Once In a Year

Yom Kippur is described in many ways. One very poignant description is that it is “once in a year.”

You see, the human soul is also described in many ways, with five different names, each describing a deeper level of her being. The fifth, deepest level is called yechidah, which means “one and unique.” Yechidah is the soul as she is fused and one with her Creator, so that the two are an inseparable whole.

Yom Kippur is the day that the essential bond of yechidah shines within the time and space in our world.

Meaning that once in a year, the One Above unites with the essential oneness of the soul here below within each one of us.

All else falls away.

Hitvaadiyot 5747, Vol. 1, pg. 113. Hitvaadiyot 5750, Vol. 1, pg. 101.

Shining Like Yom Kippur

On such a holy, beautiful day, why do we recite a list of sins again and again?

Because one day of the year is not enough. We wish our souls to be united with her Beloved every day of the year.

So we read out loud through this list, and one by one, through G‑d’s great kindness and love for us, the stains on the clothing of our souls fade away. 

Then we rise higher, into a yet more intense light in which the stains can still be detected. And so we repeat the list again.

Until, by the end of Yom Kippur, we enter the new year in sparkling, fresh clothing for our souls. The essence-light of Yom Kippur may now shine within us for an entire year.

Real Meaning

In the end, have you actually changed the past?

The events of the past have not changed and neither has their sequence. The objects, the subjects—all remains as all was.

But their meaning is now vastly different. And that is all that really matters. Because nothing is real in this world, all is transient, here only for now, vanished in a time later, all except for meaning.

The meaning of each event, that is forever. And according to where you take those events, so will be their meaning.

Life From Fasting

What does fasting on Yom Kippur achieve?

That even our physical bodies can feel the precious closeness of this day.

Yom Kippur is such a holy day, the body receives life from fasting.

Likutei Torah, Song of Songs, 14b

The Day of At-Onement

How does forgiveness work?

How does a whole mess of fallout from the past get swept away in a single day?

Through at-onement.

Like two close friends who have slowly fallen apart, as one slights the other, arguments break out, matters escalate…

But then one day they find themselves together again, simply enjoying one another’s presence.

As though nothing was ever wrong.

Only that if this at-onement is going to last, they need to deal with all those issues—without disturbing the bliss.

Like, “I was really stupid for saying those things I said when I so much value your friendship.”

“And it was so rash of me to do what I did when I really like you so much.”

So that out of the at-onement, all is atoned.

This is Yom Kippur, the Day of At-Onement.

Recovery

On Yom Kippur, we are all in recovery.

Recovery of our true selves.

Look beneath the stormy waves of life, beyond the failures, the guilt, and the pride.

Beneath the surface dwells a calm, pure soul that only desires to fulfill the divine purpose for which it came to this place. To run to do a mitzvah. To absorb the wisdom of Torah. To find an infinite G‑d in all you do upon this earth.

Embrace that essence. Return to it.

Recover that which is truly yours.

Forgiveness and Embrace

Yom Kippur is a day of forgiveness for those who return.

But then, every day is a day of forgiveness for those who return.

Yet Yom Kippur is an entirely different story. 

Because on any other day when a soul returns, her misdeeds are discarded.

On Yom Kippur, when a soul returns, she is held in tight embrace. 

Within the fire of that embrace, there never were any misdeeds.

יין מלכות, ספר המדע סימן לג

Time Machine

If you could travel back in time, what would you change?

Perhaps you could revisit some crucial scenes and distance yourself from the mess that occurred. Perhaps you could jump in as a hero and grab credit for some of the good.

But for that, you don’t need a time machine. All you need is to stand right where you are and say, “I messed up. I dropped the ball. But I learned my lesson and now I will do things differently.”

You will change yourself. You will change your past. You will say, “I am no longer that person who lived in that past.”

In fact, you do have a time machine.

A Leap of Failure

Everything in life is a step forward; everything has meaning. It’s just that there are two ways to move forward: Walking and leaping.

When you walk, you leave one foot in its place as the other moves ahead. You’re secure, you’re stable—and you never leave your comfort zone.

So sometimes you need to leap. But to do that, you need to first crouch down.

That’s the true meaning of failure: It is the crouch before the jump, the breakaway from the past so that you can leap into the future, an opportunity to do something totally unexpected.

Failure lets you go where your footsteps could never take you.

Divine Delights

G‑d has many delights:

The delight that comes from a pure and simple act of love.

Greater than that, the delight that comes from an act of beauty sparkling in the darkness.

Greater than that, the delight when a child who has run away from Him returns with all her heart.

All the world was formed from G‑d’s delight. There is nothing else.

Self-Pity

Self-pity is nothing less than an impulse to self-destruction. And this is its script:

“This is the way you were made. These are the facts of your situation. It’s bad. In fact, it’s so bad, it’s impossible to do anything about it. And therefore, you are free from any responsibility to clean it up. Nobody can blame you for anything.”

Self-pity is a liar and a thief.

A liar, because everyone is granted the power to clean up their own mess. A thief, because as long as it sits inside you, it is stealing away the days of your life.

Time Travel

To change the past, there is no need to travel in a time machine. Everything can be done by remote control.

Here’s how it works: From beyond the continuum of time, its Creator looks at where your spaceship is heading right now. From that point, He creates all its trajectory—through the future and through the past.

Switch the direction your past is sending you. Soon enough, it becomes a different past.

Maamar Padah B’Shalom 5738.

Take the High Road

Two rivers take you home: One flows with bitter tears of remorse,
the other with sweet tears of joy.

For most of time, the principal path of travel was the bitter one. Only once soaked in those bitter waters could you rise to embrace your G‑d with joy.

But now we have experienced more than our fill of pain. That which our people suffered in lands across the ocean has purged every stain, bleached every garment of our souls, refined us and lifted us high.

We have cried enough bitter tears. Now is time to return with joy.

Maamar Margalia B’Fuma D’Rabba 5746. Blessing on Erev Yom Kippur 5750.

The Ultimate Delight

What is G‑d’s ultimate delight?

That a human soul will build portals of light so that the Creator’s presence may shine into His creation.

That a breath from His essence will pull herself out from the mud and turn to Him in love.

That a child of His being, exiled to the shadows of a physical world, will discover that the darkness is nothing more than Father hiding, waiting for His child to discover Him there.

But none of these can reach to the essence of all delights, the origin of all things, the hidden pleasure beyond all pleasures: The delight that this breath, this soul, this child did it all on its own.

Getting Personal

When does a relationship become real? Once it has broken down.

As long as each fulfills the other’s expectations, there is no relationship, only a contract and its transactions. Once trust is breached, a new depth must enter: The depth of the human being.

If there is truly a relationship—if it is the person inside that matters—then there is a search for forgiveness, for return, and for healing.

So it was that within forty days of entering into a contract with the One Above, the children of Israel broke the deal. And the soul below and the One Above discovered they could not part from one another.

Likkutei Sichot, vol. 4, p. 1151.

Hit the Road

Getting to where you need to be is an important step.

But nothing is as important as getting out of where you’re at right now.

G‑d’s Fishing Net

The soul emerges from her intimate bond with G‑d and invests herself within a human form, wrapped up in the transient concerns and pain of the flesh. Yet the imprint of that bond is never erased.

It is that bond that pulls her incessantly to return, like a magnet pulled towards its lost other half. All the searching of the human soul is an outward expression of this dynamic, this thirst to return.

Yet, as innate as this yearning may be, it must nevertheless be awakened. To thirst for closeness, the soul must first realize she is distant.

That is why return in all its strength and passion is found in the soul which has wandered far from her true self—and then awakened to recognize she is lost.

There is great bounty to be found in this journey. For the soul is G‑d’s fishing net. In her desperation to reunite with Him, she finds G‑d in every corner of His world. And so, these too are pulled in.

And the deeper the descent, the greater the treasure.

Even Better

Every soul begins its journey as pure, lucid light. But once she enters this world, she may fall.

Even had the soul remained pure, the descent would still have been worthwhile. All the more so now that she has fallen.

True, she was meant to confine herself to the permissible; she would have enlightened that realm of the world, healed it and carried it upward.

But now that she has fallen, let her return to her true, inner self, and in doing so she will transform to light that which a pure soul would never have touched.