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Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the year, is mentioned multiple times in the Torah as a day for sins being forgiven but the Torah and the Mishna mainly talk about the rituals that the high priest had to perform on this day, the white clothes he has to change into, the purifying steps he has to take before and during the day, there is very little about what the people should be doing on this day. This is also the only day that the high priest gets to go into the “Kodesh Hakodashim”, the holy of the holiest room in the temple, and while going in there, the high priest said a short prayer, the last part of his prayer was, requesting God not to listen to the prayers of the travelers when requesting that it shouldn’t rain.


What we don't understand is this request, where do we see a prayer in the negative sense? A request to block another person's prayer? Rabbi Shimon Shalom of Amshinov asked, who are those travelers that are praying it should not rain, are they righteous people? Would a righteous person pray that it should not rain at a time when the earth needs water? How about wicked, would the prayer of the wicked even have been accepted in heaven, and the rain will be withheld for them? We must say, there is no way that the righteous traveler would have asked that the rain should not fall, and the prayer of the wicked would not have been heard in heaven, so who are our sages talking about? Against whom is the high priest praying? And he replied: The Gemara is talking about a simple Jew who works all day for his livelihood, and now he is returning to his home and the rains come down and the road is filled with mud, and his cart sinks and he is stuck in the middle of the road and being wet all over he cries out: Oh! How will I get home?... His cry is so touching, and it demands an answer! For something like this, the high priest asks that his prayer not be accepted, because the land of Israel, needs the rain and they are devoted to God, on whom they lean and trust, so without the high priest’s prayer, God might be inclined to hear the prayer of the singular suffering Jew, and we need the high priest, on the holiest day of the year, in the holiest room in the Temple, to ask God not to answer that prayer. This comes to show us the power of one single prayer if it comes from the depth of our hearts.


Only after the Temple is destroyed, the whole service of Yom Kippur gets converted from sacrificing animals to prayer in the synagogue. We all get to go into the “the holy of the holiest room” deep in ourselves. This is the day that we dress in white, we fast, we say “Baruch shem k’vod malchuto…” out loud, all these can symbolize purity, repentance, remembrance of Temple rituals but are also comparable to angles that are white, that don’t need food, and that say “Baruch shem k’vod malchuto…” out loud.


This is the one day of the year that we get to be elevated to a higher place within ourselves, and this is the only day that we have 5 prayers.


Let us connect to our deepest and purest internal selves and remember the power of prayer, may we all be written and signed into the book of life.

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