Yom Kippur often falls in October, in the midst of the major league playoffs. Those of us with good memories, or simply avid baseball fans, go back several decades when in 1966, the opening game of the World Series fell on Yom Kippur. The Dodgers were playing the Twins. Anyone who knows anything about baseball does not need to be explained about how important it is to win the opening game of the Series. Naturally, the Dodgers turned to their ace, Sandy Koufax, and asked him to pitch.

Mr. Koufax, by his own admission, was far from a devout Jew. Yet he was a Jew. Yes, he owed a certain loyalty to his team and he had his own personal ambitions and goals. But to pitch Yom Kippur — he just didn’t see how that was possible!

There is something special about the day. It lifts us beyond our ordinary experience and puts us into contact with our fundamental Jewish identity. Confronted with such a realization, even when it meant making a professional sacrifice of the highest order, Sandy Koufax refused to pitch.

The point, however, is not to leave Yom Kippur as one special day, an isolated experience, but to relate it to our conduct throughout the year. That same awareness should continue at all times, sparking greater spiritual consciousness.

Yom Kippur

Our Yom Kippur prayers relate that in the Temple, the High Priest would pronounce G‑d’s Name י-ה-ו-ה on several occasions during that holy day. When the people heard the Name pronounced, they responded instinctively: “They would bow, bend the knee, fall on their faces and exclaim: ‘Blessed be the name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever.’”

In Chassidic thought, it is explained that this was not a conscious act of subjugation. Instead, it was a spontaneous spiritual reaction. As the holiness evoked by G‑d’s name encompassed them, they could not stand erect; they had to bow their heads. As the impression grew more powerful, they sunk to their knees. Ultimately, the holiness overwhelmed them entirely until they could do nothing but fall on their faces. The revelation was so powerful that it overcame all vestiges of their selfhood and they had no power to raise a limb.

This, however, raises a question. Why did they exclaim: “Blessed be the name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever?” In Chassidic thought, it is explained that when we recite the Shema each day, we affirm G‑d’s unity in two different ways. When we recite the verse Shema, “Hear O Israel, G‑d is the L‑rd, G‑d is one,” we express G‑d’s unity from His perspective; how He is the totality of all existence and every being is merely an extension of Him. From that perspective, no other entity has any individual importance, for everything is subsumed in His oneness.

“Blessed be the name of His glorious Kingdom,” by contrast, refers to a relationship between subjects and their King. A subject recognizes the king’s mastery, but yet retains his awareness of self. On the contrary, precisely that is the core of the relationship he shares with a king. For when a person exists alone, no matter how great he is, it is not appropriate to call him a king. When does he receive that title? When his authority is accepted by other men who are on a much lower level and yet they acknowledge him as their ruler.

Similarly, in the spiritual parallel, from the perspective of G‑d’s consummate oneness, it is not appropriate to speak of His Kingship. On that level, there is nothing else that feels its own selfhood. “Blessed be the name of His glorious Kingdom,” by contrast, proclaims that even on the level where there appears to be something else and we feel ourselves as significant entities, we accept His authority and relate to Him as King.

Why then on Yom Kippur, when the pronouncement of G‑d’s Name made His oneness manifest to the point where the people could not raise a limb, did they recite “Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom?” Seemingly, at that time, it would have been appropriate for them to proclaim Shema Yisrael andto show how His oneness resonated throughout their beings.

The resolution of this question focuses on man’s fundamental purpose — to be G‑d’s partner in creation. This implies not merely echoing the statement of G‑d’s oneness, but to realize it within the nitty-gritty of our day-to-day existence. Within the realm of activities that involve us and get us excited - what happens in our homes, our workplaces, and our social environments — we should realize that is G‑d who is controlling this realm as well.

That is why saying “Blessed is the name of His glorious Kingdom” is so important. Were we only to say Shema, we would know about G‑d’s oneness in His terms. And we could even appreciate His oneness as we pray and as we study; we could not, however, understand His oneness in our world, in the realm of mundane activity and worldly matters. Saying “Blessed be the name of His glorious Kingdom” proclaims that even such realms are one with Him.

Looking to the Horizon

It is in the era of Mashiach, we will see the fusion of both expressions of G‑d’s unity. The transcendent oneness communicated by the Shema will be revealed, but it will permeate our operative consciousness, even those mundane and worldly dimensions of our experience that are alluded to by the expression: “Blessed be the name of His glorious Kingdom.”

Indeed, it is in that era that G‑d’s Kingship will be revealed to the ultimate degree. For Mashiach’s kingship will be an expression of G‑d’s Kingship. He will imbue every element of being with the realization that it exists for the purpose of manifesting G‑dly truth. Nevertheless, that G‑dly truth will not remain abstract and ethereal, but will penetrate every dimension of our existence, even those that deal with everyday matters.