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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 (commandments), 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 each other 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 numerical 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.
This week's Torah portion, Vayeilech, speaks about the holy ark of the Tabernacle, carried about by the Jews for their 40 years in the desert, and which afterward occupied a central position in the Holy Temple. "Take this book of the law, and put it at the side of the ark of the covenant of the L-rd your G-d, that it shall be there as a witness," the Torah states. One opinion of our Sages holds that the book Moses is referring to, the Torah scroll, was put in the ark together with the tablets of the Ten Commandments, and the other opinion holds that the Torah scroll was placed next to the ark. In any event, either inside or next to it, what is significant is that the Torah scroll was placed inside the Holy of Holies.
The Holy of Holies, therefore, contained two versions of G-d's Word - the written letters of the Torah scroll, consisting of ink painstakingly transcribed by Moses' hand onto parchment, and the Hebrew letters of the tablets of the law - letters engraved on stone by a Divine hand.
The letters of the Ten Commandments were not ordinary letters that a person could chisel into a stone surface. The tablets themselves were miraculous, as the letters could be read the same way from either side simultaneously. In addition, the "hollow" letters engraved on the tablets, such as the samech and final mem, seemed to hover in their places, impossible for a human being to duplicate.
It is quite logical, considering all the miracles connected to the Ten Commandments, that the tablets were placed in the Holy of Holies. Many other miracles occurred in the Holy of Holies, among them the fact that the ark itself took up no physical space; although it measured exactly the number of cubits specified in the Torah, if one measured the distance between the ark and the wall of the Holy of Holies, the ark seemed to occupy no space at all. Above and not limited to the boundaries of time and space, the purpose of the Holy of Holies was to spread G-d's light in the physical world, past the outer limits of the Temple, past the borders of Jerusalem, over the entire world and all its inhabitants.
But why was an ordinary Torah scroll, ink on parchment, also given a place in the Holy of Holies? The purpose of the Torah is to elevate the world and make it holy through performing the Torah's 613 commandments. No aspect of the physical world is beneath the Torah's jurisdiction and concern; the most insignificant detail of our lives is significant and a force for good when we live according to G-d's blueprint, the Torah. The letters of the Torah scroll, ordinary ink on the skin of a kosher animal, point to our ability to turn even the most mundane elements of our lives into something higher. The inclusion of the Torah scroll in the Holy of Holies teaches us that our ordinary world is the vehicle through which we are to carry out G-d's Divine plan for creation.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
The Badge of Courage
by Rabbi Moshe Kempinsky
In 1944 the German army overwhelmed Hungary and immediately began their satanic job of eliminating the Jewish people. Adolph Eichman entered Budapest and began his mission of murder in the efficient and calculating manner that was so much a part of him. The Nazis entered the Hungarian city of Satmar and gathered all the Jews into the designated ghetto. Within a short period of time these Jews were sent by cattle-car to the death camps of Auschwitz.
Naftali Stern was a young married, man, a 34-year-old cantor in the Kehilat Yearim synagogue in Satmar. In that fateful month of May, his wife Bluma and his four children, Gittel 14, Tzvi Hirsch 10, Moshe 9 and Azriel Yosef 6, were taken to the death camp of Birkenau.
They never came back.
He was standing on the same line with them at the entrance to the camp. They shuffled forward until they stood before an elegantly dressed Nazi officer. The man, Dr. Mengele, with his Nazi cap tipped arrogantly to the side, whistled the Blue Danube Waltz as he chose which wretched souls would be sent to their deaths and which into the slave labor camps. Naftali's wife and children were sent to the ovens and he was sent to the Wolfsburg labor camp.
It was in that camp that thousands of prisoners were forced to dig tunnels and trenches to serve as a defensible bunkers for the retreating German army and high command. So began endless days and nights filled with difficult work and starvation regimens.
As Rosh Hashana approached, Naftali Stern decided to bring the other inmates together for Rosh Hashana services. He sold his daily ration of bread in order to obtain concrete sacks and some pencils. He cut the sacks into small squares and began to write the whole Rosh Hashana service in a scrawl. For no explainable reason the German guards allowed the service to take place.
The service that followed was described in an article by Dr. David Halivni in the summer of 2001:
"I, too, was an inmate in Wolfsburg, and I remember the prayer service. The service was held in an overcrowded hall, and - still a young man of sixteen - I could not push my way in and remained outside. But what went on inside left a deep impression. This was the only time that we were permitted to gather together in the camp and pray out loud. The prayers that were uttered on that day were the traditional ones, composed in a different age and under very different conditions. Nevertheless, among the traditional prayers, one was uttered as a prayer of the heart with a unique kavana (intent), unique to the incomparable conditions of the prayers."
This event would not recur, and by Yom Kippur the Nazis took the inmates on a grueling seven kilometer march to a work area. Naftali was overwrought over the Yom Kippur that would pass unobserved. The thought of not being able to fast was very difficult for him. In an article in the newspaper "Arba Kanfot" his memories of that day are recalled:
Naftali Stern remembered the words of his pained prayer. "Master of the world, You wrote in Your Holy Torah regarding Yom Kippur 'And you shall afflict your souls' (Leviticus 23:27) and further You wrote 'Take therefore good care of yourselves' (Deuteronomy 4:15). My Creator and my Holy One, which of the two must I keep? If I continue the fast I will die and will not be able to complete the second Divine request. I want to fast but you are not letting me. You don't let me but I will nevertheless fast ... I may be rebelling against Your will but I pray that You will give me the strength to fight Your will."
In later years Naftali remembered that this prayer came from a deep place within him as a pained sigh. He also remembered that he felt the Divine response immediately and was given the strength to continue reciting the Yom Kippur service by memory.
It was with this same strength of faith and vision that he kept hidden on his body the torn sack pages of his Rosh Hashana Machzor (prayer book). Naftali Stern survived the camps, re-established a family and moved to Israel. In his final years he gave his precious Machzor to the Yad Vashem Museum.
When presenting the disintegrating papers, Naftali said that he was donating them to Yad Vashem for safekeeping. He stressed that it was vital that future generations understand that in spite of the survivors' harrowing experience during the Holocaust they maintained their spirit, embraced their Jewish identity and never lost hope. In a trembling voice Naftali said, "I pray that each subsequent generation will stay true to their Jewish identity and be a link in a long chain."
This people is made up of countless heroes and heroines like Naftali Stern. The yellow Star of David that the Jews were forced to wear on their chest in the Ghettos was intended to be a badge of shame. On the other hand their human hearts beating in their chests filled with faith and determination was their badge of courage.
As we stand here over six decades after Naftali Stern finished creating his Machzor, we turn to G-d in fervent prayer:
"Master of the World, Your people are about to enter Your throne room on this Yom Kippur. Ignore all those things that some may wear as a badge of shame. They have been forced, coerced and enticed to wear those things by the power of their Exile. Look to their hearts. There You will find the courage that befits Your people.
Rabbi Yehoshua and Esty Hecht recently moved to Washington, DC where they will open a Chabad House for students and faculty at the American University. Rabbi Zalman and Devorah Laufer have arrived in to Providence, Rhode Island, to provide programming for youth and young adults. Rabbi Menachem Mendel and Nechama Dina Brikman have moved to the northeastern Tzehala and Ganei Tzehala neighborhoods of Tel Aviv, Israel. Rabbi Levi and Sonia Wolvovsky recently moved to Florence, Italy to serve as emissaries in Italy's Tuscany region. Rabbi Mendel and Shterna Sara Shemtov have arrived in Elgin, Illinois to establish Chabad-Lubavitch of Elgin and Hoffman Estates, suburbs of Chicago
Freely translated letter
6th of Tishrei, 5750 
To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere, G-d Bless You All!
Greeting and blessing:
It is customary to "open with a blessing," in this instance, a blessing for a chasima (sealing) and g'mar chasima (final sealing) for a good and sweet year.
It is after Rosh Hashana and we have already entered the new year. At all times, even when a person's knowledge and actual conduct are satisfactory, he should constantly strive to invest his time in further study, and thus to improve his conduct (his thought, speech, and action). Surely this applies at the threshold of a new year, which reminds us that it is necessary to strive toward a new and more elevated level of perfection in our daily life.
...Both miracles and nature are expressions of G-dliness. Nature too emanates from G-d. He created and fixed the laws of nature and uses them as a means to control the world. What distinguishes miracles from nature is that miracles are out of the ordinary, a higher order of existence than G-d usually reveals. The Hebrew word for miracle, "nes," also means "uplifted," raised above and exalted. Thus, a miracle is an occurrence which introduces a higher frame of reference into creation, elevating the world beyond its natural limitations.
These two approaches, the natural and the miraculous, must be reflected in the behavior of every Jew. We must exhibit both a natural pattern of behavior and a miraculous pattern of behavior.
Even a Jew's natural pattern of behavior involves absolute adherence to the directives of the Torah. However, inasmuch as it is his ordinary conduct, it is limited by the bounds of his human potential.
G-d, however, grants a Jew an additional potential to serve Him through a miraculous pattern of behavior, allowing him to transcend his natural limits. This does not mean that a person merely improves himself slightly or even greatly, in the spirit of the directive that "in holy matters, one should always ascend higher," by increasing his commitment to sessions of Torah study, undertaking a new hiddur (enhancement) in the performance of a mitzvah (commandment), or the like. Rather, it means that he changes entirely, adopting a totally new and more elevated pattern of behavior.
"All Jews are presumed to act in an upstanding manner." Thus, we can assume that each Jew utilized the month of Elul, the month of stock-taking, to correct all his deeds of the previous year and to elevate them to the level of completion and perfection.
We can also assume that he was granted a full measure of pardon, forgiveness, and atonement, and was inscribed - and that inscription was sealed - for a good year in all matters....
It is now demanded of each Jew - man, woman, and child - that he work with himself and elevate himself to a plane so new and so high that his conduct in this year will be miraculous when compared to his conduct in the previous year.
This miraculous pattern of behavior - serving G-d (through Torah, prayer, and mitzvos) in an unlimited manner - must pervade every aspect of our conduct, including the mitzvos between man and G-d, the mitzvos between man and his fellowman, beginning with the mitzvah to "love your neighbor as yourself," and also the mitzvos that are connected with non-Jews and with the world at large.
G-d relates to the Jewish people "measure for measure." Accordingly, it is understood that a miraculous pattern of behavior on the part of a Jew arouses a miraculous pattern of Divine behavior and draws down unlimited Divine blessings upon himself, both as an individual and as a part of the Jewish people as a whole, and upon the world at large.
May each individual's acceptance of firm and powerful resolutions regarding all the above be considered by G-d as if these resolutions have already been carried out. In particular, this is true, since we have already experienced several days of the new year and one can assume that the above has already begun to be carried out. And may the meaning of the acronym resulting from the name of this year be fulfilled quite literally, so that "this will be a year of miracles."
May it also include the most vital miracle, the miracle of the true and complete redemption led by our righteous Moshiach, when there will be even greater miracles than those which occurred during the exodus from Egypt. Thus our Sages interpret the verse, "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt will I show you wonders" - the miracles of the Messianic age will be "wonders" when compared to the "days of your exodus from Egypt."
May G-d fulfill the heartfelt prayer of each Jew and of the Jewish people as a whole - and bring the true and complete redemption in the immediate future.
Yona (Jonah) the prophet was the son of Amitai and hailed from Gat-Chefer. He lived during the times of the first Holy Temple. He was a student of Elisha the Prophet who was a disciple of Elijah the Prophet. G-d told Yona to travel to Nineveh in Assiriya, to warn its inhabitants to repent. Yona did not want to fulfill this Divine mission because he feared it would bode ill for the Jewish people. He tried to flee by ship to Tarshish but was swallowed by a huge fish. He prays to G-d to be saved and then fulfills the original mission G-d sent him on. The Book of Yona is read on Yom Kippur as the Haftorah.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat marks the anniversary of the passing of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, mother of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. She passed away on 6 Tishrei, 1964.
Rebbetzin Chana was born in 1879 in Nikolaiev, near Odessa. In 1900, she married the renowned scholar and kabbalist, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson. They had three sons.
In 1939 Rabbi Levi Yitzchok was arrested because of his energetic work to preserve religious observance; a year later, he was exiled to Kazakhstan. When Rebbetzin Chana learned of her husband's location, she joined him, despite the difficulties and danger involved.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok passed away in exile in 1944. In 1947 Rebbetzin Chana succeeded in emigrating from the Soviet Union to the U.S.
From Rebbetzin Chana's memoirs about Yom Kippur in exile in Kazakhstan:
"On Yom Kippur, my husband, a Rumanian Jew, and I, enclosed ourselves in our room. It is hard to set down on paper the emotions and the spiritual states that we experienced on that day.
Suddenly, we became aware of strange eyes peering at us through the window. As soon as the Rav realized what was going on, he went over to the door and threw it open wide. Our unexpected guest turned out to be a young Lithuanian Jew, also in exile.
Here, in exile, this young fellow worked as a wagon-driver. He related to us that while driving his wagon, he had caught a glimpse of the Rav and was struck by his appearance. He had decided to find out who this person was and where he lived. The lad felt that if he could be privileged to be with the Rav on this holiest of days, it would ease the weight of his sorrows and be a balm for his soul. Somehow, our young visitor had managed to locate us.
Half an hour later we heard a knock on the door. We opened it to find a frightened woman who, like the wagon-driver, yearned to be in the Rav's presence on this day. Not allowing the fast to deter her, she trudged four km in order to reach our house...
And Moses went (Deut. 31:1)
"To the house of learning," explains the commentator in the Targum. Before Moses began his address to the Children of Israel he went to verify what he was about to teach. From this we learn that one must never rely on his own memory when deciding a matter of Jewish law; one must always consult the proper sources to make sure that the decision is correct.
But I will assuredly hide My face on that day (Deut. 31:18)
A person can only hide if the other person is unaware of his presence. It's not hiding if we know beforehand that someone is concealing himself in a certain spot, even if he is well hidden from view. This knowledge gives us a better grasp of the exile in which the Jews find themselves. We, having been forewarned, can better deal with the darkness because we know that G-d can be found even as He hides His face.
(Baal Shem Tov)
And they will say on that day, is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have overtaken me? (Deut. 31:17)
Every Jew must believe that G-d is with him and within him wherever he goes, even in times of trouble. It is only when our belief falters and we forget G-d's presence that "these evils" are given the opportunity to occur.
(Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa)
The day before Yom Kippur the air in the city of Lubavitch was already permeated with the holiness of the day. Reb Shmuel, a respected scholar and chasid, sat in a corner of the shul (synagogue) swaying in prayer when the door swung open and a peddler entered the room. He threw himself down on a bench and tossed his pack on the floor. Reb Shmuel inquired, "How are you, brother?"
"Oy," sighed the man. "The exile is dark and terrible. Just today I was walking past the mansion of Squire Lobomirsky. Everyone knows his evil reputation. Whenever I pass that place, I walk as fast as I can to get away from it. Suddenly, some one cried out, 'Hey, Jew!' My blood ran cold. Thank G-d, it was only the squire's servant, who wanted to buy a scarf from me. He told me about a Jewish family imprisoned in the squire's dungeon. They owe him rent, and if they don't pay by tomorrow, they'll all be killed. If only I had that money...what a terrible and dark exile."
By the time the man had finished his tale, Reb Shmuel had left the shul; soon he was knocking at the gates of the squire's mansion. "I must speak with His Excellency," he said to the guard. He was allowed to enter and he proceeded to the room where Lobomirsky sat. When the squire saw the Jew, he was infuriated: "How dare you enter my house! What do you want, Jew?"
"I want to know what is the debt of that poor, unfortunate family you have imprisoned."
The ruthless landowner's eyes lit up with the thought of lining his pockets with the money. "Let me think about it," he smiled slyly and began to calculate: "Well, there's the debt, then there's all the money I put out to feed the whole brood, then there's the penalty payment; there's also the money required to cancel their hanging - it would have provided good entertainment." At the end of his "calculations," Reb Shmuel was faced with an exorbitant sum.
"Somehow G-d will help me raise that sum," Shmuel replied to the smirking Lobomirsky.
It was getting late. Reb Shmuel went from door to door, telling everyone about the plight of the imprisoned family, and although they were as generous as possible, they themselves were poor. When he had finished his rounds, Reb Shmuel had a pitifully small sum in his hands. "This will never do," he thought to himself. "I must do something else, and fast."
He was walking aimlessly, thinking of his next move, when he looked up and found himself in front of a tavern. The sound of loud, drunken voices emerged from within, and Shmuel was seized with the thought that just perhaps his money was waiting for him inside, if only he could figure out how to get it. As soon as he entered, he was sickened by the smell of liquor and stale smoke. A group of card players looked up, surprised to see a Chasidic Jew in their midst. "What do you want, Jew?" "I am here on a mission of mercy. The lives of an entire family hang in the balance. I must raise a large sum of money." One of the players replied, "Well, if you can down this beaker of vodka, I just might give you this money," and he pointed to a towering stack of gold coins. Reb Shmuel was never much of a drinker, but what choice did he have? He downed the vodka, and true to his word, the card player handed over the money. In quick succession, the other players offered their winnings if he would drink two more huge cups of vodka.
Reb Shmuel's eyes were beginning to cross, but the glimmering piles of coins steadied his resolve. An hour after he had entered the tavern, he staggered out with his pockets bulging and stumbled in the direction of the squire's mansion.
The squire couldn't believe his eyes, but he greedily accepted the gold and released the grateful family who had barely escaped death.
Reb Shmuel could barely put one foot in front of the other; his eyes no longer focused, but, he still remembered the holy day. He managed to get to the shul, where he promptly collapsed in a heap. The worshippers were dressed in their white robes, looking so much like the ministering angels. They were startled to see Reb Shmuel snoring away, dressed in his weekday clothes which showed evidence of his tavern experience. "What could have come over him?" they wondered.
Reb Shmuel lay asleep throughout the evening of prayers which marked the beginning of the holiest day. His snoring provided a constant accompaniment to the heartfelt prayers rising from the congregation. The prayers ended, Psalms were recited, and the shul emptied out. Reb Shmuel slept on.
At the first morning light, the worshippers returned to the shul for the long day of prayers. Reb Shmuel was beginning to stir. They watched curiously as he opened his bleary eyes and stood up. Walking straight to the bima, Reb Shmuel banged on the wood with his fist, and in a booming voice, exclaimed: "Know that G-d, He is the L-rd; there is none other then Him."
The congregation fell into confusion. What was Reb Shmuel doing reciting the words of the Simchat Torah prayers?! Why, didn't he realize that today was Yom Kippur? Suddenly the rabbi rose and turned toward the congregation: "Leave Reb Shmuel alone. He has far outpaced us. With the great deed he has done, his atonement is complete, and he is waiting for us at Simchat Torah!"
At the close of Neila, after the Yom Kippur service, we declare "Shema Yisrael" and "G-d is the L-rd" - statements that emphasize the oneness of G-d with our material existence. This oneness will be realized as we conclude "Next year in Jerusalem," with the coming of the Redemption. Furthermore, as the Previous Rebbe explained, the intent of that statement is not that we must wait until next year for the Redemption to come. Instead, the Redemption will come immediately and, as a natural result, next year, we will celebrate the holiday in Jerusalem.
(The Rebbe, the eve Yom Kippur, 5752)