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Yom Kippur Summaries

Yom Kippur 5780-2019

“How does G-d Judge?”
(Updated and revised from Yom Kippur 5760-1999

We mortals need to be constantly aware that what may seem in our eyes as a trivial or insignificant transgression, may appear in G-d’s eyes as a very serious breach or violation. That’s the challenge of Teshuva.

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Vayeilech-Yom Kippur 5779-2018

“And Moses Went…”

When Moses went to the Jewish people on the final day of his life, he gave them a most profound spiritual gift.

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Yom Kippur 5778-2017

“Forgiveness Before Sin”

The Midrashic tradition records a dispute regarding Yom Kippur. Was Yom Kippur established to help the People of Israel gain atonement for the sin of The Golden Calf, or was it given by G-d even before that grievous sin?

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Vayeilech-Yom Kippur 5777-2016

“Patience Tempered With Love”

As Joshua is about to assume the mantle of leadership of Israel, Moses charges his disciple to be patient and tolerant with the people and to infuse his feelings for them with abundant love. This was a lesson that Moses himself had learned from G-d Al-mighty.

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Vayeilech-Yom Kippur 5776-2015

“Living a Truly Meaningful Life”

On the final day of his life, Moses teaches all of humankind how to live a truly meaningful life.

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Yom Kippur 5775-2014

“The High Priest’s Dilemma–What to Wear on Yom Kippur?”

Why was it necessary for the High Priest to change from his golden garments to the white garments five times on Yom Kippur?

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Yom Kippur 5774-2013

Chesbon Hanefesh – Introspection”

The marvelous Hebrew term, Chesbon Hanefesh, means taking an accounting of one’s soul, and sitting in spiritual judgment of oneself. The High Holy Days are a most propitious time for “Chesbon Hanefesh” that must not be frittered away.

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Vayeilech-Yom Kippur 5773-2012

“The Limits of Free Will”

During the period of the Ten Days of Penitence, and especially with the imminent arrival of Yom Kippur, it is most appropriate to inquire about the limits of human free will.

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Yom Kippur 5772-2011

“The Magic of the Day of Atonement”

Yom Kippur, the most awesome day in the Jewish calendar, is also the most magical. Despite our trespasses, G-d guarantees His children forgiveness and redemption.

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Yom Kippur 5771-2010

“When Yom Kippur Occurs on Shabbat”

Why did the rabbis who set the Hebrew calendar allow Yom Kippur to occur on Shabbat? After all, when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat, Jews are unable to fulfill the mitzvah of “Oneg Shabbat,” and “Oneg Shabbat” is not something that may be easily dismissed!

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Yom Kippur 5770-2009

Shabbat Shabbaton–The Ultimate Shabbat”

When does true creativity occur? Jewish tradition maintains that introspection and contemplation are essential to creativity. When G-d rested on the Sabbath day, He not only ceased working, but stopped to evaluate His creation. Contemplation, therefore, is the purpose of Yom Kippur as well, the “Shabbat Shabbaton,” the Ultimate Shabbat.

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Yom Kippur 5769-2008

“Difficult Transitions”

Transitions are always difficult. In parashat Vayeilech, we learn of the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua. In a Chassidic tale we learn about a Jewish feudal lord who had converted to Christianity, returning to the Jewish faith only moments before his death.

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Yom Kippur 5768-2007

“The Role of the Cantor in the High Holiday Services”

After the Temples’ destruction, the majestic service of ancient times could no longer be replicated. Instead, today, the cantor, who acts as the community representative, stands symbolically in the role of the High Priest. Many other holiday rituals underscore the connection between the High Priest and today’s cantor.

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Yom Kippur 5767-2006

“The Poetry of Yom Kippur”

The ritual of the Yom Kippur Temple service is very rich indeed. It is described in great detail as part of the Yom Kippur liturgy known as the Avodah. The Avodah includes the ritual of the scapegoat in which a lottery determines the fate of two identical he-goats. One is sent to the wilderness, the other is sacrificed to G-d. This ritual is intended to convey to the people the important choices that each of us has laid out before us.

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Yom Kippur 5766-2005

“Sharing the Blanket”

The Ten Days of Penitence–Aseret Y’may Teshuvah–are days in which we focus on ourselves to become better people so that our fate is determined favorably in the Divine judgment. But if we are only for ourselves, what are we? We need to learn what Howard Schultz, founder and chairman of Starbucks, learned from Rabbi Nosson Zvi Finkel, the head of Mir Yeshiva, that we must “share the blanket.”

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Yom Kippur 5765-2004

“G-d’s Gift to His People on Yom Kippur”

One expects sinners and criminals to pay for their sins and crimes, either by way of monetary assessment or physical punishment such as incarceration. And yet, the Divine method of judgment is so different. When the Al-mighty grants forgiveness, He wipes the slate clean and says “You’ve sinned, you’ve trespassed–just don’t do it anymore.” There is no expectation of compensation or further punishment. Forgiveness has been granted! It is a Divine gift based purely on G-d’s love for His people.

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Yom Kippur 5764-2003

“Smashing the Golden Calves”

The sin of the Golden Calf is perhaps the most reprehensible crime that the Jewish nation has committed against G-d. At the foot of Mount Sinai, immediately following the miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery, when the Al-mighty showed the world that He had chosen the Jews as His people, the people brazenly defied Him, and were unfaithful to their beloved Creator. Yom Kippur is a day to express regret, and vow to change the many ways that the Jewish people may have betrayed their relationship with their Father-in-Heaven during the previous year.

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Yom Kippur 5761-2000

“The Thrill of Coming Home”

The month of Elul and the early days of Tishrei between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are universally regarded as propitious times for repentance and return. As G-d draws closer to us during this period, we need to draw closer to Him.

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Yom Kippur 5760-1999

“How Does G-d Judge?”

Since we never know the value that the Divine “tribunal” ascribes to our deeds or misdeeds, we mortals need to be constantly aware that what may seem in our eyes as trivial or simple transgressions may appear in G-d’s eyes as very serious breaches and violations. This “unknown factor” is one of the major challenges of sincere Teshuva (repentance).

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