How was your Yom Kippur?

Friday, 17 September, 2021 - 6:32 am


So… How was your Yom Kippur?

We fasted, wore white clothes, prayed for 24 hours, felt elevated, excited… We were somewhat spiritual. And the climax, of course was when everyone called out from the depths of their hearts, the hearts of children expressing their love for their Father in Heaven, “Hashem, He is the G-d!” seven times, one after the other. This is a very special moment; there is none other like it during the year. It is the innermost connecting point between us and our Father, our King.

But then, a few moments after that, the spirituality and the elevation remain in the synagogue, and we go off looking for one thing: a cup. It can have water or cola, or, in my case, wine for Havdala. It is not only a natural human urge for a person to have after a fast; Jewish law, too, demands from us that right after the great and awesome Yom Kippur we are to take a hammer and nails in hand – in my case it’s canvas and cable ties – and to begin to build a Succah.

Why so? Why is it demanded from us to make that very sharp transition from “Hashem, He is the G-d” of Ne’ilah, and the hammer and nails of the Succah?

The answer lies in the first Passuk of Parashat Haazinu, the Parasha that we will be reading this Shabbat, the one that comes between Yom Kippur and Succot. “Listen heavens and I will speak, and may the earth hear the words of my mouth.” Chassidut relates this Passuk to the two dimensions with which a human being serves his Creator: one is Shamayim – heaven, a person’s spiritual powers, his brain and heart, where his intellect and personality traits lie, and the other one is Eretz – earth, his material strengths, i.e. his speech and actions.

Often I hear myself saying that I was there, but not really. My thoughts were in a different place. True, I was present there, physically, but not really, not completely. And there’s also the opposite: there may be a family Simcha, a happy occasion, and we are far away geographically, but in our hearts we are really there, all happy and excited as if we are physically present in that faraway place. But that’s just make- believe, because they were all dressed up and we were in our pajamas, looking at the ZOOM, blinking away some tears.

In order to really do something, completely, one needs both the material and the spiritual, both the heavens and the earth. And that is Moshe Rabbeinu’s guidance to us at the last moments of his life: If you wish to really serve Hashem, then “listen the Heavens and I will speak, and may the earth hear the words of my mouth.”

We just went through the annual checkup, the High Holy Days. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Mainly, we dealt with our spiritual side, and now the holidays of Succot and Simchat Torah are approaching. They will attach the spiritual to the material by the building of the Succah, the taking of the Four Species, eating in the Succah and dancing with our legs on Simchat Torah.

May we be successful!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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