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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Yom Kippur

Parshat Yom Kippur

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Yom Kippur Edition                                                                 Print Version
10th of Tishrei, 5781 | September 28, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Chaim Rosenfeld
A Letter to You

To my star pupil,

I am writing this letter to let you know what I think of you. Up here in heaven things are not like they are down on Earth. Over there, people only know what they can see. If they see a person is “successful”, they think that he is the greatest guy. When they see somebody struggling, they think he might be one of the weaker elements.

Let me tell you something. Hashem gives every person certain abilities that nobody knows about down where you live. Some people are capable of tremendous things, while others were put there for much smaller purposes. Only Hashem in His infinite wisdom is able to give every person exactly what he needs to reach his potential.

I am very misunderstood. Most people hate me, and I don’t really blame them. Most people think that my job is to make sure that they fail in all aspects of Mitzvos, and that I rejoice every time they sin. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Did you ever watch a boxing coach train his student? It is really a funny sight.

The coach will put on gloves, and fight against his student. At first, he won’t hit him so hard, or throw his best punches. But, as the student gets better and better, the coach will start to fight him harder and harder. He does this so that the student will improve his skills, and become the best boxer he can be. This is where it gets strange. Every time the coach knocks down the student, the student gets yelled at! But finally, when the coach threw everything he has at his student, and not only does he withstand the beating, but he knocks the coach down, there is nobody in the world happier than the coach himself!

This is exactly how I feel. If you fail right away, and don’t even try to fight back, I see that there is not much talent to work with, and so I take it easy on you. But if you get back up swinging, I realize that I may have a real winner here, and so I start to intensify the beating. With every level that you go up, I increase the intensity of the fight. If you finally deal me a blow that knocks me out, I will get up and embrace you and rejoice with your success.

Sometimes my job is very disappointing. I see a person with a lot of potential and I start right in on him. He fights back for a while, but when the fight gets too tough, he quits and just remains on whatever level he was on. (And he usually ends up going down!) I feel like yelling at him, “Get up you fool! Do you have any idea how much more you could be accomplishing?!” But I am not allowed to do so. I just leave him alone, and go try to find another promising candidate.

If I have chosen you to be the target of my fiercer battles, it was not for no reason! You have tremendous ability! You were born into a very special family, you have teachers who really care about you, and parents who would help you grow in Torah and Mitzvos. You are a very respectful and kind person.

Always remember one thing: you have a secret weapon at your disposal. I shouldn’t really be telling you – but I will anyway. Hashem himself is watching our “training” sessions very closely. I’m pleased to inform you that He’s rooting for you! If things should ever get tough, almost too tough to bear, just call out to Him with a prayer, and He will immediately come to your aid. I wish you the best of luck, and I hope that after 120 years when your time is up in that world of falsehood, you will come up here to the world of truth, where I will be waiting for you with open arms, to congratulate you on your victory, and personally escort you to your place next to the Kisey HaKavod.

Sincerely, and with great admiration I remain,
Your Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination)

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin
Make That Call

We find ourselves now amidst the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The holidays in which we reckon with our past, and pray for the future. A time where we look inward, and search for ways to improve ourselves.

At the start of the New Year, my thoughts go back to my childhood. As I was growing up in North Woodmere, my grandmother, known to all as “Mama”, would come once a week for a visit, bringing homemade supper and special treats for us children. Some fifty-plus years ago, this was not an easy trip – from her home in Brooklyn to our home on Long Island. Mama would often sleep over and share with us stories of growing up in Hungary and settling in the United States. She taught us many life lessons. What it means to be a devoted daughter, a caring mother, a giving grandmother. To be a people-person and have room in your heart for all.

As the years passed, and I had my own family, Mama continued to make her weekly visits. But now, they were to my home, to help me with my own children – her great-grandchildren.

With time, it became my z’chus (merit) to visit Mama. Mama no longer had the strength to visit us, but continued teaching us lessons. I remember one visit in particular. Mama told me to come close. She wanted to give me her most precious possession. What could it be, I wondered? I knew Mama was a simple woman. You couldn’t even buy her a gift, as she would quickly give it away to one of the countless needy individuals who always came calling. Mama handed me her phone book. That was her most treasured possession. Her connection to family, friends and neighbors. Her connection to those she loved – and she loved everyone. It was her lifeline.

With the gift came instructions. “Call… call everyone before the Yomim Tovim. Keep in touch with the family. Continue calling for me when I can’t.” With this simple gift, Mama taught me what was important in life.

This past week, when I pulled out my phone book, Mama’s words came back to me. Before the New Year, let’s all take Mama’s lessons to heart – pull out our phone books. Or, as it goes in 2020, pull out our contact lists, and keep up the connections. Reach out to others with wishes of L’Shanah Tova U’metukah – A Happy and Sweet New Year.

Rabbi Dovid Kaplan
A Very Happy Day

Yom Kippur is a very happy day. It is an intense day, and nobody enjoys being hungry with a headache, but it is a happy day. A man who has been condemned to a prison sentence or death sentence and is told that he has been granted a day when he can plead his case views that day as a happy day. It is a serious day as he will be very focused and look to come up with his best argument, but he is certainly not sad. To the contrary, this is his opportunity to determine a fate for himself other than a life of prison or worse.

Moreover, the Gemara tells us that Yom Kippur only atones a person of their sins if they believe that Yom Kippur atones. Simply put, on Yom Kippur, we are gaining our atonement. We are making a commitment to improve. Will we be perfect in the coming year? Absolutely not. We can guarantee ourselves that we will not. However, we can improve. That is what’s asked of us.

In addition, the Gemara states that the day before Yom Kippur (the 9th of Tishrei) is a day when it is a mitzvah for one to eat. Allegedly, the Vilna Gaon used to eat raisins, in order to enable himself to continuously be eating something throughout the day. The reason it is a mitzvah to eat is several-fold. Firstly and evidently, it is to strengthen ourselves for the fast. Secondly, and on the contrary, when eating a lot followed by fasting, it is more difficult. But those hunger pangs are part of our atonement, and it is part of the spiritual cleansing nature of Yom Kippur.

As well, if someone is about to enter court and their life is on the line, they will likely have no appetite. When on trial for your life, food is the last thing on your mind. Therefore, a person who can eat on the day prior to Yom Kippur with confidence shows that he is confident that he will receive the atonement. And therefore, the Gemara (Berachos 8b) states that if you eat on the 9th of the month, the day before Yom Kippur, it is as if you fasted for two days (both the day before Yom Kippur and Yom Kippur itself).

If given a choice, eating trumps fasting, and understandably therefore, fasting is what generates atonement. However, eating with confidence on Erev Yom Kippur becomes part of the atonement, and is considered to be as if you fasted.

As a couple of recommendations before entering Yom Kippur, I would say the following:

If you count the number of hours left to the day and how many pages have yet to be said, the day will take forever. Ultimately, the entire siddur will be recited and that is when the fast will be over. The more you try to stay focused on what you are doing, the more the day will seamlessly go by.

Additionally, five to ten minutes before the fast, we all know what everyone can be found doing: drinking water. Every family has their secret formula what will guarantee you not to be thirsty: three cups, seven cups or 613 cups. But the truth is, five minutes after Yom Kippur begins, you will be thirsty. “It’s going to be a dry one this year,” you’ll say. It is psychological. That is why as soon as Yom Kippur ends, the first thought is often, “If I wanted to, I could probably fast tomorrow.”

Ultimately, once you mature past the difficulty, enjoy the day of Yom Kippur. It is a day when you should feel, “I’m becoming cleansed,” and know that when you walk out of it, you are a new person.

Rabbi David Yosef
The Day After Yom Kippur

Each one of us should consider that throughout the day of Yom Kippur, we will have elevated ourselves to a majestic spiritual plateau. However, what will happen the day after Yom Kippur? That is the big question. Will we return to our homes the night after Yom Kippur and feel lighter, as if we escaped from a confined, locked-down environment where everything we did was weighed and calculated. Now, however, the battle is over, and we can return to our old selves. Or, alternatively, will we feel that we are genuinely different people?

Throughout our lives, we have been through many days of Yom Kippur. We must ask ourselves, each year, are we sincerely better Jews than we were in past years? Or are we staying put and finding ourselves in the same place? We go through the motions, but nothing deep has changed within us. If that is so, who are we fooling? We cannot fool Hashem.

We have this incredible opportunity to improve ourselves and do teshuva, and if we opt to not take advantage of this very gift of doing teshuva, we are taken to task.

The Rambam writes that a person should view himself as if his scales are exactly half meritorious and half liable. If he does teshuva, states the Rambam, then he will tip the scales. The Rambam does not, as the Gemara seems to imply, say that any one mitzvah needs to be done in order to tip the scales. That “one mitzvah” which the Gemara describes and references, the Rambam tells us, is teshuva.

Hashem is giving us this unbelievable, precious gift; how could we not seize the opportunity and maximize it to its fullest? May we all merit to make these days spiritually useful and enhancing of our lives, and develop into changed people.

Rabbi Joey Haber
What Should I Ask For?

As we approach these days, it is not within our scope or purview to tell Hashem what to do for us in our lives. A far more effective approach is to be ready for what it is that Hashem wants to do. The proof is the very words we say during our prayers. Most of that which we would like to ask for is not there. The entirety of the structure of the Rosh Hashanah prayers and the underpinnings of the Yom Kippur prayers are focused on the fact that Hashem is King and He knows best.

We may look at the prayers and grow disappointed. Where is the part I want to say and where is the list I want to ask for? Where are the countless paragraphs about my children? Don’t you wish there were five pages of tefillah relating to the future of our children? Then perhaps another few pages for your marriage, some more for the health of all those around you, and then some pages about your income. That is what we want to talk about!
But Hashem tells us, “Don’t you think I know what you need?” It is not difficult to know what we each want – good health, income, children, marriage – and the list continues.

But Hashem does not need to hear that from us. He knows what we need. He just wants to discern the answer to one question: are you ready to serve the King? He will take care of the rest. The mindset, “I better make sure I say this, I better make sure I say that…And if I pray the right way, I’ll get what I want...” is not how it works. Hashem knows all of that, plus more. He is rather looking for us to proclaim Him King, correct our errors and improve ourselves, and He will take it from there.

Rabbi Yechiel Spero 
Beautiful Blue Eyes

Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt”l was once approached by a woman whose husband had hepatitis. While he wasn’t deathly ill, he was significantly struggling. The woman as well was having a particularly difficult time, given the amount of work she needed to take on to attend to the family’s needs nearly single-handedly. 
As she began detailing her predicament to Rav Scheinberg, it became evident that not only was she having a hard time due to her husband’s condition and the resulting increase in housework, but because one of her children was slowly becoming less and less religious. It was a sure cause of distress and anxiety for her, and the woman did not know what to do.

Rav Scheinberg did not hesitate to tell the woman that he would like to come and visit her husband. The woman tried convincing Rav Scheinberg out of it, as she knew he was very busy and juggling many responsibilities, yet he did not take no for an answer.

When Rav Scheinberg arrived at the house, the woman made a special effort to ensure that all of her children were home to greet the renowned gadol. The woman introduced her children, as Rav Scheinberg went from one to another greeting them and sharing some pleasant words.

Yet when Rav Scheinberg came to greet the boy who was evidently having difficulty and was becoming more and more irreligious, he took hold of his hands, looked him in the eyes and said, “Has anyone ever told you that you have beautiful blue eyes”?

“My son’s return to Yiddishkeit didn’t happen overnight,” the woman related, “but what did happen overnight was my own acceptance of who he was, no matter what he would choose to do. From that moment on, irrelevant of his decision to keep a life of Torah and mitzvos, all I could see was his beautiful blue eyes and continue to understand him, accept him and believe in him.”

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