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Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:1-16:34)

“Blow the shofar on the new moon, on the full moon for our feast day.
For it is a law for Israel, a ruling of the God of Jacob.” (Psalm 81:4,5; Yom Kippur Liturgy)

“Sh’ma yisrael …, Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4) is the essential statement of Jewish faith. It is followed in the daily liturgy by the verse, “Baruch shem k’vod…, Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom forever,” which is said silently, except on Yom Kippur. Why?

Rabbi Avraham Chaim of Zloczow (1750-1816; Chassidic disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch) refers to the description of bikkurim, the ritual of bringing first fruits, to explain. He claims, citing Rashi (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the pre-eminent 11th century Jewish commentator), when the Torah commands, ”You shall respond, saying…” (Deut. 26:5), it means to raise your voice.

Now Rabbi Chaim makes an additional connection and interpretation. The Torah describes Yom Kippur as a Day of Atonement, a mikra kodesh, a holy convocation, during which v’initem at nafshoteichem, you shall afflict your souls… (Lev. 23:27). Chaim reads v’Initem as v’Anitem, and you shall respond, or answer. He turns our usual perception of Yom Kippur on its head: rather than a day of affliction (fasting), it is a day for our souls to respond by crying out loud!

In the Biblical Yom Kippur, the kohen gadol, or High Priest, enters the Holy of Holies and utters God’s name. The Israelites are so moved by this dramatic event they shout out baruch shem k’vod… (as described in the Yom Kippur liturgy). The Sh’ma is our declaration of God’s name and so we re-enact the ritual by reciting baruch shem k’vod out loud. On Yom Kippur we empty ourselves to make room for our souls to burst forth.

Gut Shabbos, Gut Yontif/Shabbat Shalom, Chag Sameach
G’mar Chatima Tova/A Good Closing Sealing (in the Book of Life)

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