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OCTOBER 6-7, 2000 8 TISHREI 5761

-Rabbi Reuven Semah

"All vows...may it be forgiven...because the entire people will have acted in error" (Kal Nidre prayer of Yom Kippur)

The opening ceremony of Yom Kippur is Kal Nidre. We take out all of the Torah scrolls from the Hechal and bring them to the people. The scrolls are brought back and the Kal Nidre is recited.

Rabbi N. Alpert points out a most beautiful symbolism in the fact that we bring out the Sifrei Torah to the great crowd on Yom Kippur night. If one would think, one would realize that all of our sins come from the fact that the Torah is in the Hechal and not always amongst us. The Torah is left in the corner, and not mingling amongst us. Would we sin in front of a Sefer Torah? Because it is in the Hechal we come up with new ideas that are not in the Torah, which are the opposite of what is in the Torah. The Torah, which is the light of the world, must be planted amongst us in order to produce the proper result and to straighten out the paths of our lives. We would therefore not have made unneeded vows. In this light we can understand the ending statement of Kal Nidre, that Hashem should forgive us because we have acted out of error and not because we wanted to sin.

It is clear that all that we need is a greater knowledge of Torah and to bring the Torah into our crowd. Shabbat Shalom.

- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Among the most important prayers on Yom Kippur is the recitation of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy - which we know as "Vaya'abor". We say it on Yom Kippur a total of 26 times, and there is a covenant that we will always be answered with this prayer.

The Gemara tells us that Hashem showed Moshe Rabenu this prayer and told him when the Jewish people "do" this order of prayer they will be answered. The Rabbis point out that it doesn't say, "when the Jewish people will say this prayer," but rather will "do" this prayer. This means that for the "Vaya'abor" to be effective, we have to learn to emulate the thirteen attributes of mercy which Hashem is known for. When we say them on Yom Kippur, let us reflect for a moment on the words. "He is merciful," let us acquire this trait within ourselves. "He is slow to anger," so should we be. "He forgives sins," we must learn to forgive others, etc. By saying these traits and trying to learn from them, we will become better people and merit forgiveness from G-d! Tizku Leshanim Rabot.


"A G-d of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is He." (Debarim 32:4)

One does not need to possess an astute mind in order to comprehend that Hashem is the Creator. As Harav Y. Neiman notes, simple prudent logic dictates that one believe in Hashem. The ultimate test of emunah, faith, however, is when one notices occurrences which contradict human logic and thought patterns. The challenge to accept Heavenly decrees which seem harsh and perplexing is the ultimate test of human faith. At such a time, the individual must trust in Hashem with a profound belief that man cannot possibly begin to understand his Creator. The pasuk alludes to this. Man should strive to attain the level of accepting that Hashem has no iniquity.

This unique form of faith was exhibited by many Jews just fifty years ago during the Holocaust. Rarely have men and women demonstrated so much bravery, while hopelessly facing such cruelty and bestiality. We speak here of overwhelming spiritual bravery and invincible dedication to Hashem, His Torah and misvot. The faith of the Jew confronted the destructive efforts of a diabolical enemy whose one goal was the annihilation of the Jewish people. They sought guidance in halachah and solace in Torah study. This was emunah at its most sublime and majestic moment.

Harav Neiman states that he once heard the Hazon Ish analogize perplexing events to a master tailor who takes shears and cuts up a beautiful piece of material. One can be assured that this is part of the process of creating a beautiful garment. Only a fool begins to question the tailor's motives in cutting up the raw material. The same principle applies to the conduct of Hashem. The truth is that we do not begin to understand His actions. We do not grasp why He makes these "incisions" in the best and most lovely part of His people. We must realize, however, that we are merely flesh and blood with a limited level of understanding. The fact that we do not comprehend Hashem's actions should in no way diminish our belief in Him.

The aged Rebbe of Yarislav once said that he merited living to a ripe old age because he never questioned Hashem. Rather, he accepted everything lovingly. He remarked that he feared that if he would seek an answer, Hashem would say to him, "If you don't understand, just come up to Heaven and I will explain everything to you." Since he was not quite ready to entertain such an idea, he never asked questions. May we merit to achieve the devotion inherent in this profound degree of faith in Hashem. (Peninim on the Torah)


During Minhah on Yom Kippur, we read the Book of Yonah. Yonah the prophet was ordered by Hashem to go to Nineveh and warn the people that if they did not repent, they would be punished. He refused this mission with good intention. Should the people of Nineveh, who were not Jewish, have heeded him, it would have had an adverse reflection upon the Jewish people, who had defied the warnings and exhortations of the prophets. Yonah meant well, but our Sages tell us he was wrong to defend the honor of the child (Israel) rather than the honor of the Father (Hashem).

To accomplish his goal, Yonah decided to flee Eres Yisrael and run away to Tarshish. He chose a destination outside Eres Yisrael because there Hashem does not reveal himself to prophets. Hashem thwarted his endeavors, and made it necessary that he be cast into the sea. There he was swallowed up by a large fish and spewed out on dry land. Ultimately, he went to Nineveh and warned them of their imminent destruction due to their bad behavior.

Minhah is the last prayer of the day before Ne'ilah - the closing prayer. As we prepare to part with this very holy day, we read the story of Yonah, which conveys the powerful message that there is no running away from Hashem. Hashem in His miraculous ways can find us wherever we are, and our endeavors to flee Him are purposeless and to no avail. The book of Yonah serves as a call not to run away from Hashem during the year, but to resolve to adhere tenaciously to Hashem and Torah throughout the entire year. (Vedibarta Bam)

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