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Shabbat Yom Kippur 5772

Parashat Hashavuah: Our Uniqueness on the Special Day

Harav Daniel Mann

“Days are created and You have one among them” (Tehillim 139:16). The midrash (Eliayhu Rabba 1) says that this one day is referring either to Shabbat among the days of the week, or Yom Kippur among the days of the year. Yom Kippur is a unique day, a day in which Hashem provides a special kedusha and closeness to Him, and a day in which we are expected to respond with the type of behavior that brings us to a level where we can approach Hashem, kaveyachol.

Several statements of Chazal connect our behavior and appearance on Yom Kippur to that of the angels serving Hashem in the Heavens on a daily basis. Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer (45) tells that Hashem grants Samael power over Israel on Yom Kippur if he can find sin in us, but that he finds us like angels: we do not eat or drink, we are without shoes, we stand a lot, and we have peace between us. Indeed, the five inuyim, in which we refrain from basic human luxuries and even necessities, make us resemble angels, whom we do not attempt to imitate during the rest of the year (except, to some extent, during Shemoneh Esrei and Kedusha).

Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlop (Mei Marom, vol. VII, 43) sees us as resembling Adam before his sin and explains the significance of not eating along those lines. It is possible for people to be “above time.” Eliyahu did this during the 40 days that he walked with the strength received from that which he ate before leaving (Melachim I, 19:8). Adam also was on this level before his sin, as the food that he ate could have satiated him continuously. The natural processes that prevent this are related to our enslavement to the natural passage of time.

By refraining from eating on Yom Kippur, says Rav Charlop, we signify that the food that we eat before Yom Kippur (which is a special mitzva) can last us as we reach toward the high level of the first human before his sin. That food is thus reminiscent of the fruit of the Garden of Eden. Indeed, Adam himself was on a level that was similar to an angel and in some ways above their level (see Bereishit Rabba 8, which tells that originally, the angels were confused by Adam’s greatness and wanted to say Kedusha to him).

It is important to view the mitzvot of the day not only as an obligation and not only as a condition for getting through the day with a maximum of atonement and a minimum of sin. Rather, it is an opportunity to experience being on the type of level where we can feel our own potential for greatness, and hopefully want to adopt much more of it throughout the year than we did in the past. True, we remain fully human, and those who medically need to eat must do so and not get carried away with the comparison to angels, Adam, or Eliyahu. However, we should all focus on those special powers that, perhaps we identify in uniquely holy individuals, but fail to see in ourselves.   

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