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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Yom Kipur With Simchah

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Good Yom Tov! Yom Kippur is a Yom Tov! “There were no more joyous days for Israel than Yom Kippur and the Fifteenth Day of Av.” (Mishna of the Tractate Ta’anit) Yom Kippur --like all the other festivals of the Jewish calendar-- has the power to cut short and even entirely cancel the mourning period of a mourner. In the words of the Talmud: “The rejoicing of the nation pushes aside the mourning of the individual—Yom Kippur must be seen as a day of joy.

Yet how many of us feel Yom Tovdik? How many people are excited about the fast? The Torah says in two places, “ [v’inisem] and you shall afflict your souls...” [Lev. 23:32] [Num. 29:7] So let’s decide now if we are in a joyous mood or are we feeling afflicted.

The joy of Yom Kippur is the joy of being given a second chance.

A chassid once asked his rebbe on the the day after Rosh HaShana, “why pray on Yom Kippur, after all we’ll inevitably sin again?” “Look out the window,” the rebbe said--"I’ve been watching this child for days now.” The chasid joined the Rebbe at the window and watched a child learning how to walk. He kept standing, walking and falling. “Just keep watching.” Day after day the chasid returned to witness the same scene. At the week’s end the child stood without falling. “So with us,” said the rebbe, “we may fall again and again, but in the end, God gives us the opportunity we need to succeed.”

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the great white fast of the Jewish Year. It is the day that we stand before Hashem and we say, ‘here we are again!’ We are beating our breasts over the fact that we have not yet perfected ourselves and at the same time we are smiling because the Av HaRachamim is still there encouraging us to stand up once again and try to walk once again.

Yom Kipur is the Tenth Day of Repentance, and we can’t mask over the fact that we have looked deeply into our souls over these last few days, we have exposed our weaknesses and shortcomings, and that causes us to weep with anxiety and dread lest I be found wanting on the Day of Judgment. But Yom Kippur is also the Day of Atonement, when all sincere penitents are guaranteed a second chance.

As we begin our day of Yom Kippur let us all be b’simcha as we stand up once again with a clean slate and a pure soul. Let’s be sure to give everyone around us a second chance.

May Hashem grant us all a new kind of year - where the sounds of our souls will be a sound of unmistakable joy. Az Yemalei Schok Pinu uleshoneinu Rina!

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