A Meaningful Yom Kippur

Thursday, 28 September, 2017 - 4:15 pm

As we prepare for the holiest day of the year, I would like to share the following perspective. There are two ways we can look at Yom Kippur and the High Holy Days in general.

One standpoint is marked by the overlay of a distinctive tinge of fear and urgency with notion that our future is being decided and this is our last chance to state our case before the Supernal Judge Who is determining what our year is going to hold in store for us. From this vantage point, Neilah (closing service) on Yom Kippur means the gates of heaven are closing and we must “daven our way” to a good year now or we lose the chance. None of the above is untrue and this take is entirely rooted in millennia of Jewish thought and writings.

The second approach is, that these days are an opening into an opportunity to create or significantly expand a deep and meaningful relationship with G-d that is unparalleled at any other time of the year. Looking at it this way, Neilah on Ym Kippur means that the gates of “heaven” are closing and we have the chance to have them close behind us, since we have achieved an intense oneness with Hashem. This is the Chassidic perspective.

These two are not mutually exclusive. Both are true and necessary. It is a question of emphasis. In my opinion, when one emphasizes the second way, Yom Kippur is that much more meaningful and even enjoyable. Fasting is not only an act of penance but rather a way of ridding oneself of material distractions for the day. This thread runs through the entire meaning of the day and season.

May we each find a way to make the most of this most important day so that it is indeed a highly meaningful one that brings us up close and personal with Hashem.

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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