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Weekly Chizuk

Believe in the Power of Yom Kippur

Based on Sichos Rav Shimshon Pincus

Wouldn't that be a nice document to have? Everything is absolved.

What's wrong with this comic is that Lucy wants to be absolved before the act. That won't make her a better person; just more uninhibited and malicious. We, however, are trying our best to be good. But being human we slip up. We all would like that document which absolves us afterwards.

Perhaps we don't recognize it, but deep down we all realize that we indeed possess it! The joy and singing that bursts out spontaneously after Neilah is the expression of that communal consciousness of the power of Yom Kippur. We are all absolved!

The question is, how long does it last? As Yom Kippur recedes further and further into the past, many of us feel that our pekelach have not really been removed. But surely the force of Yom Kippur has cleansed us (provided we did teshuva and recited the viduy). Every Yid must develop a profound internalization and awareness that Yom Kippur has really cleansed him from all his tarnish.

A serious internal infection requires antibiotics to treat it. Externally, the improvement resulting from the medicine isn't immediately apparent. However, it is working quietly beneath the surface until the infection is cured.

This is Yom Kippur. The purification achieved by one's teshuva effects a significant change deep within the person and he is no longer the same. It is belief in the power of the atonement of Yom Kippur that strengthens ones awareness ensuring that he actually feels like a different person.

One who doesn't believe in this personal renewal, however, will continue in the same bad habits as before Yom Kippur, and return to his previous ways. Every Jew has a deep-seated faith in Yom Kippur which should prompt him to feel joy, "how happy are you Yisroel. Before whom do you become purified, and who purifies you?" Who is it that testifies to Yisroel's purification? Their Father in Heaven. Hashem inspects everyone like a piece of cloth under a microscope to determine how wholesome he really is. And who does the cleaning? Who washed and scrubbed to remove all the stains? Hakadosh Baruch Hu is our mikveh! Every Yid immerses himself in the great mikveh of Hakadosh Baruch Hu himself. Yom Kippur has such a tremendous power it cleanses and purifies Klal Yisroel and elevates them drawing them near to their Father in Heaven. "For on this day He shall atone you to cleanse you. Before the Lord, you shall be purified from all your sins" (Vayikra 16:30).

The stronger our emuna in the power of Yom Kippur, the more careful will we be the coming year to remain clean and pure. The stronger the feeling of the purity of teshuva, the more one will exert himself not to return to the tarnish of his old ways.

* * *

Throw Away Your Pekelach

Rav Yerucham Levovitz, zt"l, Mashgiach of pre WWII Yeshivas Mir, didn't usually give mussar shmuezen on Hoshana Raba. He would give talks during Succos and Simchas Torah, but not Hoshana Raba. One year, at the persistence of the talmidim, he agreed to give a Hoshana Raba shmuez.

Rav Yerucham sat down, removed his glasses and was silent. He sat there for what seemed like an eternity. Then he quoted the possuk in Yeshaya (58:1-8) "Call with a [full] throat, do not spare…. 'Why have we fasted, and You did not see; we have afflicted our soul and You do not know'…. Behold, for quarrel and strife you fast, and to strike with a fist of wickedness…. Will such be the fast I will choose, a day of man's afflicting his soul? Is it to bend his head like a fishhook and spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord? This is the fast I will choose: undo the fetters of wickedness, untie the bands of perverseness…. Then your light shall break forth as the dawn, and your healing shall quickly sprout…. Then you shall call and the Lord shall answer, you shall cry and He shall say, 'Here I am.'"

The Navi explains that of all the activities and proceedings of Yom Kippur, Hashem Yisborach desires only one thing - it's not enough to daven and cry out; to fast and say long vidui's; not even teshuva and reciting slichos. Hashem wants results!

"Undo the fetters of wickedness." These are the closed bundles that everyone has. He binds them up tight and hides them away. When Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur come he seals them up even tighter and buries them even deeper. Then he goes to shul to sing all the wonderful Yom Kippur piyutim and slichos with no worry about his bundles. They are safely hidden away and won't bother him. But he hasn't gotten rid of them yet. They're still there, waiting patiently. True, this has its advantages. All that wickedness is locked up and can't affect him. But the problem is that he hasn't touched his bundles at all. They are still there, packed to the brim and untouched. Therefore the navi cries out, ""Open up the fetters of wickedness."

Rav Yerucham raised his voice. "We just went through Yom Kippur. Now we are holding by Hoshana Raba. And we haven't emptied out our pekalach! The shofar shook the Throne of Glory, but it didn't shake us up! It didn't get us to open up the bundles we hid away. The culmination of Yom Kippur occurs when we open up our pekalach and empty them out. Don't hold on to your old habits. You've become a new person!"

This is the greatness of Klal Yisroel. Yom Kippur has absolved us. We possess that valuable document. Make good use of it.

Gmar Chasima Tova!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
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Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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