Any fast Jews undertake for the sake of atonement without including the sinners amongst them does not have any effect. This is evidenced by the fact that the galbanum used in the incense offering (Ex. 30:34) is among the spices that compose the incense, despite its foul odor. (Keritot 6b)

In fact, the spices included in the incense included even forbidden components. The stacte (mor) was actually the blood of a wild animal from India, which was clearly non-kosher. (Mishnah Torah, K'lei HaMikdash 1:3. See also Ra'avad ad loc., who disagrees.)

The incense symbolized the intrinsic connection that exists between G‑d and the Jewish people and can be neither severed nor sullied1. This essential connection does not merely allow the inclusion of those who have gone astray; it demands it. If the one foul-smelling spice was absent, or the impure one was left out, the entire mixture was invalid.

It is only by being all-inclusive…that we can hope to actualize the message of the incense….

The same is true of repentance, which we express through fasting. When repenting, we ask G‑d to ignore or forgive our sins in response to our efforts to tap into our deepest and most essential connection with Him, which never loses its purity. By getting in touch with this aspect of our souls, referred to in Kabbala as the Yechida, we are able to rise above our past misdeeds and the separation that they caused between our Maker and us. We begin to consciously relate to that level of reality in which we never truly went astray, for the Yechida's intrinsic relationship with its source is unwavering.

Clearly, this very same essential connection to G‑d that we possess belongs to every one of our fellow Jews as well. If we attempt to reach repentance and atonement and yet continue to exclude those whom we consider sinners, we are being hypocritical, and our efforts are doomed to failure. It is only by being all-inclusive - by recognizing that the very same path of repentance is open to ever Jew - that we can hope to actualize the message of the incense and properly rejuvenate our relationship with G‑d.

Copyright 2001 chabad of california /
Based on Sefer Hitva'aduyot 5747, vol. 2, pp. 558-559