Vertluch: Yom Kippur 5774


Rambam in hilchos teshuva, (perek aleph) asks how one says viduy (where one accepts and confesses they have sinned). He answers, we say ‘Ana chatasi, avisi, pashati…’ loosely translated to mean ‘I was wrong and I will never do it again.’ Ramban holds that teshuva is divided into three parts. First is to recognize you have sinned; second is to regret the sin; and last is to accept never to commit it again.

Rambam (perek bais) then repeats and asks what is the procedure? He answers that we should decide never to repeat that same sin and then regret our past actions of doing it previously. He adds ‘the one who understands your thoughts should give you strength and be your witness to never do it again.’ Rambam takes the commitment not to sin again and places it before and after the regret. The obvious question is why Rambam repeated twice the commitment of never doing it again?

Furthermore, what is meant by ‘the God who knows your thoughts should be your witness never to do it again’? Hashem never interferes with our thoughts and/or emotions. Kesef Mishna says it means that you should call upon Hashem to be your witness; it’s incumbent on the person to ask Hashem to be their witness. The question is what does it mean to ‘call Hashem your witness’ and why is it necessary to do so?

At the onset of Yom Kippur we chant Kol Nidrei. In Kol Nidrei we say that any future vows I will verbalize throughout the upcoming year I am regretting now; even though I attempt to do them in the foreseeable future I regret them in advance. Is this is our introduction to Yom Kippur? Before Rosh Hashana we nullify our vows through hataras nedarim and by doing so we eliminate our past vows. Yet now, we are cancelling our future vows. What seems to be an explanation here? Additionally, the pasuk of ‘V’nislach l’chal adas bnei Yisroel…’is the Yom Kippur version of kiddush. The question here is what does the cancellation of our future vows have to do with the kiddush of Yom Kippur and Kol Nidrei?

The answer is as follows:

We have a concept called teshuva. Chazal say that repentance was creating before the creation of the world and comes from one midda of Hashem-a great mercy- called Vinakeh; Hashem cleanses. This is how Moshe evoked the thirteen attributes as well. When the prophet Micha saw the thirteen attributes he described them as the ‘ancient of days’. The reason is that it was created before the world was and it’s older than the world. But why did teshuva have to be created beforehand?

Each individual has their own master plan. It’s easy for one to make a wrong turn and as you veer off the path, you fall off the cliff. You sinned; now you must die. What Hashem did was create something that will allow you to redirect yourself and veer back on track. Each of us has a mission in life and Hashem wants to ensure that when we make the wrong turn we would be able to automatically get rerouted. He therefore created a self correcting mechanism called teshuva which gets us right back on track. People mistakenly think that when they make a wrong turn it’s on their record forever. Teshuva allows us to take that wrong turn and turn it into the right path.

Reb Tzadok Hacohen says that the difference between a tzadik and a rasha is that a rasha gets held up on regret. A tzadik takes that regret and turns it into a kabala because without a commitment there is no regret. Regret leads us to commitment and teshuva allows us to take our mistakes and use it as encouragement to avoid doing so again, in the future. If you regret, it will lead to kabala.

So why do we call Hashem to be our witness? Because if you take the regret as a regret alone, it means nothing. You need to take it and make it into something so we ask Hashem to be a witness so we don’t make the same mistake twice. We want to use our regrets as a stepping stone to allow us not do the same exact thing again in the upcoming year. And this is what Kol Nidrei is all about.

Chazal tell us that the word ‘Ha-satan’ equals the numerical value of 364; and the solar year is 365 days-one day off. Which day is missing? Yom Kippur-because the satan doesn’t function on Yom Kippur. The word satan equals the numerical value of 359. But how does it become 364? By adding the letter Hay. (Equal numerically to five) But just add the Vuv to make it 365? Moreover, what does it mean that there is no satan on Yom Kippur. We know the satan plays a big role throughout these days as we know we blow and then stop blowing the shofar in order to confuse the satan. The question is how?

Chazal tell us that we have one entity with three names: 1.Satan 2. Malach hamaves 3. Yetzer hara. We know that the yetzer hara and malach hamaves are working fervently on Yom Kippur; only the satan isn’t. The question is how come?

We know that the yetzer haras job is to make us take the wrong turn. When we do something wrong we’re in trouble. The malach hamaves comes along and says that’s it and now you must fall off the cliff. The satan comes and tries to bridge the two together as the prosecutor but on Yom Kippur he cannot do this. The reason is because Hashem has the master plan and He can reroute us automatically. On Yom Kippur the Hay is missing; ‘The’ prosecutor, that satan, is not there.

The following true story brings home this message.

There was once a young man who was an apprentice to an electrician. As the electrician got older he decided it was time to sell the company and retire. This young man decided to pursue the opportunity and purchase the company from his employer. After approaching bank after bank all he was able to get were rejection letters; he approached in all twenty seven banks and received twenty seven rejection letters. The twenty eight bank granted him credit and thus he bought the company. He expanded that company immensely and ultimately profited over $1 Billion from it. Today, he lives and works on a boat. The first thing you see when you enter his office is twenty seven rejection letters hanging on the wall. Upon wondering about these letters he will tell you ‘imagine if I gave up after the third bank.’ He used his mistakes as a stepping stone for his success. With each rejection letter came a different reason so going forward every application had more and more corrections until he finally got to that twenty eighth bank.

This is the concept of teshuva. Hashem has a master plan and he wants it to be real. Yes you can skin a cat in many ways and Hashem wants us each to succeed. He wants us to make mistakes and the ultimate proof to that is that we’re humans. But He wants us to take those mistakes and turn them into success. We have teshuva so we can take our regrets and lead them into kabalos to become one path of mimei kedem. This is why we cancel our past nedarim as we’re taking our regrets of past nedarim to prevent our future vows from happening.

The word regret in Hebrew is nechama which also means consolation. What is the common denominator between the two? Both are a change of perspective. The word regret has to turn into consolation and to do that is by commitment. When your regrets lead to success that is the greatest consolation.

Even though we know we will fail, we should fail for different reasons. To make mistakes is human; making the same mistake twice though is unacceptable.

The message here is clear. By taking our failures and using those as stepping stones to succeed will prove to Hashem that we truly regretted our past actions which will hopefully speed up the coming of Moshiach bimheira v’yameinu amen.