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"If your sins are as scarlet threads may they be whitened as snow" we read in the Haftorah on Yom Kippur.
Whether they are scarlet sins, teal transgressions, magenta misdeeds, violet vices, indigo inadequacies, or orange offences, through the three "R's" - regret, rectification, and resolve for the future, they can be whitened.
For white is the absence of all color and when we sincerely practice the three R's every trace of color of our previous failings is removed.
White - May our sins that come from having our heads too much into the mire and muck and mud of the brown earth turn white, like billowy clouds.
White - May our transgressions that have come from letting our red blood boil in outrage, anger, hostility, animosity and resentment turn white as fresh milk.
White - May our ink-blue sins be blotted out, deleted, removed in such a way that they look not like a paper that was written on and erased but that they look like a new, fresh, clean white paper.
White - May our sins that are like dense, black coal and come from a density of spirit and mind and emotion become white like light, airy cotton.
The Jewish approach to the three R's (regret, rectification and resolve for the future) is unique.
For, the verb describing what one who has transgressed must do to atone is "teshuva - return."
A Jew must return to his Source, to the origin of his pure soul - the spark of G-dliness within. He must return to his previously colorless state, return to the teachings of the Torah and the fulfillment of mitzvot that his soul intrinsically craves.
Jewish teachings explain that in the place where a baal teshuva - one who returns - stands, even a perfectly righteous person cannot stand. For, when one truly and fully returns, all of his previous misdeeds are transformed into merits; one extracts the color from the misdeed and it becomes pure white.
Concerning exact details as to how one returns, there is a story of a chasid who came to his rebbe, sobbing bitterly: "Rebbe, I have sinned. I have transgressed. Please, teach me how to do teshuva, how to return."
Queried the rebbe, "Who taught you how to sin?"
"No one taught me. I just saw an opportunity, seized the moment, and sinned."
"And that is how you should return," explained the rebbe. "Just do it."
We all have our own ways and methods for achieving whatever goals we set for ourselves in life. Let us apply these honed skills during this season of "return" to practice the three R's of Judaism and come home for good.
What was the highlight of the Yom Kippur service in the Holy Temple? The entry of the High Priest into the Holy of Holies. Concerning this entry, the Torah tells us: "No man shall be in the Tent of Meeting when he [the High Priest] comes to provide atonement." Our Sages go further, explaining that not even the angels could intrude on this intimate experience. It was a private moment, man being entirely alone with Gd.
The special nature of this event enables us to understand a unique phenomenon that occurred in the Second Temple. The Romans took control of the Temple and auctioned the High Priesthood to the highest bidder. The overwhelming majority of the priests who bought the position were not worthy; some were outright sinners.
Now when an unworthy High Priest entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, he would die within the year. Some died immediately - indeed, that was so common an occurrence that a chain was placed around the High Priest's leg so that if he would die, he could be pulled out without others having to enter the Holy of Holies. Others who possessed certain merits lived longer, but all those who were unworthy would die within a year.
The price the Romans demanded for being appointed High Priest was extremely high. Moreover, the person purchasing the High Priesthood knew what had happened to his predecessors. Why then was he willing to do something knowing that the position would lead to his death?
The resolution lies in the desire every Jew possesses to come close to Gd. The knowledge that he could be alone with the Divine Presence and share this closeness was so inspiring that even an unworthy person was willing to give up his life and his fortune just for that one moment.
This is not merely a story of the past; it is a spiritual reality relived every year on Yom Kippur. The final prayer of the Yom Kippur service is Neilah, which means "locking." The traditional interpretation is that the gates of heaven are closing and we must hurry to get our prayers in before they and our fates are sealed. Chasidut, however, explains that at this time, each of us is intimately closeted and entirely alone with Gd.
Yom Kippur should not, however, remain an isolated moment, a spiritual peak unrelated to our ordinary daily experience. Just as intimacy between people should not be expressed merely in brief moments of passion and heightened feeling, the intimacy we share with Gd on Yom Kippur must be translated into an ongoing relationship that finds expression in our day to day lives.
This point is highlighted by the Torah reading for Yom Kippur which begins "And it came to pass after...." Implied is that we must focus not only on the spiritual highs of Yom Kippur, but also on what will "come to pass afterwards," integrating our Judaism into the fabric of our daily lives.
From Keeping in Touch by Rabbi Eli Touger, published by S.I.E.
The Shofar of Courage and Hope
by Larry Domnitch
During British mandatory rule over the Land of Israel, Jews who ventured to the Western Wall braved adversity. They were subject to frequent harassment by local Arabs who understood its significance to the Jews. They did what they could to make life as difficult as possible for Jewish worshipers there. Then, there were other challenges.
On May 19, 1931, in one of many gestures of appeasement toward the Arabs, the British declared the pavement in front of the Western Wall as Moslem property. Jews were granted free access to pray there as long as the traditional 'Mechitza' (partition) was not used, and voices were not raised in prayer. In addition, the sounding of the Shofar was prohibited. However, one individual was determined to ensure that the Shofar would be heard at the Western Wall during the most sanctified moment of the Jewish year- the conclusion of Yom Kippur.
A few months later, as Yom Kippur was drawing to a close, as Rabbi Moshe Segal was praying at the Western Wall, he overheard people saying to each other, "Where will we go to hear the Shofar? It's impossible to blow here they have as many policemen as people." The Rabbi thought to himself, "How can we miss out on this important Shofar that proclaims G-D's sovereignty and echoes the redemption of Israel?"
Rabbi Segal approached Rabbi Yitzchak Horenstein, who served as Rabbi of the group and asked for a Shofar.
"What for?" He asked.
"I'll blow it"
"Sh-h! Sh-h! What are you talking about? Don't you see the police all over?"
"I'll blow it anyway"
The Rabbi turned his face away but cast a glance at a prayer stand at the end of the alley, indicating the Shofar's location.
Rabbi Segal approached the stand, and quietly opened the draw as he slipped the Shofar into his shirt. Unmarried at the time, he was not wearing a Talit (prayer shawl), so in order to cover the Shofar, he asked another person there to borrow his for cover. Wrapped in the Talit, the "contraband" shofar was safely concealed.
The defiant and determined young Rabbi thought to himself, "All around me, the police hover and a foreign government oppresses and restricts our people even on our holiest day, at our holiest place. But here under this Tallit is a whole other domain. Here I am under the rule of my Father in Heaven. Here I shall do as He commands me, and no force will prevent me."
Rabbi Segal waited anxiously as the final verses of the closing Neilah prayer were pronounced, "Hear O Israel," "Blessed be the name," and "The L-rd is G-D." Mustering all his strength and courage, he foisted the Shofar and sounded a thunderous blast.
Immediately, British soldiers converged upon the scene and whisked Rabbi Segal away.
Taken to a prison in the Old City, and placed under guard, the Rabbi's fast continued as he was held without food or water until mid-night. Then, suddenly, orders were received to have him released.
Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook had intervened; he contacted the British High Commissioner and requested Rabbi Segal's release. When his request was denied, he insisted that he would himself not break his fast until Rabbi Segal was released. The High Commissioner replied, "But that man broke a government order," to which Rav Kook replied, "He fulfilled a religious commandment." Finally, after several hours, the High Commissioner relented.
In the following years, others inspired by Rabbi Segal, followed his example and Shofars were sounded at the Western Wall as Yom Kippur ended. Each year, the inevitable arrests had followed. In 1948, when the Arab legions held the Old City and Jewish entry was prohibited, Jews prayed at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, nearby on Mount Zion; the 'Israeli' side of the city from where the Kotel was visible. They sounded the Shofar there, and prayed for the day when once again, its voice could be heard at the Western Wall.
In June 1967, one of the first acts of the victorious paratroopers at the newly liberated Western Wall was the sounding of the Shofar. At the end of Yom Kippur that year, the man who blew the Shofar at the Kotel was none other then Moshe Segal. His acts of courage and faith eventually had a triumphant finale.
Larry Domnitch is an educator and the author of "The Cantonists: The Jewish Children´s Army of the Tsar," released by Devora Publishing. He resides in Efrat.
Rabbi Yaacov and Ita Leaf recently moved to Montclair, New Jersey, to establish a new Chabad Center there. They plan to offer a wide range of learning opportunities for all ages including for students at Montclari State University, as well as Shabbat and holiday programs. Rabbi Didy and Devorah Waks have moved to upstate New York to establish a new Chabad on campus, at Hamilton College, in Clinton, New York.
The dedication of Mikvas Chana Leah in Berkeley, California, brought together 200 women from throughout northern California. The mikva, originally built in 1977, recently underwent a six-month, $300,000 renovation, with an eye to aesthetics and ecology. Following a tour of the mikva, the women attended a dedication dinner held in U.C. Berkeley's Krutch Theatre. Keynote speaker Rikvah Slonim explained that mikva "is central. It is at the heart and soul of our tradition."
23rd of Adar I, 5722 
Mr. Chayim Yaakov Lipchitz
Greeting and Blessing:
Thank you for your letter of December 10th. I also received the book, Encounters, which I perused with great interest, although somewhat superficially, because of lack of time at this moment. I was particularly interested to note in it the photographs of your parents.
In keeping with the characterization of our Jewish people as a "stiff-necked" people, I will at once return to the theme of our recent correspondence, to which you reply in your letter. Having seen the book and the photographs, my views have been further reinforced, and I am more strongly convinced than ever that your participation in the museum in the Holy City of Jerusalem is not for you.
Now to refer to the contents of your letter.
...You cite the well-known story related of the Baal Shem Tov in regard to a certain non-conventional manner of prayer which proved very effective. I have heard this story from my father-in-law of saintly memory in a version which has been published in the enclosed brochure. It is to the effect that a Jewish boy who grew up in the country without the benefit of Jewish education could not participate in the communal service on Yom Kippur, and being carried away by the fervor of prayer in the community, he exclaimed with ecstasy, "cock-a-doodle-do," and it carried all the prayers of the community right to the Heavenly Throne. The moral of this story is surely not to make that exclamation a permanent institution of communal service on the Holy Day of Yom Kippur, just because a certain individual could not express his feelings in any other way.
Besides, and this is more important for our case, the attempt to express one's feelings by the same sound as the rooster expresses his feelings, namely "cock-a-doodle-do," is in itself quite an innocent one and does not evoke an "obstacle" to the outpouring of the soul and to the sanctity of the blessings, etc., which are associated with the Holy Day of Yom Kippur; only the external form of this expression strikes us as absurd. Essentially, it is in no way in conflict with the inner spirit of either the person expressing himself in such a manner, or of those surrounding him.
It is quite different from the illustration which I used, namely, to bring a ballet troupe into the Synagogue on Yom Kippur on the assumption that it might make some esthetic or artistic contribution. In this case, even the external form would be in violent conflict with the whole spiritual set-up, and the reactions that such a display often calls forth in many individuals would be absolutely contrary to the spirit.
Incidentally, throughout your letter I do not find a reply to one point which I raised, and which is fundamental to this issue. As a matter of fact, I do not think that there can be a reply to this point. I refer to the fact that Jerusalem is the Holy City not for a group of individuals, and not even for a large group of individuals, but it is intimately connected with the inner individual spiritual life of millions of Jews in our own time as well as in past and future generations. Moreover, it is more intimately bound up with those Jews who pray every day, and who have no conception of burlesque. Therefore, no one has a moral right to do something which many of them would consider as a most obvious desecration of their Holy of Holies, even in a small way, and even with the best of intentions. As I said, this would be true even in regard to the Holy of Holies of a single individual of a group of individuals, all the more so when it directly affects millions of our people, who pray daily for the return of the Shechinah (Divine Presence) in the Holy City and its restoration to its former glory and holiness.
As I wrote to you previously, I feel I have no choice but to be quite candid in my correspondence with you on this subject, because of the far-reaching implications of the issue. I'm therefore also pleased to see that you have expressed your views in a similar candid manner. This gives me the hope that eventually our views will coincide since, I am sure, both of us have the sacred heritage of our people at heart.
With kindest personal regards and with blessing,
P.S. - I noted in the book, Encounters, that you had occasion to deal with the question of the age of our universe and the Torah view on this, etc. I am, therefore, enclosing a copy of my correspondence on this and related questions, which I wrote in reply to an inquiry. I trust you will find it interesting.
On the eve of Yom Kippur we should be involved in remorse for the past; on Yom Kippur - resolve for the future.
We are assured by covenant that any wide-ranging effort and labor pursued wisely and with friendship is never fruitless.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The Lubavitcher Rebbe traditionally blessed the enitre congregation on the eve of Yom Kippur just as a father blesses his children on this day. One year, when - like this year - Yom Kippur occured on Shabbat, the Rebbe explained the following:
"There is an added dimension this year for Yom Kippur falls on the Shabbos. Yom Kippur transcends the Shabbos; it is 'the Sabbath of Sabbaths.' However, Shabbos is 'a constant holiness continuing from the seven days of creation,' a quality Yom Kippur lacks. Thus, it is possible to combine both qualities this year.
"There are parallels between the two. Both are unique and expressions of oneness. Thus, Bereishis Rabbah relates that 'Shabbos has no mate.' Similarly, Yom Kippur is 'once in a year' (Shmos 30:10). They both are united with the Jewish people. Bereishis Rabbah continues describing the Jews as 'the mate of Shabbos.' Similarly, Yom Kippur and the revelation of oneness, 'the essence of the day,' relates to the revelation of the essence of the soul of every Jew, the level of yechidah (oneness). In particular, this refers to the spark of creation which becomes one with the spark of the Creator.
"The connection between Shabbos and Yom Kippur is further emphasized by the fact that Shabbos relates to the qualities of Yom Kippur mentioned above:
- "As explained above, Shabbos is identified with the highest level or teshuva - returning in the closest possible way to our G-dly source.
- "Shabbos is also associated with happiness. The Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachos 2:7) states, 'There is no sadness during Shabbos.' Thus, Shabbos should contribute happiness to all the aspects of Yom Kippur.
- "In regard to Torah - the Talmud Shabbos 86b states: 'All agree that the Torah was given on Shabbos.' This refers to the giving of the first tablets. On Yom Kippur, the second tablets were given. Thus, the two together represent the fusion of both tablets."
May we all experience in a very real way the uniqueness of Yom Kippur this year!
G-d spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron's two sons when they had come close to G-d and died. (Lev. 16:1)
Thus begins the Torah portion read on Yom Kippur. Several commentaries explain that the two sons, Nadav and Avihu, experienced such an intense and lofty state of spirituality that there was no way that they could return to the material world. On Yom Kippur we experience a heightened sense of spirituality, and on that day we all "come close to G-d." But we have to carry that spirituality with us after Yom Kippur and into our everyday material lives. (Likutei Sichot)
...Pardoning our transgressions, year after year (From our Yom Kippur prayers)
A human being, having already forgiven someone for sinning against him, will be far less likely to forgive that person a second time for the same offense, much less a third or fourth time. To G-d, however, there is no difference between the first time and the thousandth, for G-d's attribute of mercy is eternal. G-d therefore forgives us our sins year after year, and will do so next year on Yom Kippur, when we once again recite the prayers asking for forgiveness. (Likrat Shabbat)
What is teshuva? Returning to G-d by focusing on the G-dly spark that lies within each one of us. In the era of consummate spirituality that Moshiach will introduce, everyone - even those who appear to have attained spiritual fulfillment - will realize the mortal limitations which constrain them, and will seek the inner core of their spiritual potential. Similarly, it is the expression of the potential for teshuva that will serve as the catalyst for the Redemption. For striving to reach our spiritual core will serve as the catalyst for the revelation of G-dliness throughout all existence. As Maimonides writes: "Israel will be redeemed only through teshuva. The Torah has promised that ultimately, towards the end of her exile, Israel will return to G-d, and immediately will be redeemed."
The Baal Shem Tov was once travelling with his disciples in their carriage. The horses came to a halt in the middle of a field. The Baal Shem Tov and his disciples disembarked, prayed the afternoon service and sat down to eat. Then, the Baal Shem Tov dug a little hole in the ground, poured a small amount of whiskey into the hole and said, "l'chaim!" The curious disciples asked for an explanation and were told the following story:
Many years ago there lived a man who had an only daughter. When she came of age he found a good husband for her, a young man of sterling character who studied Torah all day. The father supported the couple and the son-in-law pursued his studies. When the father passed away, his daughter began managing the store and business, and the young man continued his Torah studies.
Now, there lived in the area a minister who was especially devoted to trying to win learned Jews over to Christianity. When he found out about the young husband, he set his mind to finding a way to begin a dialogue with him.
Every day the minister would come to the Jewish store to make a purchase and ingratiate himself to the young woman. Once, when the minister came, the wife confided that her husband was ill. The minister commiserated, offered his wishes for her husband's recovery, and asked if he could pay a visit to cheer him up. The woman agreed, and the minister finally met the object of his plan.
The next time the young man took ill, the minister suggested that he come to his fine estate to recuperate. He advised the young man to bring his own servant along to prepare kosher food for his stay. The invitation, the minister explained, was being extended in gratitude for the many happy hours of conversation they had enjoyed in the past and would have in the future.
The invitation was accepted. Meanwhile the minister had succeeded in bribing the young man's cook to prepare food that was not kosher. As is explained in Jewish mystical texts, one effect of eating non-kosher food is that it dulls the mind and heart, preventing an individual from perceiving G-dliness. Unfortunately, such became the case. The minister's friendly overtures and kind words had an effect on the young man and after a period of time he decided to convert to Christianity. He abandoned his wife, married the daughter of the minister, and was showered with wealth and privileges.
The young man bought himself property with an orchard and a house. In charge of overseeing the orchard was a very old man who lived on the grounds. One day, when the young man and his wife went for a stroll, they heard the caretaker weeping as if his heart would break. The old man could not be consoled and would not reveal why he was crying.
The matter touched the heart of the young man. He was determined to discover the cause of the caretaker's grief. Eventually the caretaker revealed the cause of his anguished cries.
"I am a Jew," whispered the old man, "a descendent of Marranos who were forced to convert to Christianity in Spain. In my heart I have always remained faithful to my G-d. The Jews have one day a year which is called Yom Kippur, a day for repentance and seeking atonement. Today is Yom Kippur, and that is why I am crying," he finished.
When the young man heard this tale, he was overcome with emotion. He vowed to return to the true faith of his people. He revealed that he, too, was a Jew, and explained how he had reached his current position. After the two of them had wept together, a thought occurred to the old man. "Why are you crying? You are very rich. You must certainly have the means to travel to another country, to begin life anew as a Jew."
The young man did as the elderly caretaker suggested. He repented of his former ways and once again trod the path of the righteous.
When her husband disappeared the gentile wife did not know what to do. Having seen him in the company of the old man, she asked him if he knew of her husband's whereabouts. She continued to badger him until he revealed the entire story. The woman was so impressed by the power of the Jewish faith that she sold all her possessions, left her country and converted to Judaism. (In those days, in that country, it was against the law to undergo conversion to Judaism).
After all this took place the elderly caretaker began to think, "What is to become of me? I am responsible for two people living a Torah life, yet I myself am still here." Despite his lack of means, he decided to wander until he reached a place where he could live openly as a Jew. He began his travels, but before reaching his final destination, he suddenly died.
"And this spot," continued the Baal Shem Tov, pointing to the small hole he had dug, "is the final resting place of the old man. When his soul ascended to Heaven it was met by two camps of angels, each arguing his fate. The defending angels claimed that he decided to return to Judaism and had even taken the first few steps, even though he had not been able to complete his mission. The prosecuting angels argued that he be barred from entry, as he had not actually done what he set out to do.
"The case was left open, and since his death the old man's soul has wandered about, unable to find a resting place. Now, however, in the merit of our prayers on this spot and our saying 'l'chaim,' his soul has been elevated to where it belongs. May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life," the Baal Shem Tov concluded.
We recite "Next year in Jerusalem" at the conclusion of the Passover Seder and at the conclusion of the Yom Kippur services. This is in keeping with the two divergent Talmudic opinions that we will be redeemed in Nissan or in Tishrei. The intent is not that we should wait until next year to be in Jerusalem. Hence, when we celebrate the festival of Passover in Nissan, we pray "Next year in Jerusalem" in the hope that this year we will be redeemed and next year we will be offering the Passover sacrifice. And on Yom Kippur (in Tishrei) we also pray that we be redeemed immediately so that next year we will all be in Jerusalem with the High Priest officiating in the third Holy Temple.
(Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky)