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Torah Attitude: Yom Kippur: May we be inscribed for life, blessing, peace and a good livelihood

Summary

We ask to be inscribed for life, blessing, peace and a good livelihood, together with the entire Jewish people. "Who is the man that desires life, who loves days to see good." The Chofetz Chaim quotes from our sages how the gossipmonger is despised and punished by G'd, both in this world and the World to Come. Every Friday night we chant in the second stanza of Lecha Dodi "Let us go together to meet the Shabbos for it is the source of blessing." Our Shabbos observance can make a real difference in every aspect of our lives. In order to achieve atonement on Yom Kippur for interpersonal shortcomings, we must ask forgiveness from our fellow beings and appease each other. We must be aware that we will not achieve atonement from G'd if we have not settled our "accounts" with our fellow beings. When we deal honestly in our business affairs and conduct ourselves with integrity, we sanctify G'd's name. When we pray to G'd to be inscribed for life, blessing and peace and a good livelihood, we already express our belief that G'd, and only G'd, can provide us with all of these.

Special requests

From Rosh Hashanah till after Yom Kippur we make some changes and add extra prayers in Shemoneh Esrei. In the last blessing we ask to be inscribed for life, blessing, peace and a good livelihood, together with the entire Jewish people. These requests are extremely important to all of us, and it is worthwhile to investigate to see what we can do to enhance our situation so that we merit to have our requests fulfilled.

Inscribed for life

Our first request is to be inscribed for life. In Tehillim (34:14-16) King David states what to do if one wants life, as he says: "Who is the man that desires life, who loves days to see good." King David answers with the following piece of advice: "Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil, and do good, seek peace and pursue it." On a simple level, this teaches us that to enjoy a good life we must live in peace and harmony with our fellow beings. Someone who gossips and slanders will be disliked by others. In the same way, someone who is deceitful or harms others will not be accepted in the business world or social circles. On the other hand, a person who seeks to live in peace with his fellow beings, speaks positively about others and deals with them honestly, such a person will be popular and accepted into any circle.

Gossip and slander

On a deeper level, the Chofetz Chaim quotes from our sages how the gossipmonger is despised and punished by G'd, both in this world and the World to Come. This person brings upon himself the wrath of G'd that will spoil his life both here and in the thereafter. So when we ask for life we must at the same time make a real effort to control our talk and not slander anyone. When people came to the late Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehuda Segal, with their problems, he would advise them to study the laws of controlling one's speech by the Chofetz Chaim. He would often relate how he had seen people's lives improve in various ways, when they took upon themselves to be careful about gossip and slander.

Blessing and Shabbos

Our second request is that we should be inscribed for blessing. Every Friday night we chant in the second stanza of Lecha Dodi "Let us go together to meet the Shabbos for it is the source of blessing." The great Kabbalist, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, who wrote Lecha Dodi, based this stanza on the words of the Zohar. At the end of creation the Torah says (Bereishis 2:3): "And G'd blessed the seventh day." The Zohar (Shemos 88a) explains that this means that the blessings of every day of the week emanate from the blessing G'd gave to Shabbos. In our daily life, we do not necessarily see the connection between Shabbos observance and success throughout the week. We find Shabbos observers who live in poverty and Shabbos transgressors who are wealthy. However, this is all part of a larger picture. Poverty is not necessarily a curse, and wealth is sometimes everything but a blessing. As King Solomon says (Koheles 5:12): "There is a sickening evil ... wealth kept by its owner to his disadvantage."

Shabbos observance

Once an extremely distraught gentleman came to the Chofetz Chaim for a blessing, as we was in a very difficult situation. The Chofetz Chaim said to him, "Why do you come to me? Go to Shabbos, the source of all blessings." The gentleman understood that the rabbi meant that in order to merit a Divine blessing, he should observe Shabbos according to halacha (Jewish religious law). Broken-hearted, he told the Chofetz Chaim that he was careful in his Shabbos observance. "Go home", said the elderly rabbi, "and check to see if any member of your family is lax in their Shabbos observance." The man did as he was told and found that his daughters combed their hair on Shabbos in a way that was not halachically acceptable. We often wonder why things happen, and we do not realize how our Shabbos observance can make a real difference in every aspect of our lives.

Ask forgiveness

Our third request is that we should be inscribed for peace. We all want to have a peaceful life. We want to live in peace with our spouses and family, as well as our friends and neighbours. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 606) teaches that in order to achieve atonement on Yom Kippur for interpersonal shortcomings, we must ask forgiveness from our fellow beings and appease each other.

Settle our "accounts"

We must ask ourselves: did we treat our parents, rabbis and elders with due respect and honour? Did we offend our spouses, siblings and friends in any way? Did we yell at our children and students to educate them, or did we act out of anger? We may have hurt or harmed someone with our acts and speech. Now is the last call before Yom Kippur when we seek atonement from G'd. We must be aware that we will not achieve atonement from G'd if we have not settled our "accounts" with our fellow beings. If we truly want to be inscribed for peace, we must take care of our past now. And if we have peace between ourselves, we may have a chance to merit finding peace with our enemies as well.

Good livelihood

Our final request is that we should be inscribed for a good livelihood. Many congregations have the custom to recite Tehillim Chapter 24 before Aleinu on the nights of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Mateh Efraim (582:3) writes that this will help that one should never lack sustenance all year. In this chapter, King David describes the person that merits G'd's blessing, as he says, "One with clean hands and a pure heart and has not sworn deceitfully." The Talmud (Yuma 86a) teaches that when we deal honestly in our business affairs and conduct ourselves with integrity, we sanctify G'd's name. At the same time, we show that we put our trust in G'd, and feel secure that He will provide for us and our families. There is absolutely no need and no purpose in deceiving others for at the end of the day we will not make more than was decided on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Even if it seems that we succeeded in a dishonest deal, we may lose it at a later stage through extra expenses that we would have been spared for otherwise.

G'd's lovingkindness

When we pray to G'd to be inscribed for life, blessing and peace and a good livelihood, we already express our belief that G'd, and only G'd, can provide us with all of these. However, it is imperative that we at the same time take the necessary steps to make ourselves worthy of G'd's lovingkindness.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

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