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Yom Kippur

Nov 22, 2009 by Rabbi Pesach Siegel

The gemara in meseches Rosh Hashana (16a) quotes Rabi Yishmoel. "Man is judged on Rosh Hashana and his judgement is sealed on Yom Kippur". This would indicate that the sealing of the judgement is on Yom Kippur whereas the inscribing takes place on Rosh Hashana. No differentiation is made between tzaddikim, rashaim, or beinonim.

Subsequently (16b), the gemora brings the words of Rav Yochanan (quoted by Rav Kruspedai), "Three books are opened on Rosh Hashana one of completely wicked people, one for the completely righteous, one for the beinonim. The righteous are inscribed and sealed immediately for life, the wicked for death, and the beinonim are hanging and standing from Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur. If they merit, they are inscribed for life, if they do not merit, they are inscribed for death."

These words are seemingly in contrast with those of Rabi Yishmoel. Tzaddikim are inscribed and sealed on Rosh Hashana, the same for reshaim. Beinonim are inscribed and sealed on Yom Kippur. Who, then, remains to be inscribed on Rosh Hashana and sealed on Yom Kippur?

Our very davening reflects this. Up until the point of the "neilah tefilla" we pray to be inscribed in the book of life.

The problem is amplified by the fact that the gemora considers the words of Rav Yochanan as an extension of Rabi Yishmoel's words. How can this be so? There is a stark contrast between the two statements.

Let us attempt to probe the depths of these two days, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashana is very much a part of our mundane world. It is a day which we serve Hashem by eating and drinking. We may enjoy the worldly gifts he has bestowed upon us. We are actually obligated to do so. This the first step in the service of Hashem. To recognize that he is the creator and master of all. Food was created to rejoice before him. A ram's horn was formed to be blown in his honor. The predominant theme of Rosh Hashana is acceptance of the "malchus" (majesty) of Hashem by all of creation. We, who view ourselves as independent beings, acknowledge a greater power.

But this is not all. Throughout the generations, the gentiles also were cognizant of Hashem being the "G-d of gods". They have their gods, who exist independently, and who provide for them. The power behind their gods is the greatest G-d of all, Hashem. It is not sufficient to believe in the supremacy of Hashem over all of creation. That is just a starting point which eventually must lead to a further recognition.

During the period of the days of awe, we are to go through a process of awareness. We are not to view ourselves as pages, or perhaps dukes, in the court of the king. Who accept upon themselves the monarchy of the king. We must see ourselves as null and void before the king. Our existence is totally dependant upon Hashem. Our lives and very being are in a constant state of renewal. We are nothing but expressions of Hashem's will.

Yom Kippur is not a day which we serve Hashem from within this world. It is other worldly. We experience our environment through our senses. On Yom Kippur this is forbidden. One may not eat, drink, anoint himself, wash, wear leather shoes, or cohabit with one's wife. A form of sense deprivation is to be practised. There are no mitzvos placed upon us to perform.

Rosh Hashana is a time set aside to perform acts for the sake of Hashem. Yom Kippur is designated to reflect on one's very being. To focus on the total nonexistence of a person devoid of Hashem's will. It is a day which has no place in the regular scheme of time or space. Yom Kippur is a time that we come into contact with a world beyond our grasp.

Chazal tell us that there is but one day in the year that is solely Hashem's. It is a day when we are free from the influence of the satan. The gematria (numerical value) of the the word "hasatan" is 364, one short of the number of days in the solar year. A day which is not part of time as we know it.

It is a day that we prostrate ourselves on the ground in self negation. We bend over and beat our chests while we confess our sins, the antithesis of Hashem's will and, therefore, of reality.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are not two separate days. They are not confined to the laws of time. They are one unit, one day. This is evident from the almost identical prayers uttered on these days. Yom Kippur lies within the depths of Rosh Hashana. They are ten days apart. The number ten represents many becoming one. The numbers up until the number nine represent singular units. Once the number ten is reached the count returns to one (followed by a zero).

Tzaddikim arrive at this state of awareness on Rosh Hashana. They attain the status of Yom Kippur on Rosh Hashana. One who views his existence in the proper way is blessed with further continuity. His "kesiva" (inscribing) is on Rosh Hashana and his "chasima" (sealing) is on Yom Kippur, his own personal Yom Kippur. A totally wicked person has completely closed himself off from his source of sustenance on Rosh Hashana. His Yom Kippur takes place on Rosh Hashana as well. There is no point in his judgement being delayed.

A "beinoni" is one who unclear of his own source. He can go either way. His judgement is constantly being written....until the last prayer on Yom Kippur. When "neilah" ends, the gate is locked, and one's fate is sealed to be someone who exists or one who is merely a shallow facade of a human being.

In this manner the statements of Rabi Yishmoel and Rav Yochanan are reconciled. Everyone is inscribed on Rosh Hashana and their fate is sealed on Yom Kippur, in their own personal way

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