Friday, September 13, 2013

Yom Kippur: The Joy and Freedom

Chabad Research Unit – For Friday Night – Sponsored by Dr Reuven – Rabbi Dr Naftali Loewenthal.


STARTING VERY SOFTLY, KOL NIDREI BEGINS. IT IS SUNG three times, louder and louder, as if entering a spiritual Palace and coming closer to the Eternal King.
The words of the Kol Nidrei 1 prayer refer to cancelling vows. In 7 th century medieval Spain, Jews were forced at sword-point to swear that they will abandon Judaism. It is said that on Yom Kippur they would gather together and formally cancel any such vows, past or future. They could then pray on the Sacred Day with a clear conscience.
In our modern world today, generally no-one forces us to deny Judaism. But our spiritual frailties often lead us to feel that we are restricted, tied down or trapped in various ways, and therefore prevented from full self-expression as Jews. Such as - “I would like to eat kosher but I must eat with my clients at a non-kosher restaurant...” Or - “I simply do not have the time to put on Tefilin”...
These limitations are a form of ‘vow’, a pledge to the secular domain. On Yom Kippur, in response to our sincerity, G-d dissolves away all these restrictions 2 . Whatever our apparent normal commitments and pledges to material and secular values, on Yom Kippur we are given freedom and can openly express total love and dedication to G-d.
Then, when the sacred day draws to a close, and for the rest of the year, it is up to us...


In the Reader’s Repetition of the Additional Service (Musaf) on Yom Kippur there is a description of the procedure in the Temple on this day.
The High Priest would pronounce the Divine Name which is otherwise never heard. Hearing this, the people would prostrate themselves. He would also enter the Holy of Holies. Yom Kippur is the only day when anyone could enter this most sacred place. The High Priest would go there, as the representative of the entire Jewish people.
Today the Temple does not yet stand again in Jerusalem, but there is a Temple in the heart of every Jew. Each one of us, man or woman, is the High Priest in our own Temple in our heart.
On Yom Kippur we enter the Holy of Holies and make contact with the Divine Power which dwells within us.
The challenge for each person is to find a way to harness this immense power and to use it in a positive way during the weeks and months ahead. Jewish teaching is the guide, showing how the inner Divine energy can be expressed in every aspect of life. Hence Yom Kippur is a good time for making resolutions about strengthening one’s relationship with Jewish teaching and Jewish law. This is the real meaning of the day.
It is a joyous time of spiritual freedom with fresh opportunities to make a permanent step forward in life.

Although we fast, and the mood of the day is serious, Yom Kippur is a time of inner joy.

1. Kol Nidrei (“All Vows..”) is the melodic prayer sung in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur evening. This begins the Yom Kippur service.
2. This follows an explanation by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (c.1800), in his Likkutei Torah, Matot 85a.

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