52. VAYELECH & YOM KIPPUR 5782

[Please scroll down for Yom Kippur Readings]

FROM THE TORAH

Deuteronomy 31:1-30

In Sedra Vayelech, Moses focuses Israel on its future after his demise.  He reassures them of the Eternal’s protection in their possession of the Land and of his succession by Joshua.  He writes down the Torah, the record to be kept by the Ark, and commands its public recitation before all of the people every seven years.  The people’s future disloyalty is anticipated, and much emphasis is laid upon a poem, in next week’s Sedra Ha’azeenu, to serve as a spur to future repentance.

Succession

MOSES LOOKS TO THE FUTURE
31:1-8

Then Moses goes (Vayelech) and speaks the following words to all of Israel:  I am 120 years old today, no longer able to go out and come in, and the Eternal has said to me, you shall not cross over this Jordan.  The Eternal your God will cross before you and destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them.  Joshua will cross before you, as the Eternal has said, and the Eternal will do to them as He did to Sichon and to Og, kings of the Amorites, whom He destroyed, and their land.  He will deliver them to you to do to them in full accordance with My command to you.  Be strong and courageous, fear not, tremble not before them, for the Eternal your God it is who walks with you, He will not abandon or forsake you.

Moses then addresses Joshua in the sight of all Israel:  Be strong and courageous, for you shall come with this people to the Land which the Eternal your God promised their fathers to give to them, and you shall apportion it to them.  The Eternal it is who walks before you, He will be with you, He will not abandon or forsake you.  Fear not, and be not dismayed!

MOSES WRITES THE TORAH AND COMMANDS HAKHEL
31:9-13

Moses writes this Torah and gives it to the Kohanim, sons of Levi, who bear the Ark of the Covenant of the Eternal, and to all of the Elders of Israel, and he commands them:  Read this Torah aloud in the presence of all Israel at the end of the cycle of seven years, during the year allotted for remission of debts (shemittah) (cf. Deuteronomy 15:1-3), during the Festival of Sukkot, when all of Israel appear before the Eternal your God in the place which He shall choose.  Assemble (Hakhel) all of the people—men, women and children, including the stranger within your gates—to listen and learn, that they may fear the Eternal your God and carefully observe all of the words of this Torah.  Thereby shall their children, who did not have the current experience, also listen and learn to fear the Eternal your God for as long as you live upon the Land which you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

THE POEM AS TESTIMONY
31:14-30

The Eternal then says to Moses:  Behold, your days to die are drawing near.  Summon Joshua to stand with you at the Tent of Meeting, and I shall charge him.  Moses and Joshua then present themselves at the Tent of Meeting.  The Eternal is manifested in a pillar of cloud positioned at the entrance of the Tent, and He says to Moses:  When you lie with your fathers, the people will arise and go astray after foreign gods of the Land which you are entering, and shall forsake Me and violate My covenant with them.  Then in My anger shall I forsake them and hide My face from them, so that they will be prey for numerous evils and troubles.  The people shall attribute these woes to the absence of their God from their midst.

Therefore write for yourselves this poem and teach it to the Children of Israel, placing it in their mouth, to be My witness against them.  For when I bring the people to the Land which I promised its fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey, and the people eats to satiety, grows fat and turns to other gods, and as they serve them, they despise Me and violate My covenant, and those evils and troubles then find them, then this poem will serve as witness before the people, as it will not be lost from the mouth of its offspring.  For I know the people’s evil impulse as it exists even today before I bring it into the Land which I have promised.

Thus Moses writes the poem on that day and teaches it to the Children of Israel.  He charges Joshua son of Nun: Be strong and courageous as you bring the Children of Israel to the Land which I promised them, and I shall be with you.

When Moses has completed recording in writing the words of this Torah, he instructs the Levites, bearers of the Ark of the Covenant of the Eternal, to place the Torah scroll next to the Ark and let it remain there for them as testimony.  “For I know how rebellious and stiffnecked you are: now, while I am still alive with you, you are contentious with the Eternal, and so will you be after I die.  You will act corruptly and turn aside from the way that I command you.  Punishment will thus befall you in the future for the evil deeds you commit that anger the Eternal.  Therefore assemble before me all the Elders of your tribes and your officers, and I will recite in their hearing these words, appealing to heaven and earth as witness!”

Thereupon Moses recites aloud to all the Congregation of Israel all of the words of this poem.

FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for Shabbat Shuvah
Hosea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-27

HOSEA 14:2-10

Return (Shuvah), O Israel,
to the Eternal, your God,
for you are stumbling in sin!
Use your words to return, asking Him to forgive all sin
and accept your spoken intention for good.
Thus shall we compensate for bulls
with the offering of our lips.

We shall no more rely
upon ties with Assyria
or the horses we ride;
no more shall we call
the work of our hands
our God;
rather our God is the One
in whom the orphan finds mercy.

I will heal them and love them freely,
abstain from any anger towards them;
I shall be as the dew to Israel:
he shall blossom as the lily
and strike roots as the Lebanon,
his branches shall spread out,
his beauty shall be as the olive tree,
his fragrance like Lebanon,
and those whom he protects
shall, likewise, blossom like the vine.

Ephraim:
I no more need idols!
I:
Yes, your fruit comes from Me!

Whoever is wise
will understand these words,
for the ways of the Eternal are straight:
the righteous walk in them securely
while transgressors stumble against them.

MICAH 7:18-20

What god is like You,
bearing iniquity and passing over transgression
of the remnant of His heritage,
not holding on to His anger forever,
as He favors lovingkindness!

May He turn to treat us with mercy
by suppressing our iniquities;
cast all of their sins
into the depths of the sea!
Act truly to Jacob, kindly to Abraham,
as You promised our fathers
from ancient days.

JOEL 2:15-27

Sound a Shofar in Zion!
Consecrate the Fast Day!
Declare a Convocation!

Gather all of the people,
young and old,
even those who are nursing,
the bridegroom and the bride!

Let the Kohanim weep
between the Porch and the Altar:
Treat Your people, O Eternal, with mercy,
let not the nations rule over them
and reproach them
by asking
where is their God?

The Eternal is impassioned for His Land,
and He has compassion for His People.
He promises to deliver to them
corn, wine and oil,
to satisfy them
and not make of them
a reproach to the nations.

I shall remove the northern one
far from you,
to a desolate land,
its face to the eastern sea
and its back to the western sea,
its stench equal to its deeds.

Fear not, O Land, but rejoice,
for the Eternal does great things!

Fear not, O beasts of the field,
for the wilderness is verdant,
and its trees bear fruit!

Be glad, O children of Zion,
in the Eternal your God,
for He causes the rains to come down
in accordance with their right pattern,
bringing fullness to
threshing-floor and vat!

I shall repay you the years
that the locust consumed,
My great army of worms and pests!

You shall eat and be satisfied,
and you shall praise the Name
of the Eternal your God,
who has acted wondrously with you!

You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
I, the Eternal your God,
of which there is no other,
and My People shall never be ashamed!

FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH

Talmud Chagigah 3a

“Assemble (Hakhel) all of the people—
men, women and children,
including the stranger within your gates—
in order that they may hear
and in order that they may learn
[yilm’du]….”
(Deuteronomy 31:12)

From the time of the Mishnah it has been taught:
“’In order that they may hear’ excludes from Hakhel the deaf, and
‘In order that they may learn’ excludes from Hakhel the mute.”

The Gemara asks this question about the second exclusion:
Does the exclusion of the mute
mean that one who cannot speak cannot learn?!

Contradicting this assumption, there were two mute people in the vicinity of Rabbi who followed him whenever he entered the House of Study and took seats before him.  They would nod their heads and move their lips.  Rabbi prayed for mercy on their behalf, and they were cured.  It was discovered that they had learned Halacha, Sifra, Sifre, and all of the Talmud!

Mar Zutra proposed a reading of the verse which conforms more accurately with the condition of mute people:  “Assemble all of the people…in order that they may hear and in order that they may teach [yilm’du®yelam’du]!”  Then the statement from the time of the Mishnah would make more sense: “’In order that they may teach’ excludes from Hakhel the mute!”  For while one who cannot speak can learn, it would seem that one who cannot speak cannot teach!

Rav Ashi endorsed Mar Zutra’s proposed reading, “In order that they may teach,” with the following argument:  If you think it should be, “In order that they may learn” and you believe that one who cannot speak cannot learn, you could just as well derive the latter from the well-known fact that one who cannot hear cannot learn, since people who cannot hear are often mute.  So the reading, “In order that they may learn,” is not needed in the statement from the time of the Mishnah to exclude the mute, while “In order that they may teach” can exclude the mute from Hakhel!

Note: Consider how technology might impact the aforementioned arguments.  Writing, printing and digital media, attenuate the disability of both the deaf and the mute.

Deuteronomy Rabbah 9:1
A Matter of Days

“The Eternal then says to Moses:
Behold, your days to die are drawing near…”
(Deuteronomy 31:14)

Halacha:  An Israelite whose dead is lying before him, what may he be allowed to pray?  Thus taught the Sages:  One whose dead is lying before him is exempt from the recitation of Shema and from the Tefillah.  Why?  One who is directly confronted with his anguish is agitated of mind.  But once his dead is buried, for all seven days of mourning he is subject to every commanded matter.  Whence that mourning is for seven days?  Said Rabbi Abba bar Avina:  Thus we find with respect to Joseph, “He mourned for his father for seven days” (Genesis 50:10), and the Sabbath is included in the counting of seven.

Said Rabbi Yosi bar Zevida in the name of Resh Lakish:  This may be learned from a different place.  Whence?  “I shall turn your festivals into mourning” (Amos 8:10)—just as the days of the “Festival” (understood by the Rabbis as Sukkot) number seven, so then shall the days of mourning be seven!

It occurred in the days of Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta that he went to celebrate a Brit Milah (Covenant of Circumcision).  The infant’s father arranged a Seudah (a meal to celebrate the mitzvah) and provided wine which was seven years old.  He said to them:  I will store away some of this wine for my son’s wedding!  They were at the present Seudah until midnight.  Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta, feeling confident, began his journey home to another city at that time (midnight!).  On the way he encountered the angel of death, who was wearing a sardonic grin.  “Who are you?” asked Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta.  “A messenger of God,” said the angel.  “Why are you grinning?” he asked?  “I am grinning because of the conversation of people!  They say: Such-and-such will we do in the future; yet no one knows when his time to die will come.  That father with whom you celebrated the Seudah said to you, ‘I will store away some of this wine for my son’s wedding,’ but his son’s life is destined to end after thirty days!”  Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta said to the angel: Show me my lifespan.  He said to him: I do not rule over you or others like you.  Sometimes the Holy One, blessed be He, is pleased with a man’s good deeds and grants you an extension of life, as was said, “The fear of the Eternal adds days” (Proverbs 10:27)!

The Rabbis teach:  It is difficult for the Holy One, blessed be He, to decree death upon the righteous.  Whence?  “Costly (difficult) in the sight of the Eternal is the death of His pious ones” (Psalms 116:15)!  This is shown by the way He treated Moses.  He could simply have said, “Behold, the time has come for you to die.”  But He did not say that; instead, He softened the blow and cast it in terms of “days,” “Behold, your days to die are drawing near”: Your time to die is drawing near (allowing Moses to understand it as he would choose, in view of the fact that the time to die for all mortals is ever drawing near).

Deuteronomy Rabbah 9:2
Debilitations of Moses

“The race is not to the swift,
nor the battle to the mighty,
nor even bread to the wise,
nor even riches to the understanding,
nor even grace to the skillful…”
(Ecclesiastes 9:11)

Said Rabbi Tanchuma:  This verse speaks about Moses.

How so?

“The race is not to the swift…”

Yesterday he ascended to the firmament like an eagle, then he sought to cross the Jordan and was unable, as was said: “Ascend to the summit of Pisgah and raise your eyes west and north, south and east, and see with your eyes, for you shall not cross this Jordan” (Deuteronomy 3:27)!

“nor the battle to the mighty…”

Yesterday angels trembled before him, but now he says, “I am afraid of the fiery anger that the Eternal has shown to you…” (Deuteronomy 9:19)!

“nor even bread to the wise…”

Yesterday “a wise man went up to the place of angels and brought down the object of strength and confidence” (Proverbs 21:22) from heaven, but now it has been taken from him and given to Joshua son of Nun.  (Chidushey HaRadal [David Luria, 19th cent.]: “Bread” is a metaphor for Torah, as in Proverbs 9:1,5, “Wisdom has built her house…come, eat of my bread…”)

“nor even riches to the understanding…”

Yesterday the understanding one said to God with the confidence of a rich man, “Turn from your fierce anger!” (Exodus 32:12) and “Pardon, I demand, the iniquity of this people! (Numbers 14:19), but now he speaks like one dispossessed, “I entreated the Eternal at that time…” (Deuteronomy 3:23): I beg of You, do me a favor!

“nor even grace to the skillful…”

Yesterday he was skilled in appeasing his Creator, “Arise, O Eternal One, let Your enemies be scattered…!” (Numbers 10:35) and “Repent, O Eternal One, for (allowing harm to) the many thousands of Israel!” (Ibid. 36)  (Maharzu: Grace was poured into his lips, God heard him and did what he asked.), but after he supplicated for his own survival all seven days (Maharzu: 1-7 Adar), at the end the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “Behold, your days to die are drawing near…” (Deuteronomy 31:14)!

Deuteronomy Rabbah 9:8
Why?

“The Eternal then says to Moses:
Behold, your days to die are drawing near…”
(Deuteronomy 31:14)

To what may the decree of Moses’s death be compared?  To a pregnant woman who was confined in prison, and there she bore a child.  When the child had grown up and the king was walking past the prison, the child began to protest: My lord king, why am I locked up in this prison?  The king answered: You were put here because of your mother’s crime.  Similarly said Moses:  Master of the universe, there are thirty-three crimes in the Torah which are punishable by death at the hands of the Eternal—am I guilty of even one of them?  Why have You decreed my death?!  God answered:  It is because of the sin of Adam that you are condemned to death, as the first man brought death into the world.  This is implied by “Behold…” before “Your days to die are drawing near…,” because it also precedes one of the implications of Adam’s crime: “Behold, the man has become like one of us…” (Genesis 3:22)!

Deuteronomy Rabbah 9:9
Fateful Negotiations

“The Eternal then says to Moses:
Behold, your days draw near (for you) to die…”
(Deuteronomy 31:14a)

Rabbi Sima interpreted these words as an announcement by the Eternal that the “days” had brought to Him a complaint against Moses: Master of the universe, we cannot move from the sky and set as long as Moses remains alive: “The days have drawn near to Me (have approached Me with a complaint against you) for you to die!”

The Rabbis explained:

When Moses learned the day on which he was to die, what did he do?  Said Rabbi Yannai:  He wrote thirteen Torah scrolls, one scroll for each of the twelve tribes, and one he deposited into the Ark, so that if there was a question about the correct reading, it could be confirmed from the scroll that was kept in the Ark.  Moses thought: As long as I am engaged in the Torah, which is life, the edict of my death will have to wait indefinitely and will eventually expire!

What then did the Holy One, blessed be He, do?  He suggested to the sun (the “days”) that it should stand up and offer an objection against Moses.  So the sun argued: If I do not set this day (bringing Moses’s death by its end), Moses will have overruled the law of nature (according to the covenant of Creation, cf. Genesis 1:16)!  Thus commented Job: “Did I not weep for the objection put forward by the day?” (Job 30:25), in that the day complained against Moses!

Recognizing the day’s objection, Moses then negotiated with the Eternal:  Master of the universe, give Joshua my office in exchange for letting me live!  The Holy One, blessed be He, responded:

“Summon Joshua to stand with you
at the Tent of Meeting,
and I shall charge him…”
(Deuteronomy 31:14a)

He further instructed Moses: Now see if you can relate to Joshua as he has related to you!

So Moses promptly repaired to Joshua’s house.  In trepidation, Joshua said: Moses, my Rabbi, please come with me!  They went out together, Moses walking on Joshua’s left side.

“Moses and Joshua then present themselves
at the Tent of Meeting.
The Eternal is manifested in a pillar of cloud
positioned at the entrance of the Tent…”
(Deuteronomy 14b-15)

When they enter the Tent of Meeting, the pillar of cloud comes down and separates them.  When the pillar of cloud is later removed, Moses comes over to Joshua and asks him: What did He say to you?  Said Joshua to Moses: When His word was revealed to you, did I know what He said to you?

Whereupon Moses exclaimed: A thousand deaths, but not a single envy!  Thus commented Solomon: “Love is as strong as death; envy is as cruel as She’ol” (Song of Songs 8:6), these the love that Moses had for Joshua and the envy that Moses felt towards him!

So Moses accepted upon himself that he would die!

Then the Holy One, blessed be He, began to offer him some comfort:  Indeed in this world you led My children, so in the future I shall lead them in accordance with your example.

Whence?

“He remembered the ancient days,
of Moses’s leading His people!”
(Isaiah 63:11)

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 24:17
Actions in Repentance

“Return, O Israel,
to the Eternal, your God,
for you are stumbling in sin!”
(Hosea 14:2)

Rabbi Simone taught: Israel’s stumbling in sin may be likened to a sharp rock protruding at a crossroads.  People would repeatedly stumble over it.  The king offered to remove it, but he would do so only after his subjects had chipped away at it little by little.  Thus said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Israel:  The evil inclination (yetzer hara) is a great obstacle to everyone; I can remove it, but only after you chip away at it little by little.  This analogy was already suggested by the prophet:

“I shall provide you with a new heart
and place a new spirit within you;
I shall remove the heart of stone from your flesh
and replace it with a heart of flesh!”
(Ezekiel 36:26)

Sefer Hachinuch 16 (13th cent., Spain):  No matter how captive one may be to the evil inclination, if his spirit is willing to engage repeatedly in Torah and Mitzvot, even mechanically and not for the sake of Heaven, he will be moved, however gradually, to the side of good, and out of the habit of behaving correctly even not for the sake of Heaven, his attitude will be converted to behaving for the sake of Heaven.  By the power of his repeated actions he will defeat the evil inclination, for our hearts are influenced by our own actions!

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 24:2,4,18
Words in Repentance

Take with you words to return, asking Him to forgive all sin
and accept your spoken intention for good.
Thus shall we compensate for bulls
with the offering of our lips.”
(Hosea 14:3)

Rabbi Yudah understood the prophet to refer to Israel’s own deceitful words (“your words”) in the wilderness: “They deceived Him with their mouth and lied to Him with their speech…but He, being merciful, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them” (Psalms 78:36-38)!  (God’s mercy forestalled their punishment for false words; how much the moreso, from your previous words, can you count on His forbearance now for your sincere words of repentance!)

Rabbi Nechemia understood the prophet to refer to speakers of words, those learned of Bible and of Midrash.  (Thus would scholars evoke in Israel the repentant intent and wording that would earn from God their atonement!)

“Tremble and sin not:
say them in your heart upon your bed
and remain silent!”
(Psalms 4:5)

“The hope [mikveh] of Israel is the Eternal.”
(Jeremiah 17:13)

In that spirit, the following teaching
is attributed to Rabbi Elazar:

The Holy One, blessed be He, is telling you to pray in the synagogue that is in your town.  But if you cannot, then pray outside.  And if you cannot pray outside, then pray in your house.  Or if not anywhere else in your house, then pray on your bed.  And if you cannot pray on your bed, then meditate in your heart: say the words “in your heart upon your bed and remain silent,” for the hope [mikveh] of Israel” is not in the place or the voice but it “is the Eternal” (Jeremiah 17:13).

“Respond to us with awesome righteousness,
O saving God,
Confidence,
of all the ends of earth
and distant seas!”
(Psalms 65:6)

Rabbi Chinena bar Papa asked Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman to explain the last words, “and distant seas.”  He replied:  Repentance is being compared to the sea.  Just as the sea is always open, so the gates of repentance are always open!

In contrast to repentance, prayer may be compared to a mikveh (ritual bath).  Just as a mikveh is open at certain times and closed at others, so the gates of prayer are open at certain times and closed at others.  Similarly, a man may wish to immerse himself in the mikveh but, finding his father or his teacher there, is too embarrassed and therefore puts it off.  But if he wished to immerse himself in the sea and saw either of them there, he could move on just a little and find privacy from them for his immersion.

Indeed Rabbi Berechia and Rabbi Chelbo in the name of Rabbi Anan son of Rabbi Yosa taught that the gates of prayer also are always open.  Their teaching is in accordance with the rhetorical question posed by Rabbi Yosi bar Chalafta: Are there really set times for the acceptance of prayer?  David already proved that there are not:

“May my prayer be offered to You
at an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of Your lovingkindness;
answer me in the truth of Your salvation.”
(Psalms 69:14)

David was saying to the Holy One, blessed be He:

“Master of the universe,
may any time that I pray to You
be an acceptable time;
O God, in Your abundant lovingkindness,
answer me in the truth of Your salvation!”

It was taught that Rabbi Elazar interpreted the verse, “The hope [mikveh] of Israel is the Eternal” (Jeremiah 17:13) as “The Eternal is the mikveh of Israel”: Just as a mikveh can purify the impure, so may the Holy One, blessed be He, grant purification to Israel.  That is why Hosea enjoins Israel:

“Return, O Israel,
to the Eternal, your God!”
(Hosea 14:2a)

SHABBAT SHALOM!

L’SHANAH TOVAH TIKATEVU V’TECHATEMU!

YOM KIPPUR READINGS

FROM THE TORAH

YOM KIPPUR MORNING
Leviticus 16:1-34

After the death of Aaron’s two sons (cf. Leviticus 10:1 ff.), when they drew near before the Eternal, the Eternal charges Moses to warn Aaron his brother that he may not enter the inner side of the Dividing Curtain (Parochet) of the Sanctuary, before the Propitiatory (Kapporet), which is over the Ark and over which the Eternal may be seen in a thick cloud, unless he brings a bull of the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, lest he die.  Moreover, he must first bathe his body in water and then be dressed with a sacred linen tunic, linen breeches directly against his skin, a linen sash, and a linen turban.  He shall also take from the congregation of the Children of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering.

Aaron shall offer his bull of sin offering to seek atonement for himself and for his household, and he should position the two male goats before the Eternal at the Entrance of the Tent of Meeting, casting lots concerning them: one for the Eternal and one for Azazel.  He shall offer up as a sin offering the goat for which the lot came up for the Eternal.  The other goat, for which the lot came up for Azazel, shall be left standing alive before the Eternal for seeking atonement, and shall ultimately be sent for Azazel into the wilderness.

In the meantime, Aaron should slaughter his bull of sin offering and bring a panful of glowing coals from upon the Altar, from before the Eternal, and two handfuls of finely-ground aromatic incense, to the inner side of the Dividing Curtain.  He shall put the incense upon the fire before the Eternal, creating an incense cloud to obscure the Propitiatory which is over the Testimony (Edut), so that he does not die.  He shall sprinkle some of the blood of the bull with his finger over the Propitiatory on the east side, and on the front of the Propitiatory he shall sprinkle some of the blood seven times with his finger.  Then he shall slaughter the people’s male goat of sin offering and bring its blood inside of the Dividing Curtain.  As he did with the blood of the bull, he shall sprinkle some of the blood of the people’s male goat of sin offering both over the Propitiatory and in front of it.

Thus shall he seek atonement for the Sanctuary from the impurities and iniquities of the Children of Israel, with respect to all of their sins, and thus shall he do for the Tent of Meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their impurities.  Let no man be in the Tent of Meeting when he enters to seek atonement in the Sanctuary, until he leaves.  He shall seek atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the community of Israel.  Then he shall go out to the Altar which is before the Eternal, and seek atonement for it, applying some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat to each of the horns of the Altar.  He shall also sprinkle upon it some of the blood with his finger seven times.  Thus shall he purify it and sanctify it from the impurities of the Children of Israel.

Then Aaron shall bring forward the living goat and place both of his hands upon its head, confessing over it all of the iniquities and transgressions of the Children of Israel.  Bearing upon it all of Israel’s sins, the goat is conducted into the wilderness by a specially-designated man, to a place from which there is no return.

Aaron shall then come to the Tent of Meeting, remove the linen garments and leave them there.  He shall bathe his body in water in a holy place, put on his garments, and go out and offer his burnt offering and the people’s burnt offering, seeking atonement for himself and for the people.  He shall cause the fat of the sin offering to smoke upon the Altar.  The conductor of the goat for Azazel shall wash his garments and bathe his body in water.  He may thereafter enter the camp.

The bull of sin offering and the goat of sin offering, the blood of which was brought to seek atonement in the Sanctuary, shall be removed to outside of the camp.  Their hides, their flesh and their dung shall be burned in fire.  The burner shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water.  He may thereafter enter the camp.

This shall be an everlasting statute for you.  On the Tenth Day of the Seventh Month you shall afflict yourselves and not do any work, both the native and the alien who sojourns with you, for on That Day atonement shall be made for you to purify you; from all of your sins before the Eternal shall you be pure.  It is a Sabbath of Complete Rest for you, and you shall afflict yourselves as an everlasting statute.    The anointed Kohen who succeeds his father and puts on the sacred vestments of linen shall seek atonement for the Most Holy Sanctuary, for the Tent of Meeting, for the Altar, and for the Kohanim and for all of the people of the community, as an everlasting statute, to seek atonement of the Children of Israel from all of their sins, one time in the year.

Moses does as the Eternal has commanded him.

MAFTIR
Numbers 29:7-11

 On the Tenth Day of the Seventh Month there shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls; do not perform any work.  Offer a burnt offering to the Eternal: one bull of the herd, one ram, and seven year-old lambs.  You shall see that they are unblemished.  Their meal offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of a measure for the bull, two-tenths of a measure for the ram, and one-tenth of a measure for each of the seven lambs.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering, besides the sin offering of atonement and the regular burnt offering and its meal offering and their libations.

YOM KIPPUR AFTERNOON
Leviticus 18:1-30

The Eternal charges Moses to warn the Children of Israel:  Do not follow the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled, and do not follow the practice of the land of Canaan to which I am bringing you.  Follow My laws, not theirs.  “I am the Eternal your God.”  Observe My statutes and ordinances, “by which a person may live” (Leviticus 18:5).

Do not have an intimate encounter with any of your blood relatives.  These include:

Your father, that is to say, your mother or your father’s wife;

Your sister, whether your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether born in the household or outside;

Your granddaughter, whether the daughter of your son or the daughter of your daughter;

The daughter of your father’s wife, born in the household of your father, as she is your sister;

Your father’s sister, as she is your father’s flesh;

Your mother’s sister, as she is your mother’s flesh;

Your father’s brother, that is to say, his wife, as she is your aunt;

Your daughter-in-law, as she is your son’s wife; and

Your brother’s wife, as she is your brother’s intimate.

Do not have an intimate encounter with a woman and with her daughter, nor may you take in an intimate encounter the daughter of her son or the daughter of her daughter, as they are blood relatives and it would be incest.

Do not take your wife’s sister as a second wife to be intimate with her in your wife’s lifetime.

Do not approach a woman for intimacy during the period of her impurity.

Do not have intercourse with the wife of another and become impure through her.

Do not offer up your offspring to Molech, so that you do not profane the name of your God; I am the Eternal.

Do not lie with a male in the manner of lying with a woman; it is an abomination.

Do not lie with any animal to become impure through it, and let no woman lie down before it; it is unnatural.

Do not subject yourselves to impurity by engaging in any of these practices as did the nations that I am expelling from before you.  When the Land is defiled, I visit its sin upon it, and the Land disgorges its inhabitants.  This is the consequence of the abominations performed by your predecessors in the Land.  So observe My statutes and My ordinances, both native and alien who sojourn among you.  Let the Land not disgorge you as it did your predecessors.  Whoever violate these laws will be cut off from the midst of their people.  I am the Eternal, your God.

FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for Yom Kippur Morning
Isaiah 57:14-58:14

He shall say:

Make way!
Remove any obstacle
from the way of My people!

For thus shall say
the High and Lifted Up,
Who Inhabits Eternity,
Whose Name is Holy:
I dwell in the High and Holy
with one who is crushed
and humble of spirit,
to enliven his heart.
I shall not be angry forever,
My spirit shall envelop
the souls I have created.

For the sin of his venality,
in blind rage I struck him down,
as his heart went against me.
But now, having seen his ways,
I shall heal him
and provide comfort
for him and his mourners.
“Peace, peace, to far and near,”
says the Eternal,
Creator of the fruit of the lips,
and his Healer!
“But for the wicked
there is no peace,”
says my God,
for they, like the sea,
rage and stir up dirt.

Cry out as loudly as you can,
raise your voice like a shofar,
to tell My people
their sin—
even though they seek Me daily
to know righteous laws,
as if they, as a nation,
were doers of righteousness.
“Why do we fast,
yet You do not see?”
“Well, on the day of your fast,
you are taskmasters to your laborers,
you fast for conflict and strife,
you strike with the wicked fist,
you do not fast today
so as to make your voice heard on high!”

Is this the fast that I have ordained?
One only of self-affliction?
Of bowing the head like a bulrush?
Of laying out sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast?
Is that what pleases the Eternal?

No, this is the fast that I have chosen:
To unlock the fetters of wickedness!
To undo the bands of the yoke!
To let the oppressed go free!
Is it not to apportion your bread to the hungry?
To provide a house for the homeless?
To clothe the naked and not hide from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth as the morning,
and your healing shall quickly sprout;
your righteousness shall walk before you,
and the glory of the Eternal
shall follow as your protection.
Then you shall call,
and the Eternal shall answer.

The Eternal shall guide you continually
and satisfy you in drought;
you shall be like a verdant garden,
like an unfailing spring.
You shall be the source
of those who rebuild the ancient ruins,
you shall be called:
rebuilder of the broken wall,
restorer of paths of habitation.

If you refrain from your business
on the Sabbath,
and call it instead a pleasure,
if you remove yourself
from your usual pursuits,
and are careful not to talk about them,
then you shall be a delight to the Eternal,
and I will cause you to ride
over the high places of the earth
and feed you the portion of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Eternal has spoken.

 

Haftarah for Yom Kippur Afternoon
Jonah 1:1-4:11; Micah 7:18-20

Jonah
1

When the Eternal’s word comes to Jonah, son of Amittai, to go to the great city of Nineveh and declare that their evil has come up before Him, Jonah flees from the Eternal.  He goes down to Jaffa, where he buys passage on a ship to Tarshish.  But the Eternal causes a great storm at sea which threatens to destroy the ship.  In fear the sailors cry out to their gods and lighten the ship’s load by throwing some of the cargo overboard, while Jonah descends to the depths of the ship and falls asleep.

The ship’s master finds Jonah and demands that he, too, cry out to his god to help them survive.  In the meantime, the men on the ship cast lots to determine who is the cause of their crisis, and the lot falls upon Jonah.  So they ask Jonah, whom they believe is the cause:  What is your occupation?  Whence do you come?  What is your country?  What people do you belong to?  He answers them:  I am a Hebrew.  I fear the Eternal, God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.  The men are very frightened.  Since he had told them that he was fleeing from the Eternal, they ask him what he had done.

As the sea grows more and more stormy, they ask him, “What shall we do to you so that the sea becomes calm?”  “Throw me into the sea,” he tells them, “and the sea will become calm for you, for I know that this great storm has come upon you because of me.”  The men row to bring the ship to a safe harbor, but without success, so they cry out to the Eternal, “We beseech You, O Eternal, do not let us perish because of this man, and do not hold us guilty for an innocent life, for You are the Eternal: as You have wished, You have done.”  With that, they pick up Jonah and throw him into the sea.  The sea ceases to rage.  The men fear the Eternal greatly and offer sacrifices and vows to the Eternal.

2

The Eternal causes a great fish to swallow Jonah.  Jonah is in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.  From there he prays to the Eternal, his God:

From my affliction
I cry out to the Eternal,
from the belly of She’ol,
and He answers me.

You have cast me
into the heart of the sea;
waters surround me,
all of Your breakers and waves!

Yet I declare:
Although I was cast out from before You,
I shall again cast eyes upon Your holy Temple!

The waters threaten my very life,
the deep surrounds me,
my head is enwrapped with reeds.
To the bottoms of mountains I have descended,
the earth would imprison me forever.
Yet You would save me from destruction,
O Eternal, my God!

When my life faints away,
I remember the Eternal,
my prayer comes to You,
into Your holy Temple.

Those who worship vain idols
forsake their share of lovingkindness;
as for me, I sacrifice to You in thanksgiving
and shall fulfill all that I have vowed,
for salvation is from the Eternal.

The Eternal orders the fish to vomit Jonah back upon the land.

3

When the Eternal’s word comes to Jonah a second time, to deliver to Nineveh His proclamation, Jonah goes to Nineveh in accordance with the word of the Eternal.  Nineveh was a large city, an area of three days’ journey.  When Jonah enters the city and proceeds as far as one day’s journey, he proclaims: In forty days Nineveh will be overthrown!

The people of Nineveh believe in God and declare a fast.  They wear sackcloth, all ranks of society, including the king, who arises from his throne, removes his robe, covers himself with sackcloth, and sits upon ashes.  He and his court order both man and beast, herd and flock, to taste nothing, to neither eat nor drink water, but to be covered with sackcloth, to call urgently to God, and for each person to depart from his evil way and from the violence that is in their hands.  Who knows but that God will reconsider and abandon His anger so that we shall not perish!  When God sees what they have undertaken and that they have repented of their evil way, He reconsiders the punishment that he intended for them, and does not impose it.

4

Jonah is very disappointed.  He is angry.  In prayer to the Eternal, he complains:  Before, when I was in my own country, I fled to Tarshish because I knew that You are a gracious and merciful God, patient, abounding in lovingkindness, and open to repentance.  So now, O Eternal, take my life, as it is better for me to die than to live.  The Eternal questions him: Is your anger justified?

Jonah goes out of the city to sit on the east side of the city, where he makes for himself a sukkah.  He sits under it in its shade, waiting to see what might happen to the city.  In the meantime, the Eternal God makes a gourd come up over Jonah to be a shade over his head, protecting him from discomfort, and Jonah is very happy for the gourd.  But then God makes a worm come up the next morning: it attacks the gourd, and the gourd withers.  When the sun rises, God stirs up a harsh east wind.  As the sun beats down on Jonah’s head, he feels faint and close to death, so he says: It is better for me to die than to live!  God asks Jonah: Is your feeling about the gourd justified?  Yes, says Jonah, so much so that I could die.

The Eternal responds:  Now you can understand how I feel about Nineveh.  You felt deeply about the gourd, which you did not plant or raise, one night it was here and the next night it was gone.  Should I not therefore care about Nineveh, a great city of more than 120,000 people who are not culpable, not to mention the animals!

Micah 7:18-20

What god is like You,
bearing iniquity and passing over transgression
of the remnant of His heritage,
not holding on to His anger forever,
as He favors lovingkindness?

May He turn to treat us with mercy
by suppressing our iniquities:
Cast all of their sins
into the depths of the sea!
Act truly to Jacob, kindly to Abraham,
as You promised our fathers
from ancient days.

FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH

Sifra Acharey Mot Chapter 8
The Power and the Limits of That Day

“On the Tenth Day of the Seventh Month
you shall afflict yourselves and not do any work…
for on That Day atonement shall be made for you
to purify you;
from all of your sins before the Eternal
shall you be pure.
It is a Sabbath of Complete Rest for you,
and you shall afflict yourselves….”
(Leviticus 16:29-31)

“For on That Day atonement shall be made for you…” would appear to refer to the atonement effected by means of the aforementioned goat sacrifices (cf. Leviticus 16:15ff).  But what if there are no sacrifices, no goats (as now)?  Without the Temple, how can we derive that “on That Day” atonement will be provided?

The words “For on That Day atonement shall be made” provide the talmud (“Oral Teaching”)!  (Malbim: The Hebrew words underlying “For on That Day” may be read as “For by means of That Day,” thus providing a reason for the redundant, “you shall afflict yourselves.”  Self-affliction depends not solely on the goat sacrifices but also on the opportunity afforded by the occurrence of the Tenth Day.  In other words: You shall afflict yourselves on the Tenth Day with the sacrifices, for by means of That Day atonement shall be made for you!  Torah Temimah: The Oral Teaching is “For by means of That Day itself shall atonement be made for you,” and not by means of the order of the day described above, viz., the sacrifices!)

For transgressions between a person and God, Yom Kippur provides atonement; for transgressions between a person and another person, Yom Kippur provides atonement only after the transgressor seeks forgiveness from the one he has harmed (cf. Mishnah Yoma 8:9; Orach Chayim 606).  Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah provided the midrash for this law based upon the verse, “From all of your sins before the Eternal shall you be pure.”  (Malbim: The words of the verse are not in their expected order, which would be, “Atonement shall be made for you before the Eternal, to purify you from all of your sins.”  Instead we have: “Atonement shall be made for you to purify you; from all of your sins before the Eternal—sins between you and God—shall you be pure”—but not necessarily between you and another person!)

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 24:5
Healer of the Broken

“On the Tenth Day of the Seventh Month
you shall afflict yourselves
for on That Day atonement shall be made for you.”
(Leviticus 16:29-30)

“For thus shall say the High and Lifted Up…:
I dwell in the High and Holy
with one who is crushed and humble of spirit,
to enliven his heart.”
(Deuteronomy 57:15)

From my affliction
I cry out to the Eternal,
from the belly of She’ol,
and He answers me.”
(Jonah 2:3)

Said Rabbi Abba bar Yudan:  What God declared unfit in animals for sacrifice, he declared fit in man.  In animals He disqualified the blind or the fractured or the maimed or the ulcerated (cf. Leviticus 22:22), but in man He declared fit the broken and crushed heart:  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit…” (Psalms 51:19).

Said Rabbi Alexandri:  If a common man uses a broken vessel, it is an embarrassment for him; but the Holy One is different, He uses only broken vessels: “The Eternal is near to the brokenhearted…” (Psalms 34:19), He is “the Healer of broken hearts…” (Psalms 147:3), “A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalms 51:19)!

Ecclesiastes Rabbah 9:6
Source of Light

Pious Abba Tachna was approaching his town on Erev Shabbat shortly before it became dark.  He was carrying on his shoulder a heavy bundle, filled with necessities for his family, when he came upon an unfortunate person covered with boils and lying upon the road.  “Reb,” the poor man bid him, “please do me the favor of carrying me into the town, as I am too weak and too much in pain to walk there on my own.”

Pious Abba Tachna knew that in order to fulfill this helpless man’s request he would have to put down his heavy bundle and leave it there until, hopefully, he could return and retrieve it.  “If I leave my bundle here,” he thought, “and it is stolen, what will my family then have for their sustenance?  But if I leave the poor man here, what would become of my soul?”  What did he do?  He allowed his good impulse to rule over the bad impulse, and he carried the poor man into the town.

Then he returned and was relieved to find that his bundle had not been stolen.  So he restored it upon his shoulder and entered the town while Erev Shabbat was waning.  At his appearance, carrying a bundle, when day was blending into Sabbath evening, his fellow townspeople were astonished, exclaiming in wonder, “Is this the pious Abba Tachna?”  He also began to doubt himself, fearing that others would think that he was profaning the Sabbath.

But at that moment, the Holy One, blessed be He, caused the sun to shine, as the prophet foretold, “For you who revere My name shall the sun of righteousness shine with healing in her wings” (Malachi 3:20)!

“Then shall your light break forth as the morning,
and your healing shall quickly sprout;
your righteousness shall walk before you,
and the glory of the Eternal
shall follow as your protection.
Then you shall call,
and the Eternal shall answer.”
(Isaiah 58:8-9a; cf. ibid. 6-7, 13-14)

Talmud Ketubot 67b
Removing Obstacles

“The one who trusts in Me
shall possess the Land
and inherit My holy mountain.
And He shall say:
Make way!
Remove any obstacle
from the way of My people!”
(Isaiah 57:13b-14)

“Repentance, Prayer, and Charity
remove the decreed punishment.”
(Unetaneh Tokef in Musaf for Days of Awe)

“If one of you should be impoverished…,
do not harden your heart…,
but open your hand to him…
and provide him what he needs,
whatever is lacking to him.”
(Deuteronomy 15:7-8)

Our Rabbis taught: “Whatever he needs” means that you are commanded to sustain him, but you are not commanded to make him wealthy.  What then is the meaning of “whatever is lacking to him?”  If he is used to riding a horse with a runner before him, now when he lacks them, provide them.

“It is a high degree of tzedakah
when the recipient does not know who is the giver,
even when the giver knows who is the recipient.
Such giving follows the greatest of the Sages,
who would visit discretely the doors of the poor
and anonymously leave them money.”
(Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 249:8)

A poor man lived near Mar Ukba.  Every day, on his walk home from the House of Study, Mar Ukba would pass by the door of the poor man and leave him four zuzim in a safe and secret place.  The recipient did not know who was the giver, but he was curious.  So one day he determined to go out and watch for his benefactor, so that he could see for himself who was providing him this benefit.

As it turned out, on that very day, Mar Ukba was delayed at the House of Study, so that his wife came out to look for him.  She found him there, and they began their walk home together.  When they were seen heading for the poor man’s door, the poor man was alerted and started out to find them.  But Mar Ukba and his wife quickly eluded him and ran into a furnace that had recently been scraped out (therefore it was still hot).

Why did they run into a furnace?  Said Mar Zutra bar Tuviah said Rav—or according to others, Said Rav Huna bar Bizna said Rabbi Shimon Chasida—or according to others, Said Rabbi Yochanan in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai:  It would be better for one to throw oneself into a white-hot furnace than to cause the face of another to turn white from embarrassment!

Whence was this teaching derived?  From the example of Tamar (Genesis 38), who was impregnated by her father-in-law Judah when she was disguised as a prostitute and then falsely accused by him of criminal harlotry.  She had proof that Judah was the father but refrained from exposing him publicly.  She sent the evidence to him privately and waited until he acknowledged that she was innocent.  Rashi: She would have allowed herself to be executed by burning (Genesis 38:24) had he not acknowledged her innocence!  In the words of Judah, “She is more innocent than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son” (Genesis 38:26) in accordance with the rule of Levirate marriage (cf. Deuteronomy 25:5ff.).  (Instead she conceived by Shelah’s father!)

Back to Mar Ukba and his wife:  While they were in the raked-out furnace, Mar Ukba’s feet were singed.  “Lift up your feet,” said his wife, “and place them upon mine.”  He was shocked and could not understand why his wife’s feet were not singed in the still-hot furnace.  She explained: “I spend my time at home, where my tzedakah is direct.”  Rashi: “The poor come to me, and I give them bread, meat and salt, which they can consume immediately.  But you give coins to the poor, which they have to go to the trouble of negotiating in order to put together a meal.  That is why my merit is greater!”

Regarding our Rabbis’ teaching, “If he is used to riding a horse with a runner before him, now when he lacks them, provide them,” it is said about Hillel the Elder that he procured a horse and a runner for an impoverished man who came from a wealthy family.  One day, when the runner was not available, Hillel himself ran before him.

And he said:
Make way!
Remove any obstacle
from the way of My people!”
(Isaiah 57:14)

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 24:7
The Good and Direct Way

“Good and direct is the Eternal;
therefore, He instructs sinners in the way.”
(Psalms 25:8)

It was asked of Wisdom: What should be the fate of the sinner?  Wisdom answered: “Let evil pursue the sinners” (Proverbs 13:21)!  It was asked of Prophecy: What should be the fate of the sinner?  Prophecy answered: “The soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4)!  It was asked of the Torah: What should be the fate of the sinner?  The Torah answered: Let him bring a guilt offering, that it may atone for him (cf. Leviticus 5:6; 16:1ff.)!  They asked the Holy One, blessed be He: What should be the fate of the sinner?  He answered:  Let him engage in repentance, and it will atone for him!  This is what was meant by, “Good and direct is the Eternal…!”

Said Rabbi Pinchas:  Why is He good?  Because He is direct.  Why is He direct?  Because He is good.  “Therefore, He instructs sinners in the way”: He instructs sinners in the way that they should engage in repentance.

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 25:4
Forgiveness in Whose Name?

Rabbi Alexandri taught a lesson regarding two men who presented petitions to the king.  One petitioned in his own name, but it was granted in the name of his ancestor.  The other petitioned in the name of his ancestor, and it was granted in his own name.

King Hezekiah presented his petition in his own name, “I beg of You, Eternal One, remember now how I have walked before You in truth and with a perfect heart, and how I have done that which is good in Your sight…” (II Kings 20:3), but it was granted in the name of his ancestor, “I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will save you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for My sake and for the sake of David, My servant” (II Kings 20:6)!

Moses presented his petition in the name of his ancestor, “Turn away from Your fierce anger, and repent of the punishment against Your people; remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, Your servants, whom You promised…” (Exodus 32:12-13), and it was granted in his name, “The Eternal answered: ‘I forgive in accordance with your word’” (Numbers 14:20)!

Pesikta Rabbati 45
Moral Transparency

On atonement:

“Happy is the one whose transgression is forgiven [n’sui, literally “carried”],
whose sin has been pardoned [k’sui, literally “covered”].
(Psalms 32:1)

How does the next verse relate to the previous?

“Happy is the one to whom the Eternal
does not impute iniquity
and in whose spirit there is no guile!”
(Psalms 32:2)

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish explained:

Consider the wife whose husband has reason to suspect her of adultery (sotah).  But she drinks the bitter waters and survives the ordeal, to be found pure (cf. Numbers 5:28).  Of her it was said:

“Happy is the one whose alleged transgression
is carried away [n’sui, literally “carried”],
whose damaged reputation
has been repaired [k’sui, literally “covered”].
(Psalms 32:1)

But some might say it would have been better if she did not need to drink them at all:

“Happy is the one to whom the Eternal
does not impute iniquity
and in whose spirit there is no guile!”
(Psalms 32:2)

Similarly, David said (perhaps after his sin with Bathsheba):

Happy is the one…whose sin has been covered [k’sui].”
(Psalms 32:1)

Whereupon the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him:

“Happy is the one to whom the Eternal
does not impute iniquity
(in the first place)!”
(Psalms 32:2)

Who are those whose transgressions the Holy One, blessed be He, forgives?  They are Israel, who come with pure spirit on the Day of Atonement and specify their sins and their transgressions, which the Holy One, blessed be He, then forgives.

So the wise man teaches:
“He who covers his sins will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will be treated with mercy!”
(Proverbs 28:13)

Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:36
When Israel Is Pure

Our Rabbis teach:  When Moses ascended to the Height, he heard the ministering angels saying to the Holy One, blessed be He, “Blessed is His majestic glorious Name for ever and ever!”  He appropriated it and brought it down to Israel, who thereupon recited it quietly after the first verse of the Shema.

So why does Israel not say it aloud?

Rabbi Yosi explained by likening it to one who stole a precious gem from the palace of the king and then gave it to his wife.  But he cautioned her: Do not wear it in public, only in the house!  Fittingly, there is the exception of Yom Kippur, when Israel is as pure as the ministering angels and can therefore “wear” the words in public, as if belonging to them: “Blessed is His majestic glorious Name for ever and ever!”

G’MAR CHATIMAH TOVAH!

SHANAH TOVAH!

Copyright © 2021 Eric H. Hoffman