09 September 2018

Yom Kippur – G-d’s Debate with Israel

29 Elul 5778
Erev Rosh haShana 5779

Update: You might want to read this Rosh haShana article first: Don't Forget about the King by Shmuel Sackett...then come right back!

Yom Kippur – G-d’s Debate with Israel
by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher | first published here
links by CDG

The Mishna in Yoma 8 states, "Sins that are between a person and his fellow Jew are NOT atoned for on Yom Kippur." One cannot offend and harm another person and ask for forgiveness from G-d. Forgiveness must be asked and can only come from the person that we hurt, and only he can pardon us.

Thus, on the morning of Yom Kippur we read the amazing words of the prophet, Yeshayahu, (Ch. 58) where he presents a debate that takes place between G-d and Israel. In this chapter, we see how Yom Kippur can lead us to change our evil ways and be just and compassionate to our fellow Jew.

Yeshayahu states that Israel claims before G-d, "Why have we fasted and You (G-d) did not pay attention; we have afflicted our soul, and You (G-d) do not know?" This question is asked after the Yom Kippur fast, when G-d's pardon is not apparent. The people cry out, "Why hasn't the Yom Kippur fast helped to obtain forgiveness?"

G-d's response is clear and unequivocal – "Will such be the fast that I will choose, a day of a person afflicting his soul? Is it to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast that is acceptable to G-d? Do you (human beings) think that I desire you to suffer? Do I get any benefit from the fact that you afflict yourselves?" (Yeshayahu Ch. 58).

G-d is telling us that the Yom Kippur fast is not only an end in itself but the means to reach a further goal. What is this yearned for goal? G-d responds to this question with the surprising answer, "Is this not the fast I will choose? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to bring the poor into your home, when you see a naked one, you shall clothe him and not hide from your fellow Jew."

Here G-d explains the goal that He wants our Yom Kippur fast to achieve. The purpose of the fast is not to suffer or to diet. The purpose is that we should remember the poor, those who do not have proper food, clothing or shelter. This is the true purpose of the Yom Kippur fast. Because when we are hungry and thirsty, we can more readily identify with others who are suffering.

Thus, Yeshayahu promises, "Then you shall call, and G-d shall answer; you shall cry out, and He shall say, 'Here I am'."

Therefore, on Yom Kippur we repeat over and over again the 13 Attributes of
G-d's Compassion, "G-d, G-d, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to Anger and Abundant in Loving-kindness and Truth…, Forgiving iniquity, rebellion and sin." (Shemot 34).

Why do we keep repeating these verses over and over again on Yom Kippur? When we repeat this declaration again and again, we become convinced that the correct path between us and our fellow Jew is G-d's path of compassion, forgiveness and loving kindness. We turn to G-d in the merit of those very same qualities with which He identifies Himself, and thus we awaken those same traits in ourselves.

As the Talmud in Rosh Hashana states, "Whoever forgives his friend for sinning against him even when he doesn't have to, guarantees similar treatment from G-d on Yom Kippur."

If we make a habit of displaying undeserved grace to others, including those who have committed wrongs against us, then we are guaranteed to earn the same kind of undeserved grace from G-d, MIDAH K'NEGED MIDAH. G-d conducts Himself with us in the same way that we conduct ourselves with our fellow human beings.
 Related: How to Turn a SIN Into a WIN!

More on Yom Kippur: Neila: Locked In with G-d (I'm going to have to link to it once it's actually online. Sorry about that. - CDG)

NOTE: Just before posting, I realized that this is a retitled repost of Yom Kippur's Goal: Compassion for the Needy; only this time, I linked the references and included a video, as I have been doing lately. Shana Tova uMevorah!

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