Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch writes in Moadim Perspectives: “T’ruah, Teshuva (repentance/return), Slicha (forgiveness), Kappara (atonement), Tahara (purity), Emuna (faith), and Simcha ( joy) are the seven gifts that the month of Tishrei brings on its wings to the whole house of Israel, to awaken the heart of every Jew and give him/her the power to sanctify him/herself and truly rejoice in these gifts.”
These are the days we wait for all year long. To be awakened by the shofar, in a way that no human-constructed coaching mechanism can. To open our hearts to shed all the encumbering layers and return to our authentic selves. To make peace with our family, friends, Maker – because we/they seek nothing more.
And in this cleansed state to to feel pure faith again – the source of all joy. That I am doing the right thing now. That my and God’s will are aligned.
I used to dread Yom Kippur as another long fast day, but I have come to look forward to it – to this day where I needn’t deal with my body, only my essential me, my soul. Shabbat Shabbaton .
“לפום צערה אגרא” –
“According to the effort is the reward.” (Pirkei Avot 5:23)
In our days, to live Jewishly and close to our Source in a secular world, even in Israel, requires effort. To get up early to pray, to study Torah, to say blessings, to make a meal for someone, to be sensitive to people’s needs, to give the right amount of Tzedaka, to prepare for and keep Shabbat – these require discipline and energy, but the intrinsic outcome of these efforts is always Simcha. Of living Jewish time, of giving of ourselves.
And to recite the long lists of “Vidui” (confession) on Yom Kippur in plural form – including things we don’t remember doing – with the whole community of Am Yisrael in mind. Because ever since we re-accepted God’s covenant at Mt. Grizim and Mt. Eval and entered this Land, we are wholly responsible for one another.
When I haven’t practiced yoga in a while, the most uncomfortable positions are the ones my body needs most, and bring it more well-being and Simcha than the easier poses.
These are the small decisions we make to refine our behaviors in whatever way we know we need.
A most beautiful expression of this process of effort, sacrifice, and Simcha is the Seder Avoda – literally the Order of Sacrifices of the High priest on Yom Kippur – which I never internalized until Yishai Ribo put it to music.
My son calls it Ruach Hakodesh – Yishai Ribo’s ability to compose and bring to the masses the most inaccessible, but central aspect of Yom Kippur in Temple times – today the Musaf service.
This song is another gift to our generation, building up to and encompassing all seven gifts, delivering them straight to our hearts.
אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם שֶׁכָּכָה לּוֹ, אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם שֶׁיֲהֹוָה אֱלֹהָיו.” (תהילים קמד)”
“Joyful is the nation who lives like this,
Joyful is the nation that the Lord is their God.” (Tehillim 144)
Shabbat Shalom and Gmar Chatima Tova!