Our Job on Yom Kippur

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Our Job on Yom Kippur

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or


Last week we discussed Rosh Hashanah. This week we discuss Yom Kippur.

As we had previously mentioned, our role on Rosh Hashanah is to understand why G-d is our King, and what our role is in our relationship with Him. Once we understand this, it clears the way for our next job, which is to rectify the shortcomings which have harmed our relationship with Him.

When someone sins it creates a distance between him and G-d. In effect, it pushes us away from our G-d given mission—perfecting the world.

How can we repair this breach we have created? Through the mitsva of teshuva (returning). The Talmud (Tractate Pesachim 54a) notes that teshuva is a concept whose creation preceded the creation of the world. The implication of something being created before the world bespeaks the critical need for this concept to be in existence for the world to use immediately. There are two reasons for this. G-d, who created us, understood that without the chance for rectification, man would be unable to survive. But there is also a deeper meaning. If the whole raison d'être of  creation is to perfect the world, teshuva does exactly this! Perfection need not be something that started out perfect; rather, people are judged on their sum total. The ability to raise ourselves up,  as the Talmud writes, lifts us to a higher level than we were previously (much like a broken bone; in the place where the bone knits, it becomes stronger than it was before).

How do we go about doing teshuva? Maimonides writes there are three things we must do: 1. We must verbally confess the sin before G-d—vidduy (if it was a sin done to our fellow man, we must also ask our fellow’s forgiveness). 2. We must express remorse. The Jewish concept of forgiveness requires that one express this remorse not merely because one was caught. 3. We must accept upon ourselves not to commit this sin again.

One of the best ways to be successful in this time of year is for us to accept upon ourselves a “new year’s resolution”. By doing this we show G-d we are serious about improving ourselves.

It is very important for us to remember that G-d desires our reconciliation with Him. He is clearly a partial judge as He tips the scales in our favor. During the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, G-d starts the process with strict judgment, but ends it with mercy. May all of Israel experience a closer relationship with G-d during this time.

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