Why does the Day of Judgment precede the Day of Atonement?
Table for Five: Special Yom Kippur Edition
Edited by Salvador Litvak, the Accidental Talmudist
On Rosh Hashanah it will be inscribed, and on Yom Kippur it will be sealed, how many will pass from the Earth and how many will be created, who will live and who will die, who will die at his time and who before his time…
-From the Yom Kippur prayers
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell, MHL, MAEd. ahavattorahla.org
I joined a friend to watch a TV show with her named, “Married at First Sight.” In this reality program a couple is getting married with a partner they never met before. In this episode, the father advises his son to treat the relationship with his new wife like a bank account. “You want to put in more than you take out. Your deposits should be greater than your withdrawals. That is how you develop relationship savings for a rainy day.” A smart father!
Unetaneh Tokef is a Piyut, religious poem, that we chant during the High Holy Days. It is chanted with such awe and fear that even the heavenly angels are trembling and running around in terror. Why? Because during the Ten Days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur our “bank account” is put on the scale of the THE accountant, God.
Are my deposits of good deeds going to be enough? Am I withdrawing too much of my account by my wrongdoings? Am I able to look at myself in total honesty and take responsibility for my revealed and hidden deeds? At the Neilah service at the end of Yom Kippur is my balance zero? Am I ethically bankrupted?
May we be able to build a loving and nourishing relationship with our accountant, God. Amen. May our “deposits be greater than our withdrawals.” Amen. And may we all be able to put into our spiritual bank accounts above and beyond that which we take out. Amen.
Aliza Lipkin, Writer, educator, Maaleh Adumim Israel
The parallels between Yom Kippur and Purim are manifold and too uncanny to be ignored. One pertinent example is the king’s decree of the fate of the Jewish people. In both cases, the fate of the Jewish nation has been written, signed, and sealed. It would seem futile to attempt any further course of action.
As Yom Kippur comes to a close, our fate has been “sealed” by our Father, the King. Surely, despite the fast day, not every individual is pardoned for their sins! In the past, ambivalence washed over me after every Yom Kippur. I rejoiced that I made it through, but had a nagging concern about the ensuing year…. Until I saw the parallels to Purim.
The Jews of Shushan were able to change a decree that was signed, sealed, and delivered just by fasting! However, Mordechai understood that in order to secure the new decree, the Jewish people require more than prayer and fasting. It is necessary to connect in acts of appreciation for God’s Kindness and Mercy.
In sharing our joy through festive meals with family and friends and giving gifts to the poor, we do our part not only in increasing our length of days, but more importantly we increase the quality of the time given to us. By supporting one another and enjoying our gifts from God together, we bring the Shechina into our midst and merit His assistance in all we do. Thereby, meriting not only life but a blessed life.
Sara Brudoley, Torah Teacher and Lecturer
Rosh HaShana is the day of judgement, and Yom Kippur is the day of atonement and forgiveness. Rabbi Israel of Salant asked, “Why does the day of judgement come before the day of atonement? Since HaShem loves Bnai Israel, and wants the best for them, He should first let them atone for their sins, and then judge them. However, HaShem knows that human beings, by nature, are not easily connected to spiritual matters, so on Rosh HaShana, HaShem first judges us on things we understand and know, material, physical things, income, health, and life. Now these things really touch a person. This he understands. His heart is moved, and he realizes what’s at stake. Now he can open up to more spiritual paths, getting closer to HaShem and doing teshuva on Yom Kippur. Though we are judged on Rosh HaShana, the judgement is not sealed until Yom Kippur, which gives us time to repent and atone, and sweeten our judgement.
The “Netivot Shalom” explains the saying of our sages, that 3 books are opened on Rosh HaShana, for the righteous, for evil people, and for average people, meaning, these books are opened before each person, and everyone is allowed to write themself in which ever book they choose. Knowing that according to his past deeds, one must tremble on the day of judgement, yet behold, the book of the righteous is open before him, and he can inscribe himself in that book, by clinging to HaShem from now on.
Rabbi Natan Halevy, Kahal Joseph Congregation
Rosh Hashanah begins the ten days of repentance when Hashem determines the life flow of all of creation, and the whole world is judged. These ten days correspond to our ten soul powers. By rectifying each day, we rectify each of these spiritual powers.
We cry to Hashem, as stated, ‘seek Hashem when he is found, call him when he is close.’ With our prayers and blessings on Rosh Hashanah, we hope to influence Hashem to rule over the world with mercy. The special meals of Rosh Hashanah commemorate our strong faith in Hashem’s eternal blessing.
Hashem comes closer in the month of Elul, when ‘the king is in the field’. Elul stands for ‘I am to my beloved as he is to me’, which strengthens our prayer and teshuva (returning to Hashem). Elul is also connected to our rededication to Torah, and the empowerment this brings to our lives. By preparing for the High Holidays in Elul with prayer, repentance and charity, we strengthen Hashem’s desire to judge us favorably on Rosh Hashanah, and seal us for a good year on Yom Kippur. ‘Love causes one to forgive all blemishes’. The love Hashem has for us helps him forgive us for our sins. May we be blessed with a sweet new year.
David Sacks, Podcast “Spiritual Tools for an Outrageous World” weekly at Torahonitunes.com
Who do you think the Messiah descends from? Someone perfect? Or someone who did wrong, and then had the strength to fix it? If you ask me, I’d say that the Messiah descends from someone perfect. Amazingly, the Torah teaches otherwise.
The Messiah will descend from King David, someone who fell spiritually, and then never stopped returning to G-d. Do you understand the profundity of this? It means that redemption isn’t contingent on perfection. Rather, it finds its source in endless striving. Or, to think of it a different way, the question isn’t will I ever make a mistake? The question is, after I make a mistake, what do I do next?
I once learned that if you break a vase and put it back together it never looks as good as it originally did. But in the eyes of heaven, if you break a vase and put it back to together, it looks even better than it did to begin with. Everybody knows there are 365 days in a year. In Hebrew, the name for the accuser (the Satan) has the numerical value of 364. That means that “one day” out of the year is free from evil, and that day is Yom Kippur.
The Midrash identifies this one day, Yom Echad, with the very first day of creation. In other words, from the very first day of creation, Hashem was already providing His children with a day of forgiveness!
Hashem understands and loves us so much!
With thanks to Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell, Aliza Lipkin, Sara Brudoley, Rabbi Natan Halevy, and David Sacks.
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