Rabbi Dovid Saks
Holy Day! Yom Kippur 5771
I recall that during the year I studied in Israel, I walked past a school yard during their recess and overheard one child yelling at another in Hebrew, “Ani Horeg Otcha – I’m going to kill you.” I was initially jolted by this statement for
I thought he meant it for real, and I must do something to stop a murder from occurring. Then I came to my senses, reflecting how many times as children playing in the yard we said, “I’m going to kill you.”
I had taken this seriously because it was said in Hebrew, and to me it sounded serious and real.
I have a friend who was raised in a Chasidic setting in pre war Hungary. He survived the war, and settled in the US. When we discuss something pertaining to Yom Kippur, he always refers to it as he did in his youth as Yom HaKodosh – the Holy Day.
We also refer to Yom Kippur as a Holy day, but when he says it in the Hebrew - Yom Hakodosh, it registers for me an additional reality and significance of the holy day.
During the course of our lives we experience many simple words that can change our perspective on things. We can find encouraging and uplifting words that will inspire us to reach greater heights and expand our potential and capability in all areas of life.
I recall reading about a fellow who purchased expensive tickets to a Broadway show and while driving through Manhattan experienced heavier traffic then the normal rush hour commute. Frustrated and upset that he would be late for the show, he rolled down his window and called out to a traffic police and asked what caused the snag in traffic. The Italian cop looked at him quizzically and said, “Don’t you know that tonight will be Yom Kippur?”
These words, coming from a non Jew, penetrated his heart and he thought to himself, “Here I am a Jew and I have no clue that it is Yom Kippur, and the one to let me know it is Yom Kippur is this non Jew who knows more about the Jewish calendar than I.”
This shock and the realization how distant he was from his religion and tradition, spurred him to research, study and then welcome a deeper appreciation of Judaism in his and his family’s life. A simple statement had the energy to direct him towards a firmer footing in his tradition – because he eternalized the message.
Allow me to share with you the following idea that has the capacity to transform a person’s entire outlook: The great and holy Chasidic master the Baal Shem Tov taught, that the way G-d judges us is by empowering and enlisting us to judge ourselves!
At first glance, it would seem that based on this we could judge ourselves favorably, ask for good life and atonement, and we would be guaranteed to get all that we asked for.
Obviously, it is not that simple.
The Baal Shem Tov explains: What we mean when we say that we are endowed to judge ourselves is that G-d first presents us with situations regarding other people, which are similar if not identical to that which we have personally transgressed, broken or disobeyed. G-d observes and monitors how we judge and speak about the other person. If we condemn and berate the other person – then our own similar misdeed will be scrutinized and censured and we will be held in contempt.
However, if we give the other person the benefit of the doubt, and don’t speak negatively about him, rather we tactfully seek ways for him to understand what he has done wrong so that he repairs his misdeed, G-d judges us favorably and affords us atonement. The way we judge ourselves is by favorably judging others!
Besides the personal benefit of judging people favorably, this exercise promotes a real sense of Shalom among us.
This year, when Yom Kippur pairs up with the holy Shabbos, it contains an extraordinary scope and magnitude of sanctity. On Yom Kippur we are like angels and G-d is near to us. He is eager to atone for us when we recognize our failings. The opportunities to achieve purification abound. Let us take full advantage of this awesome Yom Hakodosh!
May we all be granted a blessed year of good life, happiness, good health and peace at home, peace in Israel and peace throughout the world –
Wishing you an easy and meaningful fast!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family