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Yom Kippur is about how we are always inseparably close to G-d. On Yom Kippur we get a glimpse of ourselves, our choices and our relationship to G-d from another perspective -- God's perspective. This is the transformational power of Yom Kippur that makes it into a Day of Atonement and forgiveness.
According to Jewish Mysticism, although we have the free choice to do other than G-dís will, G-d is always in control. In other words, even when we can do other than G-dís will we cannot oppose His will or undermine His plan.
Therefore, when we have done wrong and are sorry for that, we must realize that no matter what we have done, it can all be recycled back into G-d's plan and contribute to the ultimate good of the world. Of course this does not mean that we can just go ahead and do wrong. The path of transgression removes us from G-d. This distance causes us feelings of alienation and spiritual anguish which may become manifest as physical ailment.
However, it is important to remember that if you sincerely regret your wrongdoings and resolve never to do them again then you are forgiven and your past will be recycled and put towards future good.
Yom Kippur is an amazing day of transformation where your darkest deeds from the past turn into light. This is because the light of the World to Come, so to speak, is shining into our world on this day. You can receive this light and be transformed by it if you plug yourself into the expanded consciousness of Yom Kippur through the proper acts, prayers and thoughts prescribed for the day.
As it is explained in the Kabbalah, G-d created a space within Himself, so to speak, and created beings other than Himself. This self-imposed limitation is called Tzimtzum -- the restriction or the withdrawal of divinity. G-d withdraws and limits His endless being to create a space and a place for beings other than Himselfófree beings who can do other than His will. We exist within G-d similar to an idea that exists within the mind of its thinker. The difference, however, is that an idea has no free choice. We, however, have free choice but mysteriously any choice we make still remains within the context of G-dís being and the confines of G-dís will. Therefore, we are free and yet, ironically, G-d is still absolutely in control. We are free to disobey and do other than G-dís will, but we are not able to oppose G-dís will or undermine His plan. This, of course, is a mysterious paradox that cannot be comprehended by our rational minds.
What difference, then, do our choices make?
Our real choice is whether to become a conscious partner to G-d in the making of history or an unconscious tool for G-d. We can choose to do G-dís will and contribute to His plan in an active and conscious way, and thereby, experience the ecstasy of the unchangeable truth that G-d is one and we are one with G-d. Or, we can choose to oppose G-dís will and ironically, through our own choices, fulfill G-dís plan without even knowing it. When we do this, however, we deny ourselves the joyous knowledge of our inseparable connection to G-d and instead painfully suffer feelings of alienation and separation from G-d.
We choose to disobey only when we mistakenly think that we exist separate and independent from G-d. When we do that, we support and nurture these illusions about ourselves. Our wrongdoings are actually our punishment. They make us feel disconnected, alienated and isolated from G-d, Who is actually the ground, context and essence of our very existence. In other words, our choices create our own heaven or hell.
If we knew deep in our hearts that G-d is One and that we are one with G-d, then even though we could do other than G-dís will, we would not want to.
There is a very strange sacrificial service performed on Yom Kippur that seems to be the very antithesis of Judaism. Two goats are brought before the High Priest, and lots are drawn. One goat is designated for G-d and the other is for the Azazelóthe satanic forces. The High priest would confess the sins of the people and symbolically place all their transgressions upon this goat destined for Azazel and offer it up as an offering.
If this were done on any other day of the year it would be the cardinal sin of idolatry. But on Yom Kippur even the darkest act can be transformed into light. On Yom Kippur, even an act that is the antithesis of Judaism, when viewed from G-dís perspective (in the light of the World to Come) can actually contribute to G-dís plan. Even though during the year this act would promote and nurture the illusion that we exist independent and separate of G-d, on Yom Kippur it ultimately contributes to the higher consciousness that we are one with G-d. Perhaps this is why it is called the Day of At-one-ment.
The Joy of Regret
Unlike Rosh Hashanah, on Yom Kippur I can confess all my sins to G-d with the realization that they too can contribute to His plan. On Yom Kippur, when G-dís oneness is so manifest, the mention of our sins can be a source of greater light. This is not so for Rosh Hashanahóthe day of judgment. On Rosh Hashanah I already feel so far away from G-d because of my wrongdoings; I wouldnít want to even mention a sin and add to my feelings of distance. But on Yom Kippur when G-dís oneness is so revealed and the light of His eternal love for us is shining, donít be afraid. Confess your transgressions even a million times. In fact, be as clear and precise as you can because on Yom Kippur you actually experience greater love precisely from every single wrong you regret you did.
Moments of love are the best time to remember the times we wronged each other because when we feel so at one with each other we are able to appreciate how all the conflict of the past, in the end, actually served to enhance our unity. In a funny way conflicts are great for relationships. Once the storm calms and we stop yelling at each other, we suddenly feel so foolish, we then uncontrollably embrace and profusely apology. In the back of our minds, however, there is this very strange sense of satisfaction and appreciation that this was a great fight. The conflict, alienation and separation that it created actually contributed to a heightened awareness of our true love and eternal oneness.
The best time to remember your mistakes and wrongdoings and ask forgiveness of your beloved is in moments of love. The contrast between the bad times that were and the good time that is happening right now generates even greater feelings of love and appreciation. Therefore, the dark conflicts of the past when viewed in the present light of love actually serve to intensify the brilliance and warmth of the moment. Yom Kippur, however, is more than a moment of love- it is a full day. And it reveals the truth that G-dís love forever shines upon us. It is only our foolish attitudes and wrongdoings that have blocked out the light creating the dark shadows in our life. As the prophet Isaiah said in the name of G-d, ďIt is only your wrongdoings that separates you and Me.Ē In other words, it is your misdeeds that cause you to feel that you and G-d are separate. But that is a lie. We are forever one with G-d and there is nothing that we can do to change that fact, although there is much that we can do to conceal that fact.
On Yom Kippur, the timeless truth of G-dís oneness and our oneness with G-d is bright and clear. So on Yom Kippur let it rip. Remember every dumb and wrong thing you ever did that seemed to separate you from G-d because on Yom Kippur it only adds to the ecstasy of love and the joy of forgiveness. On Yom Kippur, the dark illusions of separateness enhance the incredible light of our oneness and love with G-d. G-d allows us to make mistakes and do wrong because He knows that eventually the painful feelings of alienation will increase and enhance the ecstasy of our love.
The Great Master of the Kabbalah, Rabbi Isaac Luria, explains that the first couple, Adam and Eve, ate from the forbidden fruit because they thought that in order to contribute to their awareness of G-dís oneness and their oneness with G-d, it would be better for them to do something that would suggest their separateness. They wanted to increase their awareness and appreciation for their true relation with G-d by creating a contrast to it. But the Torah teaches us that you should never think; ďI will sin so that I can later repent.Ē Just as you canít say, ďI will start a fight with my wife so that we can later make up and better appreciate how much we really love each other.Ē It just doesnít work that way. But donít worry, there are plenty of opportunities that present themselves for fights with your spouse--you donít have to create them. And there are plenty times that we will transgress without any need for preplanning. But when conflict and breakdowns happen, itís good to know that even the fight can be used to enhance your love. We can now understand even better how Yom Kippur is like Purim. On Purim we get so drunk that we say, ďBlessed is Haman.Ē On Yom Kippur, in a manner of speaking, we can find the blessing in all our wrongdoings of the past. This, of course, is true only if we sincerely regret our misdeeds and commit to never return back to these foolish ways again. Then, and only then, can we appreciate that all that we did in our life that took us so far away from G-d is now helping us to revitalize and increase our feelings of closeness and love for G-d. If we realize that, then all the conflict was worth it. The past is redeemed in that moment, like the embrace after the fight with your spouse, when you realize more than ever how much you love each other. And then all the pain of the past turns into ecstatic pleasure.
The purpose of a mitzvah is to promote G-dís oneness and our oneness with G-d Ė to reveal the light of love. Sins, on the other hand, promote separateness and create feelings of conflict and alienation. But when the separateness is recycled to promote the oneness, then really what you have is a mitzvah. Therefore, your sins can be converted into the value of mitzvot. This can happen only when your penitence is motivated by your love for G-d and your desire to experience G-dís oneness and your oneness with G-d. However, penitence motivated by fear of punishment does not accomplish this transformation. Penitence out of fear is based on the perspective that I exist separate and independent of G-d, I am here on earth and G-d is over there in heaven and I should not act against G-dís will for fear of punishment. Penitence from fear cancels out the negative effects of sins but it cannot transform them into the positive force of mitzvot. Penitence from love, however, empowers us to cash in on our previous debts.
There are two reasons to make up with your spouse after a fight. One reason is fear. You may fear that she will tell all your friends what a jerk you are or she will lock you out of the house. Therefore, to save yourself the embarrassment and discomfort, you say sorry. However, there is another reason that is higher. You could apologize for the sake of love. You realize how silly it is to fight with the one you love, the one with whom you are one. For a moment you lost your mind and forgot how much you really care for each other and how deep and eternal is your connection. The issue of contention is so petty compared to the power and beauty of your soul connection to each other.
When you apologize because you fear punishment then you successfully end the argument and prevent further damage. But you donít cash-in on your conflict, the fight was simply a waste and this is really just a cease-fire. But when love motivates you then the conflict turns into a force that promotes an even greater awareness of your oneness and adds to your love -- you actually gain.
Yom Kippur offers the perfect ambiance to return to G-d in love, redeem your dark past and turn it into light. On Yom Kippur we celebrate forgiveness because we realize that only love is real; everything else is illusion.
The Importance of Neilah Prayer
The end of Yom Kippur is about being on target - focusing. Locking in on a target. There's a prayer called Neilah that does this. Here, you are putting the cassette you have written, produced, and edited and locking it into the VCR. And you seal it so hackers can't get in. Of course, the biggest hacker is Satan.
From Yom Kippur to Sukkot - these are days of mercy. Look to serve others. Find ways to act with mercy - share, visit the sick... anything. The four days before Sukkot have the energy of grace and sharing. This creates encircling light. It surrounds our cassette with Light to protect it - it almost creates a bubble for us to live in so that as we go about our year, we have protection. It takes care of your surrounding atmosphere.
Rabbi David Aaron of Isralight www.rabbidavidaaron.com
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