Monday, September 9, 2013

Yom Kippur: Miscellaneous Readings


Other names:
Yom ha-Kippurim (Ashkenazim)
Kippur (Sephardim)
Yom ha-Din (Judgment Day)
Shabbat Shabbaton (Sabbath of Solemn Rest/Sabbath of Sabbaths)
Hebrew Date: 10 Tishri
Pentateuchal & Prophetic Readings:
Morning: Lev. 16:1-34; Num. 29:7-11 (Maftir): Isa. 57:14-58:14 (Haftarah)
Afternoon: Lev: 18:1-30; Book of Jonah; Micah 7:18-20 (Haftarah)" (pg. 203 of The Encyclopedia of Judaism)


"Once as Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai was coming forth from Jerusalem, Rabi Joshua followed after him and beheld the Temple in ruins.
'Woe unto us!' Rabbis Joshua cried, 'that this, the place where the iniquities of Israel were atoned for, is laid waste!'
'My son,' Rabban Johanan said to him, 'be not grieved; we have another atonement as effective as this.  And what is it?  It is acts of loving-kindness, as it is said, For I desire mercy and not sacrifice' (Hosea 6.6).
For thus we find concerning Daniel, that greatly beloved man, that he was engaged in acts of loving-kindness.
Now, what were the acts of loving-kindness in which Daniel was engaged?  Canst thou say that he offered burnt offerings and sacrifices in Babylon?  What then were the acts of loving-kindness in which he was engaged?  He used to outfit the bride and make her rejoice, accompany the dead, give a perutah to the poor, and pray three times a day--and his prayer was received with favor.
The Fathers according to Rabbi Nathan," pg. 32 of The Yom Kippur Anthology by Philip Goodman.
"At this time, when the Temple no longer exists, and we have no atonement altar, there is nothing left but repentance.  Repentance atones for all transgressions [Mishneh Torah, Law of Repentance 1.3, 2.1, 9, 10]" pgs. 44-45 of The Yom Kippur Anthology by Philip Goodman.


"Penitence, prayer and charity are the three principal keys to salvation.  Confession is an essential prerequisite to penitence.  In the words of Maimonides:  'How does one confess? One msut say, 'O Lord, I have sinned, I have strayed, I have transgressed.  I have done such and such.  I repent and I am ashamed of my deeds and I will never do it again'' (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah 1:1).
  The Bible stresses the paramount role of confession as a preliminary to atonement.  'When a man or a woman shall commit any sin...they shall confess their sin which they have done...besides the ram of atonement whereby atonement shall be made for him' (Num. 5:6-8).  According to rabbinic interpretation, confession is an independent rite, mandatory even when there are no longer any sacrificial offerings (Zevin, Moadim BaHalachah, p. 63)," pgs. 174-175 of The Biblical and HIstorical Background of Jewish Customs and Ceremonies by Abraham Bloch


"How does one achieve repentance?  All the great theologians throughout the centuries agree on one procedure:
(a) Hakkarat Ha-Het, 'acknowledgement of the sin.'  Oft-times people rationalize that what they are doing is not sinful.  Thus, the first step in repentance is to concede that wrongdoing is synonymous with sin.
(b) Vidduy, 'confession.'  The second  step in reaching a state of repentance is to confess one's sins.  The sinner manifests his grief and sorrow over his deplorable way of life when he proclaims:  'I have sinned.'
(c) Kabbalah le-Haba, 'resolution.'  It is not sufficient for man to proclaim his wrongdoing and transgression.  What is even more important is that he must realize and resolve, without any mental reservations, that he will not revert to his errant ways."


"Before leaving for the Synagogue both men and women attire themselves in white garments.  There are two reasons for this custom:
(a) White is the color of the attire of angels.  On Yom Kippur, when the Jew observes a day free of sin, he is compared to the angels.
(b) The white clothes worn by women and the kittels worn by men should remind us of the shrouds in which the dead are laid to rest.  This should stir us to even greater efforts in prayer and repentance," pg. 200 of The Minhagim by Abraham Chill


"That [hattat] sacrifices purify the sanctums on behalf of persons reveals the human factor in the dynamics of the sacrifice:  it is people who cause the impurity in the sanctuary; that is, when they sin or suffer severe impurity, the sanctuary is soiled.  People do not have to be in the sanctuary area for this pollution to occur; it occurs aerially.  This pollution follows a graded scheme according to the gravity of the impure situation.  The more severe the sin or impure situation, the more extensively the sanctuary is polluted.  Permissive tolerance of severe impurities and inadvertent sins committed by individuals pollute only the outer altar (cf. Lev 4:2-35).  Sins by the community in concert or by the high priest pollute the incense altar and the shrine (4:2-21).  Intentional sins and presumably other unrectified sins and impurities pollute the adytum and the [kapporet] and implicitly the ark.  This is evidenced by the term [pisehem] 'their crimes' in Lev 16:16a, which seems to refer to brazen, deliberate sins (cf. Num 15:30-31) and which, together with impurities, is the express evil removed from the adytum.  In view of this scheme of pollution, the purpose of the Day of Atonement ritual becomes lucid:  while throughout the year the impurity of individual or community sins may be purged as they arise (Leviticus 4), once a year a special rite must be performed that cleanses the sanctuary of impurity from deliberate sins and from any other lingering impurity not yet rectified.  The implication following from this is that were the sanctuary left sullied by these impurities, God's presence, which manifests itself in the tent, could not dwell there and would leave (cf. Ezekiel 8-11)," (Anchor Bible Dictionary) 
"...The Scapegoat Rite.  At the beginning of the rite two goats brought by the people were distinguished by lot, one for the Lord and one for Azazel, an attenuated demonic figure living in the wilderness perhaps representing in the present text more a geographical locale than an active supernatural figure...The goat designated for the Lord is offered as a [hattat] sacrifice...the one designated for Azazel is the scapegoat, which bears the people's sins to the wilderness to Azazel....Carrying sins to the wilderness removes the cause of impurity [from the sanctuary] to an innocuous locale," (Anchor Bible Dictionary).

[DISCLAIMER:  The above readings contain opinions that do not necessarily reflect my own]


  1. Thank you for these readings brother. There are some enlightening points that assist me in my personal penitence.


    1. Baruch HaShem.

      I feel that "resolution" is the hardest step. It's easy to say to G-d, "What I did was wrong, it was a sin against you." But it's much more difficult to say (and really mean), "I resolve to never commit such a sin ever again." How can a man resolve to be perfect in areas in which man has never achieved perfection? And yet we must...

    2. One should be careful not to make one's resolve to not sin again to become a vow. In our repentance we must have the sincere intention not to repeat the sin(s) which we repent of. But we should not go the other extreme of promising HaShem not to commit this sin again. Our resolve should not become a promise, since a promise is a vow and making vows can easily make matters worse. Vows cannot be revoked. So if the same sin, regrettably, is yet committed again, then there is a double transgression: one by the sin itself, the other by breaking the vow or promise.

      I say this because sometimes people are tempted to promise G-d not to sin again, hoping this will help them to get rid of sins they find difficult to overcome. This kind of religious enthusiasm is very dangerous and the expression of an unbalanced mind. Our acts and intentions of repentance should be sober and realistic.

  2. If I am a couch potato who wants to become fit, I must resolve to become something I have never been. It is well within our grasp, else Hashem would have never commanded us to do it. I teach that the Scriptures never command what we cannot do; and never forbid what we cannot control. This is why the Lord is rightfully angry with us when we fail. As believers, not only do we have the gift of a free will, but it is enhanced by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We are completely without excuse if we sin.
    It's not a comforting thought, but I believe that it is a step toward health. We must say, "This is what must be done, and with Adonai's help it can be done. No one else will do this for me. I must take up this yoke and bear it, but not alone. I have a fellow Yokebearer."

    1. Re: "I teach that the Scriptures never command what we cannot do"

      Agreed. We must have faith that He can make us perfect, that He has this ability to transform our nature.

  3. The incredible thing to me (and I use it in the truest sense of difficult to believe) is that He commanded us "Be holy as I am holy". (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Peter 1:16)