Ha'azinu - Yom Kippur

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Speaking Out Loud

Parshas Ha'azinu - Yom Kippur

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In this week’s portion the Torah tells us: “When I call out the name of Hashem (G-d), ascribe greatness to G-d” (Deut 32:3). The Talmud (Taanis 16b) learns out from this verse that when G-d’s name was uttered in the Temple, the people would respond: “Blessed is the name of His glorious Kingdom for all eternity.”

What is the reason for this being done only in the Temple?

The name of G-d that was uttered in the Temple is a name that we no longer say. The four letter name of G-d, pronounced as it is written, has two meanings: One meaning is that it contains the words past, present and future. The other meaning is a perpetually existing present, that G-d’s presence is willing creation every moment.

Now when we pronounce this four lettered name of G-d, we say it as Master (although in Torah scrolls, and other holy works, it continues to be written the original way).

The mere presence of the Temple enabled G-d’s name to be recited as it was written. The eternal nature of G-d is an existential truth. But there is another factor to be taken into consideration: realistic expectation. G-d has realistic expectations of us.

That is why, for example, a person makes two blessings when his father passes away. One is made at the time of death - “Blessed is the true judge” -  and one at the time of inheritance - “Blessed is he who bestows good”. The latter blessing seems like a bizarre blessing to make. Are we so crass as to be thinking about inheritance at this time of great loss?

These two blessings are not contradictory. It is normal to be devastated at the death of one’s father, just as it is normal to be pleased with the inheritance. G-d expects us to be human. We are meant to channel the appropriate emotion at each occasion  and sanctify it.

While in the temple it is easy to see the eternal nature of G-d and His perpetual presence. Thus the name is pronounced as it is written, and we answer by saying that, “Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity”. Outside of the Temple, sadly, it is not as clear.

Throughout the year, after we recite the Shema (Hear O Israel, G-d is our Lord, G-d is One), we say in a quite tone, "Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity," because although we believe it with all our hearts, we do not know it.  However, on Yom Kippur, a day that is so powerful that the day itself provides atonement, the day of the year when we are closest to G-d, we say this out loud.  On this day we do not merely believe in G-d's eternal nature, we know it.

Let us properly utilize the awesomeness of this day to achieve closeness with G-d.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

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