On Yom Kippur, at the end every Shmonei Esrei we add a prayer that the Gemara Brachos brings in the name of Rava: “My God, before I was created, I was worthless, and now that I have been created, I am not more significant. I am dust in life, even more so in my death. I am before You as a vessel filled with shame and humiliation. Therefore, may it be Your will, Hashem my God, that I will sin no more, and that those transgressions that I have committed, cleanse in Your abundant mercy; but may this cleansing not be by means of suffering and serious illness, but rather in a manner I will be able to easily endure.
This prayer raises serious questions, as we’re imploring for forgiveness. Though, we have the brazenness to demand that the forgiveness should be awarded in the manner that we request. Also, Yom Kippur itself is cleansing our sins, so why adding this special prayer? We already say the Viduy, which is the utmost level of repentance.
The Gemara Taanis recounts: Rabbi Beroka met the Prophet Eliyahou in the market and asked him: “who here will deserve the world to come”? Eliyahou replied “no one”. It’s important to note, Rabbi Beroka was giving lessons of Thora there, so it’s fair to assume the market was frequented mostly by religious and pious people.
Suddenly, came a person dressed like a goy [then Jews has special garments and shoes]. The Prophet Eli told Rabbi Beroka, this person has a share in the world to come. The Rabbi called the person but ignored his calls. The Rabbi run to him and asked him what his occupation was. The person replied, sorry I cannot talk now, let’s talk tomorrow.
The next day the person apologized to the Rabbi and told him he was a prison guard. The Rabbi asked him if there was anything special he was doing. The guard answered that he separates men from women, so they don’t sin. The Rabbi asked him why do you dress like a gentile? The guard replied: so my coworkers won’t realize I’m Jewish and won’t withhold talking before me. This way I’m aware of any pending decree on the Jews and I can warn the Rabbi so they can pray and annul them. Actually, last night when you accosted me, I was on my way to the Rabbis to warn them on a pending threat. That’s why I couldn’t talk.
Then, two obviously not religious people entered the market, the Prophet Eli pointed them to the Rabbi stating: these two deserve the world to come. Rabbi Beroka approached them and asked them their occupations. They told him they
were jesters, but when they saw people upset at each other, they made it a point to reinstitute peace among them through their talent.
The Gemara Pesachim recounts: when Rav Yosef the son of the famous Rav Yehoshua Ben Levi got sick and died, a little while later he revived. His father asked him: what have you seen up there? Rav Yosef replied: an upside-down world. This world’s important people were there the commoners, and the “small people” here are important there. The reason we cannot perceive and see the truth is because our “vision” is biased.
According to Kabala even the world we “perceive and see” does not exist. The description of the “world per say” we think we live in, basically varies according to the individuals asked. The reason being is because our perception is a correlation between our personal feelings and our conception of the forces of nature. These two attributes define our “vision” of the world we live in.
The only way to gain a “proper vision” and be able to perceive the reality of the “world we live in”, is by gaining the following attributes; absolute love and selflessness. Basically, when a person annihilates his self-importance, then only will he obtain a true vision of the world. Because then only he’s equipped with honest scales by which to judge people. These people are recognizable by one of their traits of character. Even when shamed publicly, they will not respond.
Do you think when the above prison guard or the above jesters, were going to Shul on Yom Kippur they were seated with the important people? No, they were probably in a corner standing up, as they probably were deemed not to deserve a sit. Though, the Prophet Eli defined them to be amongst the very few to deserve the world to come.
The Ramchal teaches us that these are the attributes which Hashem deploys for us on Yom Kippur, Absolute love and selflessness. That’s the reason there are 2 fundamental attributes in Yom Kippur:
A. Delay of punishment – according to the “Din”: a sinner should be punished immediately, while sinning. Though, Hashem extends his mercy and does not punish him, and waits for his repenting. If he does not repent on his own, Hashem will provide him opportunities to gain forgiveness.
B. Severity of punishment – A person that rebels against the King of Kings Hashem the Almighty, according to the “Din” he has no right to continue existing. Though, Hashem in His infinite mercy will protect his life.
The following parable will enable us to understand: An Israeli Rosh Yeshiva was preparing to go abroad to collect money. He went to get recommendation letters from Greats of the generation, as well as addresses of wealthy Jews. Upon arrival, with all the suitcases he immediately went to the first address. It was a huge and luxurious house, with an amazing ornamental garden, a swan lake and a huge
swimming pool. He knocked at the door and was invited in. The house was decorated with precious artwork, antique furniture, and from the ceiling hung a precious antique crystal chandelier that alone could’ve financed the Yeshiva for several years.
The Host welcomed him warmly and asked him if he had a place to stay. The Rabbi said he had no plans yet. The Host invited him to stay by him as he had a full privacy quarter above the dining room. He also offered that rather than the Rabbi go to visit each wealthy person, he would organize a dinner and invite them all. The Rabbi could not believe his luck and profusely thanked the host.
On the day of the dinner, the Rabbi showered and dress up with his Shabbos cloths. He then realized he had forgotten his belt and his pants was falling. It was unbecoming to appear before such a crowd dressed like this. Since he had a long jacket, he started looking for a rope. As it would do the job and not been seen from under his jacket. He saw a rope coming off the floor of his room, he cut it off and tied up his pants.
Meanwhile, in the dining room, the maids were busy preparing the tables for the important guests. The nicest dishes were laid out on the table, precious crystal glasses and sumptuous porcelain plates. But as soon as the Rabbi cut the rope, the crystal chandelier fell on the table destroying all the expensive dishes
The host understanding what happened decided not to say a word and instructed his staff to clean up and to again prepare the tables. The rich guests arrived, and the Rabbi delivered a beautiful sermon. The host together with his guests donated to the Rabbi very generously, far beyond what the Rabbi thought he would achieve in his trip, and so he could already return to Israel the very next day.
The next morning before departing, the Rabbi thanked profusely the host for his generosity and help. The host replied; “you owe me $4”. The Rabbi was perplexed, so the host explained, this is the cost of the rope you cut to use it as a belt.
Hashem Who has true love and selflessness, is not punishing us according to the extent of our sins but rather according to the benefit we got from it. Even more, He’s providing “secrets” to relief us from any punishment. Therefore, says the Zohar, Yom Kippur starts with Kol Nidrei. This prayer is so powerful, it removes all the bad decrees that were made with a heavenly promise or oath, which are usually the first to be carried out. This way we can start Yom Kippur knowing peacefully there are no outstanding punishment!
By Rabbi Fridmann * firstname.lastname@example.org * 305.985.3461
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