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Yom Kippur is described in the Torah as "achat bashana"-once in a year. It is a unique day for the Jewish people as a whole and each individual Jew in particular. For Yom Kippur is a day of oneness.
Part of its distinctiveness is that Yom Kippur unites the Jewish people and makes them "one." In addition, Yom Kippur unites the Jewish people with the One G-d. We see this unity clearly at the close of the prayers on Yom Kippur, when Jews the world over cry out together in one voice, "Shema Yisrael-Hear, O Israel," thereby proclaiming our belief in One and Only G-d.
At the very end of Yom Kippur, one solitary long shofar blast is sounded. United as one again, we cry out "Next year in Jerusalem." For this one blast reminds us of the sounding of the great shofar which will herald the final Redemption.
The inner desire of all Jews (and, according to Jewish philosophy, the will of the Jews reflects the inner will of G-d), is for the Redemption to come. Why do we want the Redemption? In the times of Moshiach the intrinsic goodness and G-dliness within everyone and everything will be revealed. There will be only good in the world-perfect health, harmonious relationships, prosperity, delicacies in abundance, world peace, serenity. The Redemption will benefit and affect the entire world, Jew and non-Jew, animate and inanimate.
In generations gone by, great Jewish leaders have declared that various minor adjustments to our spiritual service needed to be made in order to "deserve" the Redemption. The Rebbe said that on a national level all of these repairs have been accomplished. Our job now is to stand ready to greet Moshiach and to prepare for the long-awaited Redemption through the performance of mitzvot, good deeds, Torah study.
On Yom Kippur in particular, the day of "kippur"-atonement, what is required of us, what is necessary? Each one of us must return to G-d, Who is One and Who is totally one with the Jewish people. This return is accomplished simply by turning toward G-d. One simple movement in G-d's direction suffices, for when we desire to come closer to G-d, G-d helps us along this path.
But, let no one get the mistaken impression that since "we are one," especially on Yom Kippur, an individual needn't make the personal effort to come closer to G-d. For, each individual is of utmost importance, as as reflected in the Jewish teaching that each of us is obligated to say, "The world was created for me."
On Yom Kippur we commemorate G-d's acceptance of our repentance following the sin of the golden calf. Thus, on the very first Yom Kippur, G-d gave us the "replacement set" of first tablets containing the Ten Commandments. When we received the first tablets at Mt. Sinai, the Torah describes the atmosphere as one of unity, the Jewish people were "like one person with one heart."
We can unite with eachother and with G-d by taking a lesson from the heart. The Hebrew word for heart is "lev," whose numerical value is 32. The Hebrew word for respect is "kavod," which also has the numer-ical value of 32. To be like one person with one heart, we must respect each other. Respect does not mean agreement or sameness. For, as the Talmud states, there are no two people with the same opinion. We might not accept or comply with the other person's opinion. But this difference of opinion mustn't get in the way of respecting the other person.
May this Yom Kippur, and even before, bring us to experience the ultimate respect for each other, for G-d and for all of His creation with the revelation of Moshiach and the final Redemption, now.
The Torah portion of Vayeilech speaks about the mitzva of hakhel. In the days of the Holy Temple, the entire Jewish people assembled in Jerusalem every seventh year, while the king read certain portions of the Torah aloud, "that they may hear and that they may learn how they are to fear the L-rd your G-d."
The Tosefta (supplement to the Mishna) describes how the kohanim (priests) would stand on the outskirts of Jerusalem, sounding their golden trumpets to summon the people to the Temple. "Any kohen without a golden trumpet," the Tosefta concludes, "did not look like a kohen at all."
In order to understand this odd statement, the role of the kohanim needs to be defined. The kohanim performed various duties in the Holy Temple. Sounding their trumpets around Jerusalem was not part of their service; it was only a preparation for the mitzva of hakhel, and not even an integral part of it. Why, then, was it so significant that any kohen who did not participate "did not look like a kohen at all"?
One of the most important services performed by the kohanim was burning the incense. As Maimonides explains, on the simplest level, the purpose of the incense was to dispel unpleasant odors and impart a pleasant smell. But on a more mystical level (as explained in the Zohar), the purpose of the incense was "to dispel the taint of the Evil Inclination."
The incense was composed of many different ingredients. One component, a resin called galbanum, has a particularly disagreeable odor, and is thus symbolic of the lower, more debased aspects of existence. (In the Talmud the galbanum is likened to Jews who sin.) In spiritual terms, the function of the kohanim was to elevate these lower elements and transform them into holiness. In fact, regardless of the individual service being performed in the Temple, the overall role of the kohanim was to elevate even the most mundane aspects of physical existence.
This function was epitomized by the mitzva of hakhel. After seven years of elevating ordinary, everyday things, the kohanim could now raise the entire Jewish people to a higher spiritual level.
For this reason, the sounding of the trumpets was the "test" of an individual kohen's mettle. If a kohen correctly perceived his Divinely-appointed role and went out to summon his brethren, he was a true kohen. If he stayed at home and did not participate, "he did not look like a kohen at all."
In a broader sense, all Jews are considered to be kohanim, "a nation of priests and a holy people." For in truth, each of us is obligated to elevate our surroundings, and arouse the hearts of our fellow Jews to ever-higher levels of Torah and mitzvot.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 14
by Chaya Sarah Cantor
For those, like myself, whose Jewish affiliation once consisted only of a cameo appearance at the local temple on the High Holidays, this time of year holds special fondness.
As the shofar sound is heard, I cannot help but reflect on what first brought me inside those hallowed walls. But my starting point, even before Shabbat or kosher observance, was my annual High Holiday visit to the synagogue. Later on, I had reason to be there Yom Kippur, in particular, standing in for someone who couldn't be there herself, at least physically. My dear mother, Yehudis bas Hershel, of blessed memory.
Thoughts of life's transience are especially strong this time of year, as the summer wanes and the soft stir of autumn brings with it reflections of repentance and renewal. For me, the early fall is made particularly poignant by the yartzeits of my late mother and sister.
Looking back, those tragedies carried a spiritual yardstick. When my dear mother died, I argued with G-d about why such things happened. Fifteen year later, when my sister Patti (Paula bas Tzvi) passed away from a brain tumor, I still couldn't find all the answers, but I accepted G-d's will. I thus persuaded my family to arrange a kosher funeral and that portions of the mishna be studied in Patti's name.
The mitzva of honoring the dead is rarely discussed, because Judaism stresses life. Death, though acknowledged, should not be glorified into a cult of worship. Yet, many people came closer to Judaism, directly or indirectly, via the obligation of honoring someone's memory. Honestly, so many of us found our way to shul for the first time to say the Mourner's Kaddish.
Yizkor may cause only a marginal visit at shul, but it is taken seriously even by the most apathetic, at least in my experience. No matter how many people shmoozed, sneaked away to the restroom, or fell asleep during the rest of the service, the shul was packed and alert during the memorial service.
Ironically, the shul came alive during the service for the dead. Not one eye was closed, not one mouth was yawning...
I remember the large part of Yizkor being devoted to the Holocaust and other tragic events in Jewish history. Martyrdom was the theme. Solemnity was the mood.
A choir chanted haunting melodies in the background, while the rabbi's sermon and part of the responsive reading were devoted to philosophical pondering.
In later years, as I moved on to different synagogues and a so-called different place in my life, the Yizkor service was shorter and less orchestrated, but the impact was equally intense.
While pledging charity in my mother's name, I watched women near me weep and commune silently with their own ghosts; together we pleaded to G-d to avenge the blood of the martyrs. Men below, covered in white prayer shawls, clutched the Torah scroll close, while the air was heavy with the souls of the departed, and prayers for them.
The unique spirit lingered on even after the service ended. The departed souls, meanwhile, returned to their Maker. A sense of relief prevailed, resulting from the knowledge that all the souls in that sanctuary, dead and alive, were uplifted.
Undoubtedly my sister Patti brought my family closer together, spiritually as well as emotionally. Through the chevra kadisha, the burial society, my father, a self-professed agnostic, was introduced to the dynamics of Jewish mourning and its reverence for the life cycle.
My father found the rabbi warm and highly sympathetic. His initial negative feelings yielded to respect for the Jewish ritual, laced with his famous humor.
I was unable to got out to the West Coast on such short notice, so I heard the details about the funeral over the phone.
"Why didn't you tell me I wasn't supposed to wear leather?" my father snapped, in mock irritation, referring to the prohibition against wearing leather shoes. "I would have brought my sneakers."
The impact on my brother was deeper. I can't say for sure that Patti's death was the catalyst, but a few years of introspection eventually motivated Brian to delve more into Jewish topics. At this time of year I remind him, "Mom's (or Patti's) yartzeit is on such-and-such date. Don't forget to light a candle."
My father is especially touched whenever he hears that money was donated in my mother's memory. More than anything else, it has reinforced a sense of Jewish continuity. The mitzva of honoring the deceased has an effect that lives on.
The month of Tishrei is not a time for melancholy or morbidity. Instead, it is loaded with vibrant holidays. But during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva (Ten Days of Repentance) between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur the mind set is more somber, and conducive to personal reflection.
Listen to the message and significance of Yizkor. Yizkor occurs not only once in Tishrei, on Yom Kippur, but again on Shemini Atzeret. Making more people aware of Yizkor's meaning will make a number of souls in another world, and in this world, quite grateful.
KOSHER FOOD FAIR
A coalition of Northwest New Jersey synagogues, recently sponsored a Kosher Food and Information Fair at ShopRite of Rockaway. Kosher food vendors from the tri-state area offered free kosher food samples, there was an "Ask the Rabbi" info booth, as well as colorful brochures and raffles. The coalition included the Chabad Center of Northwest N.J., Adat Israel of Boonton, the Morristown Jewish Center, White Meadow Temple, Adath Shalom in Dover and the Mount Freedom Jewish Center. "You are what you eat," explained Rabbi Boruch Cohen of the Chabad Center. "Kosher food is Jewish soul food."
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7th of MarCheshvan, 5722 
I received your letter of the third of Cheshvan. In the meantime, you no doubt received my reply to your previous letter.
On the question of the custom of Chabad of not saying Selichos [special penitential prayers] after Tzom Gedalia [the fast which takes place the day after Rosh Hashana], there is an illuminating statement by the Tzemach Tzedek to the effect that the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time for action. The meaning of it is that the verbal prayers of Selichos should be reflected in actual deeds during these days, and in a growing measure, not only in quality but also in quantity. There is much more in the statement, which cannot be further expanded here, but essentially, the main purpose of the custom is to emphasize the need for action during these days.
Needless to say, when you find yourself in a place where the custom is to say Selichos, it was indeed proper to join with the rest of the congregation, especially as, in this case, the saying of our Sages, "Do not separate yourself from the Tzibbur [public]," applies.
14th of Tishrei, 5725/Sept. 20, 1954
The Honorable Lyndon B. Johnson
President of the United States
Greeting and Blessing:
I have been informed of your taking a personal interest in the situation of the Jewish personnel at Thule Air Base, who had been left without a Jewish Chaplain for Yom Kip-pur. I understand the matter was brought to your attention by Mr. Julius C. C. Edelstein who had contacted Mr. Hayes Redman.
Thanks to the kind cooperation of the honorable John. W. McCormack and Air Force Secretary Eugene M. Zuckert, permission and all facilities were speed ily granted to our emissary, Rabbi Shmuel Lew, to fly to Thule for Yom Kippur.
Our emissary has now returned from his spiritual errand, his mission successfully accomplished. He praised very highly the courtesy and cooperation extended to him both at McGuire and Thule. Rabbi Lew particularly emphasized the profound gratitude of the Jewish personnel at Thule to you and to all concerned for having remembered them in connection with this most solemn day in the Jewish calen dar. It has given them a great spiritual uplift and a warm feeling of "at-homeness" even in that remote, arctic outpost.
Please be assured of our grateful appreciation.
With prayerful wishes for your well-being,
4th of Cheshvan 5728 
I duly received your (undated) letter. Since it has just been received, I assume it was sent out recently. You begin your letter by saying that you have been confused, etc., and this is why you have not written for a long time.
Generally speaking, it is well to remember that the Torah is called "Torah Or", "The Torah is Light", because the essential nature of the Torah is to illuminate man's path in life. And when the path is illuminated in this way, one can see clearly which actions and conduct are good, and which have to be avoided.
Of course, the Torah is vast and cannot be easily mastered by all. For this reason, there is a resume of the Torah in the Shulchan Aruch which is a concise code of daily Jewish conduct. But even the Shulchan Aruch is not easily accessible to everyone and that is why there are Rabbis to be consulted, since it is their purpose and function to teach and guide the individual Jew on how to live his daily life in accordance with the Torah.
All this gives everyone the opportunity to develop the proper and meaningful way of life, and above all, to have complete trust in G-d, whose benevolent Providence extends to each and everyone individually. Above all, it is necessary to cultivate sincere and wholehearted confidence in G-d, as it is written, "Thou shalt be wholehearted with G-d thy G-d," and thus eliminate all sorts of worries, anxieties and confusions. It develops a sense of security in that there is a Lord and Master Who takes care not only of the world as a whole, but also of each individual, with loving care. Even if, as you write, a person sometimes fails to live up to expectation, there is always the knowledge that nothing stands in the way of Teshuva [repentance].
It is surely unnecessary to elaborate to you on the above, but only to emphasize that we are all commanded to serve G-d with joy and gladness of heart. And upon reflection, it is possible to see how every happening can serve as a lesson in true Divine service.
5 Tishrei 5759
Negative mitzva 114: Shearing a dedicated animal
By this prohibition we are forbidden to shear a beast that has been dedicated as a sacrifice. It is contained in the words (Deut. 15:19): "Nor shall you shear the firstling of your flock"; the prohibition against shearing all other animals dedicated for sacrifice is derived from this.
On the day before Yom Kippur it is a mitzva to eat a festive meal in preparation for the fast. In fact, our Sages considered it so important that a person who enjoys a festive meal before Yom Kippur is considered to have fasted for two days!
The Day of Atonement is the holiest day of the year. On Yom Kippur, the essential connection between the Jew and G-d is revealed. This revelation is so intense that all of a person's sins are atoned for - just because of the sanctity of the day! Of course, repenting of one's misdeeds and returning to G-d on a conscious level repairs our relationship with Him and enforces our bond. But on the deepest level, the atonement of Yom Kippur itself is sufficient.
As the Rebbe explained in his annual blessing before Yom Kippur seven years ago, Yom Kippur is a day of happiness and celebration. (The Arizal interpreted "Yom Hakippurim" in its literal sense-"A Day Like Purim.") From a certain perspective, the Rebbe said, the celebration of Yom Kippur surpasses even Purim.
When the First Holy Temple in Jerusalem was dedicated, the Jews were so filled with joy that their celebrations spilled over to Yom Kippur, and they continued eating and drinking on the holy day. But rather than being considered something negative, a heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed, "You are all assured of a portion in the World to Come." Similarly, the Rebbe continued, if Moshiach should arrive right now, in the hours and minutes before Yom Kippur, our festive celebrations will continue on Yom Kippur, culminating in the ultimate feast of the Era of Redemption.
As "all the appointed times for Moshiach's coming have passed," let us hope and pray that this potential is realized immediately. "For all that is necessary is to turn to G-d. That will come naturally; there is no need for miracles."
Assemble the people together, the men, women, and children (Deut. 31:12)
This verse concerns the gathering of the Jewish people once every 7 years in the Holy Temple. As any parent knows, young children usually make a lot of noise. Wouldn't it have been easier to leave them at home, so as not to disturb the adults? However, parents have a responsibility to expose their children to Judaism and provide them with a Jewish education, even if some sacrifice is required. Better to bring the children along and miss a few words, than to leave them at home and hear every word clearly... (Rabbi Nasan Adler)
And they will say on that day, "Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst, that these troubles have overtaken me" (Deut. 31:17)
A Jew must believe that G-d is with him even in adversity, and that He dwells within him at all times. It is only when his faith slackens, when he begins to doubt that G-d is in his midst, that his troubles can "overtake" him. (Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa)
I will certainly hide (lit. "hide I will hide") My face on that day (Deut. 31:18)
Commenting on the Torah's repetition of the word "hide," the Baal Shem Tov said: There will come a time at the end of the exile when G-d's concealment will be two-fold. Not only will He be "hidden" within the physical world, but His concealment will be so great that people will cease to realize that anything is hidden! Nonetheless, there is no concealment capable of separating the Jew from G-d. The same "I" Who hides His face is the same "I" Who uttered the Ten Commandments, and dwells in the heart of every Jew. (Likutei Sichot, 5748)
Once, on the eve of Yom Kippur, when the tzadik Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael of Kremenetz was blessing his children, he noticed that one of his grown daughters was overcome with emotion and began to softly cry. The young child that she was holding also began to weep.
"Why are you crying?" Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael asked his grandchild.
"My mother is crying, so I am also crying," the child explained.
In shul that evening, before the Kol Nidrei prayer, Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael related to his congregation what had transpired earlier that day in his home and what his grandchild had told him. He then burst into tears and cried out emotionally, "When a child sees his mother weeping, he too weeps even though he may not understand the reason for his mother's tears.
"Our mother is also weeping. Our Sages tell us that the Shechina, the feminine aspect of the Divine Presence-the source of all of the souls of the Jewish people-'Keens like a dove and cries: "Woe to My children, that becasue of their sins I have destroyed My home, set fire to My sanctuary, and have exiled them among the nations.'"
Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael concluded, "So even if we, her children, have become desensitized to the pain of exile, at least we should weep because our mother is weeping!"
* * *
As Yom Kippur approached, Reb David of Michaelov, one of the Baal Shem Tov's most illustrious Chasidim, would begin his annual journey to the Baal Shem Tov (known also as the Besht) in Medzhibozh. His sojourn with the Besht, which would last from Yom Kippur until the end of Sukot, gave Reb David the spiritual sustenance he needed for the entire year.
One year, Reb David traveled through a small village which had a tiny Jewish community. They begged Reb David to spend Yom Kippur with them so they could have a minyan for the holy day. Reb David was torn. He would have liked to agree to their request, but how could he forgo the exalted experience of Yom Tov with the Besht? No, he simply couldn't remain.
When Reb David finally arrived in Medzhibozh and entered the Besht's shul he immediately felt a distinct lack of warmth from the Besht. Try as he may, Reb David couldn't figure out the reason he was being ignored.
When Sukot drew to a close, the Baal Shem Tov finally explained himself. "Reb David," he began, "by not remaining in the village over Yom Kippur you have caused great damage. In that village there was a soul which had been waiting seventy years for your arrival in order to be redeemed. And not only did that soul suffer, but your own soul suffered as well, for your two souls come from the same root source." The Besht explained that the only way for him to repair the damage would be to go undergo an indefinite period of wandering.
Reb David asked, "How will I know when the period of exile has ended?"
"You will receive a sign, and it will be clear to you," the Besht replied.
Reb David was soon on the road. Although he was a well-known figure, he passed unrecognized through towns and villages. Posing as a "maggid," a simple preacher, he spent a few days in a location, delivered an inspiring sermon and then moved on. After two years, Reb David arrived in the town of Slonim, where he was to deliver his sermon on Shabbat. However, a renowned preacher arrived that same week, and Reb David's sermon was postponed.
Both preachers were lodging in the home of the town elder. When the famous preacher met Reb David, he asked, "And who are you?" to which Reb David replied, "I am a simple traveling preacher. I was to deliver my speech this Shabbat, but in deference to you, I will wait until next week."
"Is that so! Let's hear what you can say right now!" the preacher said condescendingly. The town elder pressured Reb David as well and he had no way out. After Reb David made a few short remarks on the weekly portion, the famous preacher bellowed, "This fellow's an ignoramus!" An embarrased silence ensued after which everyone retired to their rooms for the evening.
The following day, the host was horrified when he realized that all of the family's valuables had been stolen. Suspician fell on Reb David as he was a total stranger, although in truth, the thief was none other than the "famous" preacher!
That Shabbat, the preacher addressed the crowd with words of rebuke and chastisement which could shrivel the heart of the most hardened criminal. When Shabbat ended, Reb David was brought into the shul and openly accused of the theft. Reb David said nothing to defend himself. Suddenly a voice was heard coming from outside the shul, saying, "Is Reb David Michaelov among you?" People ran outside to see who was speaking, but no one was there. Once more, it was demanded of Reb David that he admit his guilt. Again, a voice asked, "Is Reb David Michaelov there?" Still, there was no one outside. Finally the voice shouted: "Reb David, why don't you answer your accusers?"
At that, Reb David remembered the words of the Baal Shem Tov, and he knew that his penance had been accepted. Now Reb David movingly explained to the spellbound assemblage the events of the past few years. He began with the story of how he had made the mistake of spending Yom Kippur with his Rebbe rather than with the small Jewish community. He continued with an inspiring appeal to sieze every opportunity to do a mitzva. He described how the past two years had served as a spiritual cleansing and repaired the damage to his soul and that of the villager.
Soon, the "preacher" confessed. The entire community begged forgiveness of Reb David for wrongly accusing him and he gladly forgave them.
May it be Your will, L-rd our G-d and G-d of our fathers, merciful King, in Your abounding compassion, again to have mercy on us and on Your Sanctuary, and rebuild it soon and increase its glory. ...speedily reveal the glory of Your Kingship upon us; appear and be exalted over us before the eyes of all the living. Gather our dispersed from among the nations, and assemble our scattered from the ends of the earth. Bring us with song to Zion Your city, and with everlasting joy to Jerusalem Your Sanctuary (From the Musaf prayer on Yom Kippur)