Parshiot (The weekly Torah Portions of) Bereishit, Noach, VaYetzeh, Yitro, Bo and others; Chanting Haftarot; a child being called to the Torah for the first time; a baby’s first wail. Watching the sun rise against the Kotel, and set over the Mediterranean, while sitting on the Tayelet at Gordon Beach in Tel Aviv. The sound of Shofar; the mumbling of silent davening, each one of us at our own tempo, rhythm, pace, and melodies.
Most of all, though, I think that my favorite thing to see and to hear, is watching the faces of my students when we take the Sefer Torah out of the Ark; and seeing their excitement when they come to Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday afternoon.
Today, Yom Kippur, is a day to reflect on all of these, and more. A day to sit back and listen to the Chazzanut, to the sounds of prayer and to introspectively remember, atone, accept and forgive.
It today’s Torah portion we just read that after his sons Nadav and Avihu had died as punishment for their improper service, Aharon was told to enter the Holy of the Holies only on Yom Kippur, at which time atonement was to be made for the sins of the community (including the Priesthood) and the Sanctuary was cleansed because it might have been entered by those who were ritually unclean. On Yom Kippur, the Kohein Godol (High Priest), dressed in white garments rather than gold ones, offered all the sacrifices.
The ritual included the casting of incense upon coal taken from the Altar, and the sacrificing of one of two male goats provided by the people for their offering. The commandment was given to us to observe Yom Kippur as a most solemn Shabbat (the Shabbat of Shabbatot), to fast and to repent for our misdeeds.
We read about the laws forbidding the eating of meat of an animal which wasn't ritually slaughtered and the forbidden intake of blood; and we read about High Moral Conduct. We continue to be reminded that Hashem expects of us a high level of moral conduct; thus, adultery and illicit marriages were prohibited, with the Torah citing examples of nations destroyed for immoral behavior.
This afternoon, during Mincha, we will learn again the Story of Jonah and what was asked of him by G-d. We will remember that we may be able to run from ourselves and our actions, but that we cannot hide from G-d. This, my friends, is not, in my opinion, meant to be a threat by G-d, nor do I believe that it is a warning, per se. I believe this to be a reminder to us that G-d is everywhere. He is above us and below us; to our right and to our left; in front of us and behind us. In every sense. G-d is with us on High and in our lowest moments; His angels sit upon our shoulders and watch over us.
Today, we promise G-d that from now, we will be the Best that We Can Be. We will strive for high moral ground, and we will love our neighbors as ourselves; We will cease from all forms of Lashon haRa, and help to make this World a better place; We will look to G- d for strength, while continuing to praise His holy name. We will love Him b’chol levaveinu, with all our hearts, u’bchol Nafsheinu, with all of our souls, u’bchol Moadeinu, and with all of our strength. We will take these words to heart and teach them diligently to our children. For as by design, our children are our future.
Yehi Ratzon Milfaneicha, haShem Elokeinu, v’Elokei Avoteinu, Sheh Tichadesh Aleinu Shana Tovah u’Metukah; G’Mar Chatima Tovah; u’Chol masheh tov b’Maaseinu. May it be your Will, O’ G-d, and G-d of our ancestors, that you will bless us with a good and a sweet year; that we will be inscribed into your Book of Life for yet another year; and that you will bring us the peace and solace for all things good this coming year.