Points to Ponder

Yom Kippur 5776

Al Cheit She’Chatanu Lifaneicha B’Frikas Ol – Rav Yerucham Levovitz ztl. noted that the greatest difficulty with doing an Avaira is not the action itself. It is the result of the action. For when one sins, he has allowed desire to become unrailed from the careful rule of logic as determined by the Torah and Mitzvos. Hence, we atone for Prikas Ol – which includes the idea that we didn’t care for the Torah’s guidance or leadership, meizid, Mumar, freedom or any other thought process that countered logic and allowed the person to do what he “wished” instead of what he wanted – namely to heed the word of Hashem.

Once upward and 7 times down – Why is the sprinkling of Yom Kippur done in such an interesting way – and why do we highlight it each time? The Rema explains that the Talmud (Sukkah 52a) identifies 7 names for the Yetzer Hara. In other words, there are 7 primary ways that the Yetzer HaRa tries to have an effect on the person. However, the Yetzer HaTov has but one way of operating – no false faces or tricks. Therefore, when the Yetzer Hara tries to have its impact, we turn to Hashem and highlight the contrast and note that we are closer to influence to sin than to influence to not sin and ask him for forgiveness for our transgressions.

Yom Kippur and Matan Torah – Yom Kippur is the day of the giving of the second Luchos. Why were 2 days needed to be Zman Matan Toraseinu and what, if any does one have to Yom Kippur? Maran HaRav Schachter Shlita would often relate that Rav Soloveitchik ztl  among others would note two days were needed one for Torah She’B’Ksav and the other for Torah She’Baal Peh.  Rav Schachter added that regarding Torah Shebeal Peh, the key word is "mesorah." The attitudes and the style of thinking must be transmitted from rebbe to talmid are included in concept of mesorah. There cannot be Torah Shebeal Peh without " mesorah." One lacking such a mesorah cannot sit down with a sefer of mishnayos or gemorrah and come up with some new ideas and claim that this is in the spirit of the Torah Shebeal Peh. The mesorah did not end when R. Yehuda Hanasi edited the mishna; nor did it end when Ravina and Rav Ashi edited the gemorrah. The mesorah has extended to our generation, and will continue to be transmitted on. From the very beginning and throughout the entire period of the second temple, there were groups who challenged the mesorah of the Oral Torah. In later years there were Karaites, and yet later - the Haskalah movement. As we say in the Haggadah, "bechol dor vodor, omdim aleinu lechalosienu." The navi Hoshea has warned us that in our period of history, in order to maintain our identity and not get washed away in assimilation, we must emphasize mesorah of the Oral Torah.

Often there are mesorahs which we find difficult to understand, or difficult to swallow. Parts of the Torah Shebeal Peh seem not to be politically correct. Rav Soloveitchik said over a homiletic interpretation of the passage in the gemorrah (Menachos 29b), that Rabbi Akiva, rather than be apologetic, would be more meticulous and place extra emphasis on all of those halachos where the enemies of Torah had thrown thorns. Rather than discard anything that at first glance we are uncomfortable with, we must preserve our mesorah, and try to develop a deeper insight into what it represents. The superficial mind will often misunderstand Torah, and cast away very precious traditions.

This added theme of Yom Kippur as being the day to commemorate the start of the Torah Shebeal Peh was especially obvious during the period of the Second Temple. Every Yom Kippur, the rabbis would make the Kohein Gadol swear that he would not deviate from the oral tradition in doing the avodah.

Many years later, the Orthodox Jewish community of Alexandria would have an annual march - on Yom Kippur - to declare that they subscribed to the Torah Shebeal Peh. Rav Soloveitchik felt that our practice to recite the lengthy seder ho'avodah in chazoras hashatz of mussaf is probably also for the same purpose - to reaffirm our commitment to the mesorah and the Torah Shebeal Peh (see Lustiger, "Before Hashem you Shall be Purifed" p. 144.)

Mikveh Yisrael Hashem -  The Chasam Sofer (Yoreh De’ah 213) quoting a ‘KadmonEchad’ asks How is it that if one enters a Mikvah he becomes Tahor--after all shouldn’t he make the water Tamai upon his touching it?  The Chasam Sofer answers that since the water is attached to the ground and never leaves it, the water does not become Tamai.  Now if the  Tahara of the Mikvah is based upon the water remaining attached to its source. So too, is the Tahara that we receive from Hashem--we must remain attached to our source--Mi Mitaher Eschem Avichem Shebashamayim.  Without our Deveikus to Hashem--we could not become Tahor! 

Kee Ata Salchan L’Yisrael - In the Yom Kippur davening we emphasize that Hashem is aSalchanand aMachlan.  What does the extranunat the end of each of these words come to indicate--why don’t we say that Hashem is simply a Soleiach and a Mochel?  The SeferOtzros HaTorahexplains that the extra nun indicates ahanhaga temidis--that this is a constant and recurring Middah of Hashem.  Thus, even if a person falls back to a sin time and again--as long as he was truly sincere, expressed true remorse, and with a full heart was mekabel not to do it again--then Hashem will be a Salchan and a Malchan--and continuously grant new forgiveness! The old aveiros are gone. Any new aveiros can be wiped out by  Hashem with our new Teshuva--for He is a Salchan and a Machlan!

You know that our end is Rimah V’Toleiya and therefore added to our Selicha – Rav Shteinman Shlita wondered what the connection was between added selichos and man’s end? He answered that the argument is that Hashem needs to help us because we are miskainim, we are too poor to do it ourselves. He added that the Rokeach makes a similar comment in noting that when Hashem considers our poor capacity for full selicha on our own and that the situation is not likely to improve left to our own devices, he forgives us with the Rachmanus he has on a poor baby.