Sunday, October 01, 2006

Simchas Yom Kippur

The Mishnah[1] teaches that the days of Yom Kippur and Tu B'Av are the two happiest days of the Jewish calendar. The Talmud[2] explains that Yom Kippur is a happy day because it is a day of forgiveness and atonement and the day on which the second pair of tablets containing the Decalogue was delivered to the Jewish nation on Mount Sinai. Tu B'Av was historically a happy day for various reasons (including that it was the day which intertribal marriage was permitted, the condemned in the desert finished dying, Benjaminites were readmitted into the general populace of the Jewish nation, the treasury of the Holy Temple stopped collecting wood, and permission was given for the martyrs at Beitar to be buried). Rabbi Yom Tov ben Avraham Asevilli (1250-1330) asks[3] why the Mishnah says that Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur are the happiest days if another Mishnah says that the happiest possible occasion was the Simchas Beis HaShoeivah ,"the Rejoicing at the Place of the Water-Drawing", which transpired after the Water Libations ceremony in the Holy Temple on the holiday of Succos. The Ritva himself answers that Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur were only happy days for the Daughters of Israel, while the Simchas Beis HaShoeivah was a happy occasion for all "the great men" of the Israelites, Levites, and Cohanites. However, the answer of the Ritva needs to be explained because the reason for the happiness on Yom Kippur can be applied equally to the girls of the Jewish Nation was well as to the men. Furthermore, only one of the Talmud's explanations for the holiday of Tu B'Av applies specifically to girls[4], however the Ritva only assumes like that explanation and ignores the other ones. Additionally, one can ask that according the Ritva, for the average simple Jew, who is neither "great" nor female, what is the happiest time of the year.

Perhaps one can answer the seeming contradiction between the two Mishnahs by explaining that both Yom Kippur and the Holiday of Succos are the happiest time of the year. In addition, Yom Kippur and Succos are to be considered one long period, so the happiness on both is the same. The Avodah/service of Yom Kippur, forgiveness and atonement, is the same as the service of Succos, which is happiness. On the day before Yom Kippur, Erev Yom Kippur, the Talmud says that there is a commandment to have a special fest[5]. Rabbeinu Yonah of Girondi (1180-1263) explains[6] that this feast is to express one's happiness for the holiday of Yom Kippur, because there is no greater happiness that one being absolved from all of his sins. There happens to be a technically problem that HaShem commanded abstinence from food for the day of Yom Kippur to curb one's physical temptations, so the happiness is expressed the day before. Nonetheless, Yom Kippur is to be considered an overly joyous day. Kiddush Levana, the sanctification of the New Moon, is postponed in many communities until Motzei Yom Kippur so that it can be done in a happy mood. In a similar vein, HaShem commands that on Succos one must "be [nothing] but happy"[7]. The numerical value of the Hebrew word Selicha, forgiveness, equals[8] the value for the word Simcha, happiness. This shows that the greatest catalyst for happiness is complete and total forgiveness and atonement. There is no greater happiness than fully knowing that one is completely free from sin.

The parallels between Succos and Yom Kippur are very clear. The Talmud says[9] that on the holiday of Succos, the world is judged concerning its yearly quota of water. The day after Succos, on the holiday of Shemini Atzeres, Jews begin the prayers of the rainy season. On the day of Yom Kippur, every Jew's fate for the year is sealed, and it is one's final time to repent for sins. The last day of Sukkos is known as Hoshana Rabbah, the Great Hosanna. Extra prayers of repentance and requests for forgiveness are added to the Hoshana Rabbah liturgy as if to imply that one's fate is not completely sealed on Yom Kippur, but rather on Hoshana Rabbah. This is because the tone and service of Yom Kippur actually continues throughout the festival of Succos, until Hoshana Rabbah. There are four days in the Jewish calendar, which are known as the Yomim Nor`aim, Days of Awesomeness; namely, they are the two days of Rosh HaShannah, Yom Kippur, and Hoshana Rabbah[10]. Only on all four of these days is the word "awesome" added to the sentence, "Our G-d is One, great is Our Lord, [and] holy is His name" when the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark. The two days of Rosh HaShannah are considered one long day (Yoma arichta[11]), so to maintain the parallelism one must say that Yom Kippur and Hoshana Rabbah are also to be considered one long period spanning twelve days, including both Yom Kippur and Succos. In fact, immediately after Yom Kippur, one starts preparations for Sukkos by starting to build the Sukkah, and Tachanun is not recited starting from Yom Kippur until after Succos to show that all those days are bridged together by the theme of happiness.

Furthermore, the Hassidic masters teach that each of the seven liquids, which cause a foodstuff to become susceptible to ritual impurity, as enumerated in the Mishnah[12], corresponds to one of the seven holidays. According to this concept, Dew corresponds to Yom Kippur and Water corresponds to Succos[13]. In essence, dew and water are chemically the same, except that dew is a specific type of water, which falls early in the morning. Similarly, Yom Kippur and Succos are in essence the same, only that Succos is time for general happiness, while Yom Kippur is the time for the specific happiness stemming from the pardoning of sin. Rabbi Avrohom Schorr writes[14] that Succos is the time when one is able to "do battle" with HaShem and use the power of true repentance to become absolved of sins even in circumstances in which forgiveness is not usually granted by HaShem. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (1740-1810) writes[15] that the repentance during the Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh HaShannah to Yom Kippur is a repentance out of fear (fear from Heavenly punishment and fear of the awesomeness of G-d), while the repentance during the holiday of Succos is a repentance from love. The difference between the two types of repentance is that repentance from fear only erases one's sins, while repentance from love transforms one's sins into fulfillments of positive commandments, a merit not blot on one's record.

The holiday of Sukkos is sometimes called Tabernacle in English. After the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf at Mount Sinai, which caused the Clouds of Glory to be removed from their place protecting the Israelites, Moses ascended the mountain for forty days to request a pardon on behalf of his nation. After the pardon was granted, on Yom Kippur, HaShem commanded the Jews to build for Himself a temporary moving sanctuary to travel with His nation in the wilderness. Once this temporary temple, the Tabernacle (Mishkan) was built, HaShem sent the Clouds of Glory once again to protect his nation. The holiday of Succos commemorates this return of the Clouds of Glory, the security mechanism of the Jews in the desert for forty years. However, just as the original Succos was so connected to and dependant on Yom Kippur for forgiveness, the present-day holiday of Succos depends on the holy day of Yom Kippur for its effectiveness. Eventually, the Tabernacle's use became obsolete because a more permanent structure was built in Jerusalem, the Holy Temple. However, two of these Holy Temples were destroyed because of the Jews' sins, and presently the Holy Presence of HaShem has no place to rest as it once did. May HaShem forgive His nation from all of their sins so that they may merit the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, speedily and in our days and they should be able to appear before Him pure[16], and continue the thrice-yearly pilgrimages to Jerusalem[17]: Amen.
[1] In the end of Tractate Taanis
[2] Taanis 30b
[3] Chiddushei HaRitva to Bava Basra 121a
[4] See Pnei Shlomo, by Rabbi Shlomo ben Joseph Ganzfried (1804-1886), to Bava Basra 121a
[5] Rosh HaShana 9a
[6] Sha'arei Teshuvah 4:8-9
[7] Deuteronomy 16:15
[8] Assuming that a Sin and a Samech are interchangeable, which they are because they make the same sound.
[9] Taanis 2a
[10] Although, according to Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha'arei Teshuvah 2:5) all Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh HaShannah to Yom Kippur are considered Yomim Nor`aim.
[11] See Beitzah 30b
[12] Machshirin 6:4
[13] Oil is Chanukah, Wine is Purim, Blood is Pesach, Milk is Shavuos, Honey is Rosh HaShannah
[14] HaLekav V'HaLibuv
[15] Kedushas Levi
[16] Leviticus 16:30
[17] Deuteronomy 16:16

1 comment:

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

RCHQ: Yom Kippur bizman Beit HaMikdash was very different than the way we commemorate it today. The high point was the avoda when the Cohen Gadol returned from the Kodesh Kodashim...from then on, everyone knew that Teshuva was guaranteed for Am oppsed to today, where the pinnacle of the day is at Neila.

I guess back then, once Teshuva was gauranteed -- it set the stage for the happy aspect of they day, which is mostly lost on us these days.

Sheyibane Beit Hamikdash Bimhaeira Biyamainu.

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