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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

A Yom Kippur Thought

אמר רבי עקיבא אשריכם ישראל לפני מי אתם מטהרין ומי מטהר אתכם, אביכם שבשמים, שנאמר וזרקתי עליכם מים טהורים וטהרתם ואומר מקה ישראל ד' מה מקוה מטהר את הטמאים אף הקב"ה מטהר את ישראל

(יומא פה ע״ב)

Rabbi Akiva said: “fortunate are you Jewish People, before Whom do you purify yourselves, and Who purifies you? Your Father in Heaven, as it says, ‘I will sprinkle upon you the pure waters and purify you; and as it says, the Hope-Mikvah of the Jewish people is Hashem; just as a mikvah purifies the impure, so does Hashem purify the Jewish People”

Rabbi Akiva compares our atonement to both a Mikvah, and the sprinkling of the Parah Adumah. What are these two elements of Teshuva?

Rav Chaim Friedlander zt”l explains:

The purification of a mikvah comes through our immersion; we must completely enter the mikvah without leaving any part behind. So too, with our teshuva; we must strive to return to Hashem as much as we can, trying to rededicate ourselves without any reservation.

The sprinkling of the water represents achieving atonement that is beyond our reach; Hashem Himself will help us reach the levels we strive for, even when it is beyond our natural capabilities.

This is the gift of Yom Kippur! The day itself carries with it the potential to reach levels that we are ordinarily incapable of reaching- it is our job to try and maximize this special day to the fullest.

Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l writes that we must enter Yom Kippur with a strategy; where we need improvement and the practical steps to get there; like a businessman planning to make profit, we must form our improvement plan.

Rav Yisroel gives us a tremendous insight as well; sometimes a certain challenge is easier to overcome than other times. For example, it might be easier to avoid loshon hara at certain times of the day than other times of the day. It’s not all or nothing-we can resolve to avoid loshon hara at least at the easier times, and this small step will be the catalyst to eventual perfection!

May we use this special opportunity to the fullest and merit a G’mar Chasima Tova!

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