. In emulation of the High Priest of the days of old,
we have the opportunity to enter our personal Holy of Holies.
The Holy of Holies is the place where heaven meets the earth,
where the Divine Presence shines unconcealed. This is the
intimate place where we can meet G-d.
Yom Kippur is the convergence of the holiest
in space, time, and manwhen the holiest part of man
enters the holiest space on the holiest day.
We are able to do so when we take away all the
materialism, all the physicality, all the external tools and
expose what is leftthe sacredness of our inner selves.
You dont feel sacred when you are working,
and you dont feel sacred when youre consuming
a meal, no matter how good it tastes. You may feel good or
satisfied, but you dont feel sacred or unique or uplifted.
You feel sacred only when you experience your
soul, the part of you that was created in the image of G-d.
It is your true self, though you probably dont recognize
it as such. But once you do, once you experience the fullness
of Yom Kippur, you will never settle for less again.
DAY OF LIMITLESS POSSIBILITIES
Yom Kippur is the only day in the year when
each soul on earth comes closest to feeling its source. The
innermost dimension of the soul is revealed and shines forth
only on this day. This dimension of the soulyechidah
(oneness)represents the inner unity of our
souls, transcending all fragmentation, compartmentalization,
all our dualities and pluralities. It emerges only on Yom
Kippur, the Day of Oneness, which falls on the 10th
Ten is considered a complete number, encompassing
all of existence and the entire cycle of time and space. It
is signified in the Hebrew alphabet by the letter yud,
the first letter of the essential four-letter Name of G-d,
the Tetragrammaton, which we are forbidden to pronounce. Yud
is written as a dotthe unifying point that fuses everything
into the sacred oneness of G-d.
Sacredness/holiness, therefore, is the theme
of this day, on which we try to be like angels. As the 16th
century scholar, the Maharal of Prague, put it, All
of the mitzvot that G-d commanded us on [Yom Kippur]
are designed to remove, as much as possible, a person's relationship
to physicality, until he is completely like an angel.
On this day, we immerse ourselves entirely into
the world of the sublime, minimizing in every way our interaction
with the material, pluralistic, and fragmented world. We consume
no food or drink or engage in marital relations. We do not
bathe or anoint ourselves with creams or perfumes, and we
do not wear leather shoes, which symbolize luxury. We wear
white and spend almost the entire day in the cocoon of the
synagogue immersed in prayer.
We invest all our energy in this day, because
on Yom Kippur anything is possible. This we know from the
very first Yom Kippur, the day which gave birth to hope.
If ever there was a day to begin anew, it is on Yom Kippur.
This is the day when we have the power to ask for anything
we wantto achieve our deepest goals and dreams. Yom
Kippur is the single most important day in our lives.
So, make sure that you use this most special
of days to the fullest. But if for some reason you cannot,
at least participate in the opening prayer, Kol Nidrei,
and in the closing prayer, the Neilah. (And if you
have lost a parent, be sure to also participate in Yizkor,
the memorial prayer.)
EREV YOM KIPPUR
BREAKING THE TIES THAT BIND
Before darkness falls, marking the
official beginning of the 10th day of Tishrei
which is Yom Kippur, in every synagogue in the world a haunting
melody is sangKol Nidrei.
Kol Nidrei means All Vows
and its classic text, repeated three times, each time louder,
is a renunciation of all oaths and vows.
It seems strange to begin the holiest day of
the yearthe day which we spend asking G-d to forgive
us for all transgressionsby breaking former promises.
But Kol Nidrei is not that. Kol Nidrei is the process through which
we enter the holiest day of the year.
A neder is not just the vow/promise that
you vocalize to another person, it is a word that denotes
all commitments, attachments, and ties that bind you.
By renouncing all vows you are declaring
your commitment to break the bonds that keep you from traveling
on the journey within, that keep you from opening yourself
to the Yom Kippur experience.
Obviously, this does not mean forsaking healthy
commitments and responsibilitiesit means forsaking those
attachments that limit you, that entangle and entrap you.
That is the essential focus of Kol Nidrei.
It is a perfect prayer to begin Yom Kippur with because unless
you free yourself from such traps you cannot travel inward;
with a ball and chain attached to you, you are not going to
be able to get anywhere.
Kol Nidrei is repeated three times to
relate to vows in speech, vows in deed, and vows in thought:
All vows and things we have made forbidden on
we regret having made them, may they all
be permitted, forgiven, eradicated, and nullified, and may
they not be valid or exist any longer. Our vows shall no
longer be vows, and our prohibitions shall no longer be prohibited,
and our oaths are no longer oaths.
Light is sown for the righteous and for
the upright in heartjoy. (Psalms 97:11)
Pardon us, forgive us, grant us atonementfor
we are Your people and You are our G-d; we are Your children
and You are our Father;
we are Your congregation and
You are our portion; we are Your inheritance and You are our
lot; we are Your flock and You are our Shepherd; we are Your
vineyard and You are our Watchman; we are Your handiwork and
You are our Creator; we are Your beloved ones and You are
our Beloved; we are Your treasure and You are our G-d
(Yom Kippur prayer)
Laws and Customs
Before going to the synagogue, eat a festive
meal (seudah hamfaseket).
Light a yahrzeit candle for the departed
Light the candles for the holiday, and say:
Blessed Are You, O G-d, King of the Universe, who sanctified
us with Your commandments and commanded us to light the flame
of the Day of Atonement.[If Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat
say, to light the flame of Shabbos and the flame of
the Day of Atonement.] Then say the Shehecheyanu
blessing: Blessed are You, O G-d, King of the Universe,
Who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this
Begin a 25-hour fastno eating or drinking
until sundown the next day. Some have a custom of fasting
26 hours, as 26 is the gematria (numerical value) of
the essential four-letter Name of G-d, the Tetragrammaton.
Bless your children before the evening Kol
Dress in white.
Married men wear a white robe called a kittel for the
entire Yom Kippur as they do under the chuppah. In
the first year of marriage, the kittel is not worn
on Yom Kippur since it was worn at the chuppah.
The tallit (prayer shawl) is worn during
the evening service (unlike all year round).
 Shulchan Aruch, and Harav, Orach Chaim 606. See there for more
 Mishne Taanit 26b and Rashi.
 Exodus 30:10. Leviticus 16:30. See Tosafot. Menochot
18a. For the spiritual meaning see Ateret Rosh Shaar
Yom HaKippurim ch. 2 ff. Kuntres HaHispalut ch. 4.
 Yechida lyachdecho, Clings
and cleaves to you
the oneness that affirms Your Oneness
(Hoshanot prayer, day 3).
 Though certainly at times in Jewish history it has
been seen as a renunciation of wrongful oaths Jews took
to save their lives, as in medieval Spain where many pretended
to convert to Christianity.
 See Mateh Efraim 608:3. Keter Shem Tov (Gogin) vol.
6 p. 281.
 See Midrash Tehillim 17. Ritva Baba Batra 121a.
Mordechai Yuma 723. Orchot Chaim Yom Kippur 27. Ramo Orach
Chaim 610. We wear white, because we are like Divine angels
(Mordechai and Ramo ibid). For more details, see Talmudic
Encylopedia, Yom HaKippurim (vol. 22 p. 520) and the sources