Friday, September 29, 2017

Dvar Torah for Yom Kippur & Podcast

       While on a normal day we daven three tefillos and four on Shabbos, on Yom Kippur we daven five times. In addition to the typical tefillos of Shachris, Mincha, Maariv, and Mussaf, an extra teffilah of Neilah is added at the end of the day as well. Yom Kippur is the last day for us to commit ourselves to a proper life and to ask Hashem for a good year, so we do our best to pray as much as time allows. The major theme of davening is the Viduy, the Confession, where we ask Hashem to forgive us for the many sins we have committed over the previous year. Viduy is said both in the silent Amidah as well as in the Chazzan’s repetition for a total of ten times over the course of the day. Why do we need to say it so many times? After the first time, we have already committed to being better people, so why do we need to say it over and over again?
       The answer lies in discovering the main purpose of the Viduy. The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva (1:1) explains Viduy contains four vital parts: recognizing that you have sinned, listing the sins you have committed, regretting your actions, and committing not to repeat those sins. All of these parts are vital and of equal importance. However, in a different place the Rambam says the only important part of Viduy is recognizing that you have sinned (2:8). What happened to the other three ‘important’ parts?
       Rav Shalom Schwadron, ZT”L, in his sefer Kol Dodi Dofek, explains this seeming contradiction in the Rambam. There is a type of Viduy that must be made in order to fulfill the mitzvah of Teshuvah. This is the one explained in 1:1 of Hilchos Teshuvah and includes four vital parts. However, the mitzvah of Teshuvah is a process that is focused over the entire time period from Elul through the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah; but when it comes to Yom Kippur, there is a special class of Viduy which must be done. It’s not simply about committing to a better future, it’s the recognition that we have sinned. It is the only vital part to this Viduy. (The Ramban in 2:7 actually seems to indicate that when it comes to Yom Kippur, there is a concept of Viduy separate from the obligation of Teshuva.)
       The idea behind Yom Kippur is not just to look at our actions from the past year, sincerely regret any sins, and commit to a better future; that’s the idea of this entire period! Yom Kippur, is specifically about recognizing even before we repent, that we have done something wrong. Even though we may have fulfilled the confession portion of our obligation to repent, we must make another separate declaration admitting that we were wrong.
       This is the reason why we repeat Viduy twice in every Tefillah. It’s not enough for us to request forgiveness, we must recognize what we did wrong. Yom Kippur is such an amazing gift, it’s the opportunity to start completely from scratch, an entirely clean slate. In order to properly recognize this gift, we must first understand how great it is. How do we do this? We say: We were wrong! We were not right! How embarrassing that is to admit, to say we have sinned against Hashem, the One to whom we owe everything. What an amazing chance we have now to make it all go away! Once we recognize that, the Teshuva process we have begun over a month ago takes on a different feel and rhythm; we can now truly begin to ask forgiveness and commit to being better people in the year ahead.
       May we use this Yom Kippur in its intended manner. May our Viduy be sincere and our tefillos be said with proper intent. With this mindset, we will truly merit a healthy and successful new year!

Gmar Chasima Tova!

Shabbat Shalom!  

Click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Yom Kippur

Click here to listen this this week's Podcast (Also available on Apple Podcasts)

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