Michael Laitman
Michael Laitman
Founder and president of Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute

Yom Kippur, Why Does It Matter?

For the first time in history, the world today shows us how much it is one complete whole—that all human beings are inextricably bound together and thus have no choice but to take care of each other. We increasingly discover day to day how interdependent we are. This is the reason why this Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, is a reckoning period like no other.

Through world events such as wars, climate change, and the pandemic, we now see with perfect clarity that all we do, whether good or bad, will affect everyone, so we need to carefully examine our thoughts and deeds.

We are used to evaluating our actions, but we should also evaluate our intentions toward others: Are my intentions for my own sake or for the sake of others? Where do I stand in relation to the Upper Force whose nature is total love and bestowal?

During the Ten Days of Repentance in which Yom Kippur is the climax, when we fast, pray and ask for forgiveness, we arrive at the point where we review all our memories and measure them against the rules that we are obliged to keep to see where we have failed. Of all these precepts, the most important one is “love thy neighbor as thyself,” the great rule of the Torah.

A key part of the customs of the Day of Atonement, the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar, is reading the book of Jonah the Prophet. In the story, God orders Jonah to tell the people of Nineveh, who had become very hardhearted toward one another, to correct their relationships if they wanted to survive. However, Jonah fled his mission and took to the sea in an effort to escape God’s command.

Like Jonah, we avoid our mandate and refuse to unite. It is our divisions, frictions, quarrels that trigger humanity’s imbalances and destabilization. Therefore, our stubborn refusal to draw closer to one another is the sin we need to repent for.

Each person should hold himself accountable for what he or she does from day to day. But on Yom Kippur we sign off on the year, we close the balance of what we did for the whole year so we can start a new year with the clean feeling like a newborn. The measure of our individual success or failure is not the most important thing. What matters more is the process of soul-searching that we apologize for our missed opportunities and start again from scratch.

Yom Kippur is also called the Day of Judgment. Who exactly is judging us and what is being judged? First of all we need to examine and judge ourselves. However, instead of waiting the whole year to go through this process, we should make this assessment daily. Before we go to sleep, we should also close the account for that day and ask the Creator to forgive us for all we did and did not do.

Our intention for a clean new beginning should be to conduct ourselves carefully in order to avoid hurting anyone, and to make every effort toward good connection with all human beings. And if we truly and wholeheartedly ask for forgiveness for the harm we have caused to others, then we are ready to turn to the Creator and ask Him for total forgiveness. Mending our human relations is the precondition for mending our relationship with the Upper Force.

On the one hand, during Yom Kippur we are supposed to feel sorry for our shortcomings. But in this sorrow we are also happy because we then open the opportunity to apologize and finish the year in a beautiful and clean way, a way in which all our debts are covered.

We live in a special time called the “Last Generation,” the period of the emergence of a new world. This period is characterized by the spiritual search for the correction of our egoistic attributes of self-benefit to transform them into attributes of care, cooperation, and giving to others.

Hopefully, the whole world will swiftly come to understand the change we need and make the decision to bury all weapons and only focus on the development of connection and love between us. Surely then we will reach the state of general love and the revelation of the Creator to all creatures. However, first the people of Israel must lead the way. As Rav Yehuda Ashlag, author of the Sulam (Ladder) commentary on The Zohar, wrote in his essay entitled “The Arvut” (Mutual Guarantee): “It is incumbent upon the Israeli nation to qualify itself and the rest of the people in the world to evolve into assuming this sublime work of love of others.”

About the Author
Michael Laitman is a PhD in Philosophy and Kabbalah. MSc in Medical Bio-Cybernetics. Founder and president of Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute. Author of over 40 books on spiritual, social and global transformation. His new book, The Jewish Choice: Unity or Anti-Semitism, is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jewish-Choice-Anti-Semitism-Historical-anti-Semitism/dp/1671872207/
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