Yom Kippur, Parshat Ha’azinu
1. We start Yom Kippur with Kol Nidrei. We declare publicly that we are clearing ourselves of the promises that we did not keep. All of us have real sins that need to be forgiven—and sometimes heavy sins. Why do we start Yom Kippur by focusing on unkept promises when there are more serious things that we have to deal with?
2. After Kol Nidrei, we say together to God, “Forgive the whole congregation of Israel, because everyone sinned unintentionally”. Surely some of our sins were intentional. In what way can we interpret our sins as being unintentional?
3. [Yom Kippur] On Yom Kippur, during the mincha service, we read the book of Yonah. This book tells about how the prophet Yonah is sent by God to Nineveh to prophesy to the people and tell them to repent of their sins. Yonah tries to run away and not go to Nineveh to warn the people. However, in the end, he goes. Why, on Yom Kippur, do we read about a prophet who is so agonized by his call to prophecy? Why don’t we read about someone who answers God’s call willingly?
4. [Ha’azinu 32:44] “…all the words of this song…” It seems that a song is effective because it will stay in the minds of the people in a more permanent way than regular spoken words. If songs or poems are so effective, then why isn’t every major statement or commandment in the Torah expressed as a song or poem?
5. [Ha’azinu 32:52] “…you will not go into the land…” Moshe cannot enter the land of Israel. He is being punished for what seems to us to be a rather small sin. Our sages tell us that very righteous people are held up to a much higher standard than regular people. Much more is expected of the righteous. Is it just and fair that a regular person with many sins could go into Israel, while Moshe, with one small sin, could not go into the land?
Sins between people are not forgiven until one has asked forgiveness from his fellow man and has appeased his fellow man. (Talmud Yoma)
On Yom Kippur we all become united. The truth is that we are always very close to each other, but our sins separate us both from God and from other people. We have to repair the wrong that we’ve done to each other in order to return us to our natural state of being close to each other–to return to our natural unity. But we must remember that in addition to sins like theft and so on, we must especially repair the sins of the heart. We must really love each other.
–R. Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (1847–1905), Góra Kalwaria, Poland—the Sfat Emet
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava—Eli Zucker
And this study page is dedicated to the memory of Ron ben Malka and Efrayim–Ronald Morritt