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Overview on Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year. According to our sages, it’s the only day in which the Satan, the Sitra Achra has no hold on anyone, provided they prepare themselves for it.

Imagine you had 26 hours to be in a giant room full of diamonds, gold, jewels and pearls to get whatever you want! Once the time is over, that’s it. You won’t be able to go back again. That’s Yom Kippur!

Surely you wouldn’t even want to sleep in that room, because who could ever waste time with sleep when presented such an opportunity?

Sadly, many people don’t understand its importance and minimize it to a day of suffering. But it’s much more than that and that’s what we are going to be learning today in this article.


Tallit on the night of Yom Kippur

In explaining Yom Kippur, the Zohar uses the Pasuk  Semolo Tachat Roshi VeYemino Tichabkaini – Your left hand is beneath my head and your right hand embraces me. The Zohar explains that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the Smolo or left side and Sukkot is the Yemino or the right side. The left side represent Din [judgement]  and the right side is Chessed [kindness].

We see two things from this:

  1. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are connected
  2. They are both in the left side or Dinnim.

Tallit finishes the work of Rosh Hashana, even though it is on Yom Kipur, it completes the Keter of Rosh Hashana [Rosh Hashan is the Partzuf of Tevuna, and Yom Kipur is the Partzuf of Bina. The Tallit of Yom Kippur is the Keter of Tevuna].

The Arizal explains that the 10 days of Teshuva from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur are incredibly holy and one who fasts on any of these 10 days, excluding Shabbat, Rosh Hashana itself and the day before Yom Kippur rectifies everything he has blemished in his entire life on that very day of the week!

And these first 10 days are the hard part of our work in the system of Creator. After Yom Kippur comes 4 days of “cool-down” until Sukkot. Then we have 7 more days of Chesed and finally, on Shmini Atzeret is the great divine union that will bring blessing throughout the whole year.

It is important to note that here we are talking about an entirely different system of Hashgacha (Divine Providence) that is active in this period. That’s something that we don’t find any other time during the Jewish Year except in the Pessach, Sefirat HaOmer and Shavuot system (which is also different).


Kol Nidre

In the beginning of Yom Kippur, at night, we say Kol Nidre, a declaration of annulment of vows.

During Kol Nidre we invite all people to join us in prayer. Even the sinners, even the people that were excommunicated and sent away. In a spiritual sense, what we are doing is isolating the sins and putting a shield around the sinners so that the sins and all the bad parts of ourselves will not effect us during the holy day of Yom Kippur. Kol Nidre is the quarantining the sins.

In general, whenever you pray with a Minyan [quorum of 10 men] the congregation is all helping each other. If one has sins, it brings them all down. If one is extra righteous then it will bring all of the congregation up. The same is true of a person in and of themself. If you have sins it will bring you down and stop you from connecting to Hashem, if you have merits it will help you connect to Hashem.

During Kol Nidre we quarantine the sins so we can connect to Hashem and the sins will not bring us down.

In Sha’ar Hagilgulim there is a story that the Arizal told one of his students to make sure that this student should take out the Torah Scroll during Kol Nidre. This is because the taking out of the Torah Scroll of Kol Nidreai is a Tikkun for the sin of homosexuality and in a previous life this student did that sin.


The Night of Yom Kippur

The 5 prayers we pray on Yom Kippur are like a ladder of spirituality, in which we climb to be in complete union with Hashem. Again, this is a time when the Sitra Achra has no hold so it makes our Avodat Hashem much more inspiring. At the end of each of them, we say the Vidui [confession] and ask for forgiveness. This is not supposed to be mere lip service!

But one could ask: why do we need to say confession 10 times on Yom Kippur, 5 in the silent prayers and 5 in the repetition?! Isn’t it enough once?

The truth is we are rectifying our sins in each of the levels of the ladder. That’s why it’s so important to say the confessional penitence prayer of Vidui in each prayer.

Even during the night time of Yom Kippur is special and there is a lot work to be done. The Arizal used to stay up all night of Yom Kippur. But, in our case, if we stay up all night we probably will not be able to pray the next day, so it is better to go to sleep.

Keep in mind it’s important to go to sleep with holy thoughts! The Arizal prescribed to say the first 4 chapters of Tehillim [Psalms] before leaving the synagogue. This will help you to go to sleep with holy thoughts.

Finally, try to meditate on Hashem before going to sleep.

Some people say Taanit Dibur [not speaking except for words of Torah ad Prayer] and that’s a really worthy practice on Yom Kippur, all those who can do it should.


The 5 Afflictions of Yom Kippur

The 5 Innuyim [Afflictions] correspond to the 5 Tefilot. Remember, on this day, a Jew is forbidden to eat, drink, use leather shoes, anoint himself and have marital relations.

On Yom Kippur we hold back physical pleasure in these 5 areas. It’s a spiritual principle that whatever you get from the physical pleasure you cannot get in the spiritual pleasure. People complain “I have been learning Torah for so long, but I don’t feel any spiritual pleasure”.

And the reason can be very simple most of the times: This may be because they are indulging in physical pleasures so they cannot feel spiritual pleasure!

On Yom Kippur, we remove the physical pleasure so we can fully experience the spiritual pleasure of Hashem. That’s why the punishment for violating Yom Kippur is so severe, Karet or spiritual excision. One who cancels this unique connection to the Creator cuts himself from life itself.

But what about Shabbat, when we are commanded to get physical pleasure? What should you do?

On one aspect, we get a higher elevation on Shabbat, in the regular spiritual worlds system of the days. But on another aspect, Yom Kippur is the higher of the two! It all depends how one looks at it. The details of these systems are very deep and we will have to skip explaining them in this short article.


Exercise for Shabbat

On Shabbat, remember to meditate on Hashem while you are eating the delicious food. Do not distract your mind by learning Torah, it’s better to eat and think about Hashem. Bring Hashem into the experience of physical pleasure!

According to Kabbalah [Arizal] we don’t need the physical pleasure on Yom Kippur because we are receiving abundance from a much higher source. This is the level of the Hevel [breaths] of Binah! Usually we receive our sustenance from Hashem through the channel of physical food, which is from a very external source.

Therefore, on Yom Kippur, it’s important to realize that we are like Angels, but really we are much higher!

This is because the angels receive sustenance from the external aspects of spirituality and on Yom Kippur we receive sustenance from the internal aspects of the Spirituality.

This should suffice as meditation for now!

Comment below what you think about it and remember to share this article with your friends and family!

1 comment

    When people say we are like angels on YK, I wonder at what level of angel, archangel, other angel? Then what attributes are we emulating? And if we are higher then what is that, or in human terms, where is that? and what attributes are we emulating? Is it fair/proper to say we are like angels if this is more of an analogy than a spiritual reality?

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