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Haftarah: Hoshea 14:2-10, Yoel 2:11-27, Micah 7:18-20

OCTOBER 3-4, 2008 5 TISHREI 5768

Yom Kippur will be observed on Thursday, October 9.


"Hashem is the mikveh of Israel. Just as a mikveh purifies the impure, so does Hashem purify Israel from their sins" (Mishnah Yoma)

The above-quoted Mishnah compares Hashem to a mikveh. The comparison is understood but why is it necessary and what does it add to the Divine process of purification?

Rabbi Pinchas Roberts explains that the answer lies in the root cause of sin. Usually the problem lies in the reluctance to acknowledge the wiser judgment of Hashem. Whether it be in the restriction of Shabbat observance, or the strict laws of kashrut, or the high standards of honesty in business, the common denominator is an inability to accept that Hashem knows better than we do what is good for us and what we can accomplish. The result is that people decide to do what they think is right and beneficial.

If, therefore, we are intent on doing teshubah, the correct procedure is to follow the method of dipping in a mikveh, which requires total immersion in the water. Even if one hair or the slightest part of the body is not submerged the dipping is invalid and the person remains unclean. Likewise, Hashem will rid us of our spiritual impurities if our submission to His will is total and complete.

This idea helps to explain why the act of prostration played such a central part in the Yom Kippur service in the Bet Hamikdash. In order to gain forgiveness it was essential to demonstrate our outright subservience to Hashem, which was done by prostrating, as if to surrender everything to Him in obedience. As we bow to Hashem in shul on Yom Kippur, let us completely submit ourselves to His will and become purified by Hashem, our mikveh. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

When we think of teshubah, repentance, we usually think of sins that we did or misvot that we neglected. Indeed that is the basic level of repentance, to wipe out all sins from our records. However, there is another concept that we should focus on, especially during these days.

There was a great Rabbi, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, known as the Netziv, who once invited his family and friends to a festive meal. He explained that he had just finished composing a very complex book, and that called for a celebration. He then told his family that when he was a young boy he was a playful child, not interested in studying. One day, he heard his father tell his mother, "Maybe our little son would be more successful as a tradesman rather than a scholar." The young boy burst into his parents' room and cried out, "Give me one more chance and I'll apply myself to my studies," and the rest was history. The Rabbi then concluded by saying, "Imagine if I had become a tailor, a pious Jew who learns every day for a while, and after 120 years went to the Heavenly court. I would think that my judgment would be based on what I did as a tailor, but the Heavenly court would show me this book that I have just finished, and would ask me, 'Where is this work that you could have done?' That is why I am celebrating today - because I will be able to say that I did what was my potential."

We see from here that it's not enough to just consider what we do or don't do. We should ask ourselves, "Are we living up to our potential?" We have so much talent and capabilities. We have to exert ourselves a little more in the service of Hashem. In these days of teshubah let us re-examine our lives, our accomplishments and our goals, and let us see where we can make a difference. Tizku Leshanim Rabot. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


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)

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.

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