Summary of The Haftorah:
Hoshea 14:2-10; Yoel 2:11-27; Micha 7:18-20
This Shabbos is known as Shabbos Shuva - the Shabbos of Return because the
Haftorah begins with the words, "Shuva (Return) Yisroel to G-d" Gleaned from
both Hoshea and Yoel, the prophets describe G-d's desire to forgive His
children, if only they will repent. The fast of Yom Kippur is mentioned as
well as the rewards awaiting us if we proclaim G-d in our midst.
Preparing For Yom Kippur - Review and Comment
The holiest day of the year is devoted to prayer and introspection. Although
similar to Tisha B'Av as regards the restrictions against: eating, drinking,
washing, using ointments, marital relations, and wearing leather shoes; the
mood of Yom Kippur is totally different. Tisha B'Av is a sad day steeped in
the memories of past tragedies and calamities. Yom Kippur is a solemn day,
filled with the hope for forgiveness and the elation of a renewed
relationship with both G-d and man.
Yom Kippur is the only biblically ordained fast day, and its origins began in
the year 2248 after the Exodus from Mitzrayim. Following the breaking of the
first Luchos, Moshe re-ascended Sinai in anticipation of the second Luchos.
After 40 days and nights, during which the Bnai Yisroel immersed themselves
in prayer and repentance for the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe descended from
Sinai on the 10th day of Tishrei bringing the 2nd Luchos and G-d's love and
forgiveness. Thereafter, the day of Yom Kippur has been designated, by the
Torah, as the day on which G-d forgives his children for their yearly sins of
"worshipping the Golden Calf". Allow me to explain.
The sin of the Golden Calf captured the essence of why we sin. Following the
extraordinary events leading up to Revelation, it is difficult to understand
how that generation sinned so quickly and severely. In truth, our generation
isn't any different. Acceptance of a Creator who is intimately involved in
directing every aspect of our personal, national, and universal destinies,
carries the responsibility of listening to His commandments. To do any less
is to deny the purpose that the Creator had in creating us and placing us in
the setting of His universe.
Coming to terms with the awesomeness of G-d's power and control is not easy.
Often we do not understand the rules by which He governs and judges, and more
often, we aren't prepared to frame our lives by the restrictions of His
demands. Instead, we either engage in the philosophical game of "is there a
Creator who truly cares?" Or, we modify G-d in a form that we are more
comfortable with, because we can then control the rules of the game. The
Jews in the year 2448 knew that G-d existed, but didn't understand the degree
of G-d'' love and concern. As a result, they were unwilling to invest in a
relationship that demanded complete obedience. To make such an investment
requires absolute trust that G-d will continue to care and provide, even if
His trusted servant Moshe was no longer present.
Today, we too aren't sure if we can trust G-d. If we could, it would be
foolish not to listen to G-d's rules and demands considering the promised
rewards of health, wealth, and all good things. Instead, we create our own
image of G-d, our own Golden Calf that reflects the lack of trust and
obedience in our relationship with the Creator. Some may feel that they have
good cause to question His trustworthiness, others may admit that they simply
aren't prepared to do what He demands. In either case, we are implored on
Yom Kippur to forego our limited understanding, and through fasting and
prayer rise above the physical limitations of our mortality to recognize the
greater picture of G-d's continued and trustworthy providence. The mere fact
that we have survived the past 3,000 years as a nation is a far greater
miraculous revelation of G-d's presence than the Exodus or the giving of the
Torah. Those were mere moments in history; the existence of the Jewish
people is history itself. Yom Kippur should focus us on the need to trust
G-d, and accept His continued involvement in our lives.
The entire Musaf service is devoted to what had taken place in the Bais
Hamikdash. The Kohen Gadol performed the entire service in the hope of
exacting forgiveness from G-d for the ongoing presence of the sin of the
Golden Calf. He entered into the Holy of Holies to offer the nation's total
acceptance of G-d and His Torah and to beg for compassion and mercy. During
that time he was prohibited from wearing his "golden vestments", because they
were reminiscent of the Golden Calf. The very creation of the
Mishkan-Tabernacle was because of the Golden Calf. The Mishkan was actually
a microcosm of the creation of heaven and earth which is why the 39 Melachot
- acts of work prohibited on Shabbos, are derived from the work required to
build the Mishkan. Just as G-d rested in Shabbos from creation, so too, we
rest from doing the work of creating the Mishkan. On Yom Kippur, the
quintessential Shabbos, all the elements of our intended relationship with
G-d come together. The holiest man on the holiest day in the holiest place
comes as a representative of the holiest people to express absolute trust in
the Creator and in His purpose for creating the universe and us.
The final moments of Yom Kippur underscore this concept. After davening and
fasting almost 24 hours, we are prepared to embrace the realities of a
Creator who is intimately involved in all aspects of our lives. This is
publicly expressed when we all proclaim the final words, "G-d is our G-d!"
The seven-fold proclamation is our statement of absolute trust and acceptance
in G-d. This is followed by the joyous prayer, "Next year in Yerushalayim,"
when we will hopefully witness, first hand, the holiest man, serving on the
holiest day, in the holiest of all places.