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Yom Kippur

"Rabbi Eliezer ben Ya'akov says, 'He who fulfills a mitzvah gains for himself an advocate and he who commits a transgression gains for himself an accuser'" (Avos 4:11).

The Kabbalists taught (see Tomer Devorah, by Rabbi Moshe Kordovero, Chapter 1, part 2) that one who has sinned, G-d forbid, creates an evil being whose very existence is an abomination before Hashem. This being was created against its will and had absolutely no benefit from the sin, which may have brought some temporary enjoyment to the transgressor. Therefore, it is angry at the one who brought it into existence; an existence which is contrary to Hashem's will. Consequently, this being wishes to cease to exist. But how can that happen?

After going on to the World-to-Come, when the sinner suffers for his sins in Gehinom (Purgatory) his misdeeds are forgiven and then the beings connected with them also dissipate. However, these beings do not want to wait that long and crave to quicken the process.

It is written, "Evil pursues sinners" (Mishlei 13:21) and "Evil shall slay the wicked" (Tehillim 34:22). The reason it does so is because by inflicting pain upon the sinner the sin is forgiven and the evil born from that sin may cease to exist. This is the mystical meaning behind the passage "They surround me like bees; they are quenched like a fire of thorns" (Ibid. 118:12). Just as a bee bites his victim and then dies, so the being created from sin inflicts pain upon its creator and becomes extinct.

Reb Eli Lopian ztvk"l interpreted the passage, "Save me from my persecutors, for they are stronger than I" (Ibid. 142:7) as follows: "Where did they get their strength from? - from me! It was my sins which afforded them the power to destroy me." (The Hebrew word "mimeni" can be translated as "than I" or as "from me".)

We go through life suffering all types of discomfort, physical and emotional, and we look for whom to blame for our troubles. We point our accusing finger at many different targets. But we fail to realize that the only ones who cause our problems are we ourselves. Everyone and everything else are merely the emissaries sent to punish us for the errors of our ways.

What is the solution? How can we escape our pursuers - the ones which we ourselves created?

"Rabbi Yochanan said, 'Great is teshuvah (repentance) that it shreds a person's judgment'" (Rosh Hashanah 17b). Hashem, in His infinite Mercy, provided a system through which we can rid ourselves of our sins, and, consequently, of all of our pursuers, at the same time. When a person honestly regrets his mistakes, confesses them before the Almighty, and resolves never to repeat them, Hashem forgives his iniquities. And rather than rely on us to remember to repent every time we sin, He gave us one day a year to focus on all of our wrongdoings throughout the year and correct them. How great a present is Yom Kippur, and how happy we should be on that holiest day of the year.

I once heard a Gadol (a great Rabbi) expound on the enormous simchah (joy) which should accompany teshuvah. He explained that, being a positive commandment, like the mitzvah of eating matzah and taking a lulav and esrog, it is supposed to be performed with joy, like all of the positive commandments. But even more so, he said, since it contains within it the correction of all of the mitzvahs of the Torah, consequently it must also contain within it the joy of all of them.

I once heard, too, that a Chassidic Rebbe said that people think that we refrain from eating on Tish'ah B'Av and Yom Kippur merely because it is forbidden. Although that is surely true, still, he said, our attitude should be totally different: On Tish'ah B'Av, when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and Jerusalem, we are so sad that who can eat; on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement for our sins, we are so jubilant that who has to eat?

Reb Ely Lopian ztvk"l would say that if a person is privileged to live until the eve of Yom Kippur, and to say the Shehecheyanu prayer after Kol Nidrei, he should recite it with immense joy. How lucky is the one who receives this heavenly gift which can spare him or her unnecessary pain in this world and the World-to-Come.

May we all repent properly and merit forgiveness for all of our sins. And may we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life and merit a gemar chasimah tovah, together with all of our Jewish brothers and sisters around the world, amen.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel