1. The day of Erev Yom Kippur has a special nature, as alluded to in Torah: “From the ninth of the month,” (Vayikra 23:32) and as discussed in the Oral Tradition and enumerated in Shulchan Aruch. The theme of Erev Yom Kippur is further elaborated in homiletic sources, as well as in the esoteric teachings of Torah and especially in Chabad Chassidic philosophy.

First, the nature and theme of Yom Kippur itself is expressed in the term “once each year (the one unique day of the year)” (Shmos 30:10), which symbolizes the Divine service of the Yechidah level, the essence of the soul, which is the “one and unique” aspect of the soul. Chassidus explains that on Yom Kippur we have five services of worship (we pray five times), reflecting the five levels of the soul as they are all encompassed in the level of Yechidah.

At the same time, on Yom Kippur, “the essence of the day brings atonement,” (see Rambam, Laws of Teshuvah 1:3-4) because on that day there is a revelation of the supernal essence (Unique One).

This Divine service of the Yechidah level actually begins on Erev Yom Kippur. Being called Erev Yom Kippur indicates that it introduces the aspects of Yom Kippur. We may draw an analogy from Shabbos in relation to which the Talmud states:

He who took trouble to prepare on the eve of the Shabbos can eat on the Shabbos. (Avodah Zarah 3a)

Thus, the ability to eat on Shabbos depends on the involvement and preparation of the day before.

The preparatory role of the ninth of Tishrei will also explain the Talmudic dictum:

“And you shall afflict your souls in the ninth [day of the month] at evening” (Vayikra 23:32)...it comes to indicate that, if one eats and drinks on the ninth, Scripture accounts it to him as if he had fasted on the ninth and the tenth. (Yoma 81b)

Actually there are two opposing elements in this. In reality one must eat and drink on the ninth of Tishrei, yet it is given the quality of a day of fasting. In a similar vein, and on an esoteric level, the day of Yom Kippur itself must also have both aspects, eating and fasting. (The eating, however, is done on the ninth, for Yom Kippur.)

Symbolically, these two functions of eating and fasting — represent the approach of positive action, “do good,” and negative action, “depart from evil.” Each approach normally incorporates unique qualities which enhance the other. On Yom Kippur and Erev Yom Kippur both of these approaches, with their individual properties, are unitedasone.

This would indicate that Erev Yom Kippur has an aspect which supersedes even Yom Kippur, because the initiation of this unity of fasting and eating begins on Erev Yom Kippur. Knowing this, we must also realize that G‑d gives us the power to utilize our potential and capitalize on all these special forces.

Yom Kippur also emphasizes an intriguing concept. By imposing the rules of fasting and other bodily discomforts, Yom Kippur shows the importance of Jewish physicality. This is truly an expression of the superseding influence of Yechidah, for only the Yechidah level has the power to combine all the levels of the soul and to equate the highest with the lowest — so that the lowly, mundane acts of not eating and drinking attain primary importance. Thus, on the “holiest day” the Jewish people are seen as the “Holy Nation,” through raising the physical, by observing the restrictions of not eating, drinking, etc., and by putting the body on the pedestal of being a “holy body.”

This characteristic of Yom Kippur stands out on Erev Yom Kippur as a form of preparation to Yom Kippur. Why must we eat and drink on Erev Yom Kippur? The Shulchan Aruch rules:

In order to fast on the tenth of Tishrei...they must eat and drink on the ninth so that the fast will not harm them. (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Orach Chayim, ch. 604)

This means that although you know that by fasting you fulfill G‑d’s command, and that your fasting will bring life, nevertheless, since the fasting might cause undo hardship to the body, we make sure to eliminate the possible problems by eating and drinking when it is permitted, in preparation for the fast. This preparatory act is so important that it is not only suggested, but it becomes a mitzvah, with the many rules and details pertaining to eating on Erev Yom Kippur.

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2. In addition to the general theme of Erev Yom Kippur as explained above, this year brings several unique aspects connected to Erev Yom Kippur based on the day of the week, the Torah portion and also the section of Rambam which we study today.

Being Tuesday, this day has the double blessing of “that it was good,” which our sages explain to mean, “good to heaven and good to man” (Kiddushin 40a). This means that every act initiated on this day combines both aspects of goodness, for heaven and for man — a form of unity of “heaven” and “creation.” It is the loftier three-fold revelation of the aspect of Yechidah — which supersedes the chasm between heaven and earth and thereby unites G‑d and man. In such a case the essence of Yom Kippur, which brings atonement, is further accentuated, because in the realm of time the day which initiated the force of Yom Kippur was Tuesday, the doubly-blessed day.

In practice this also gives us instruction. We must likewise strive to unite “heaven” with “creatures.” If we are involved in an act which is “good for heaven” let us not ignore the earth. In the loftiest stages of prayer we must not eliminate the material connection. And then, when we are involved in an act which is “good for man,” tie it to the heavens.

In the precept of tzedakah we actually find both of these extremes. We use money, which is seen as a most mundane object, referred to as the “property at their feet” (Devarim 11:6); yet, it is this money which “stands a person on his feet.” (Rashi, loc. cit.)

There is another aspect of charity which needs some clarification. Our sages tell us:

If one loses a selah (a coin) and a pauper finds it and gains sustenance from it, the loser gains the reward for tzedakah. “When you give sustenance to the mendicant...I will reward you with life for life.” (Sifri, Devarim 24:19; Tanchuma, Shmos 15)

This is just about the lowest and cheapest form of charity. Every mitzvah requires thought, speech and action — here it was even outside his thought. He didn’t know that he lost the money and he was unaware that a poor person found it. The mitzvah occurred outside his realm of knowledge — and certainly there was no action here — the money fell out of his pocket! Nevertheless, the nature of tzedakah is such that if your money eventually gave life to a needy person you receive the reward of “life.”

What is the explanation? The mitzvah of tzedakah reaches the level of the “source of life.” As the Gemara expresses it:

May He who grants life to all who live, grant you a long, happy and right life. (Yoma 71a)

It goes even further, to the essential reality and existence of the Holy One, Blessed be He, which is a state even higher than knowledge!

By virtue of this loftiness it also descends to the lowest level, below knowledge. Therefore even if one inadvertently loses money and it ends up helping the needy he has a mitzvah.

What lesson do we glean from the setting of Yom Kippur in the week of Haazinu? The term “Haazinu — listen” indicates that the listener is close to the source of the sound, while “Vetish-ma — hear” indicates a greater distance. In broad application this distinction may be compared to seeing and hearing. Seeing and on-site verification is only possible from close up, while you may hear about something from a distance.

When one reads Haazinu the implication is that the Jew is given the power to bring that distant “hearing” up close — and truly “see” the heavens in a manner of verification. In the Ten Days of Repentance we are close to G‑d; when we read Haazinu during the Ten Days of Repentance the closeness is even more intense.

All this is connected to Yom Kippur. True reality of G‑dliness will be “seen” in the future, when,

And the glory of the L‑rd shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it.... (Yeshayahu 40:5)

Chassidus tells us that something similar was experienced at Matan Torah and again on Yom Kippur, when we received the second tablets. Thus, Yom Kippur, too, carries that power of the closeness and the visual verification of Matan Torah.

In today’s Chumash study portion we find the verse:

He carried them over the earth’s highest places, to feast on the crops of the field. He let them suckle honey from the bedrock, out from the flinty cliff. (Devarim 32:13)

Being carried over the “highest places” of the earth points to an act of connecting heaven and earth. Since G‑d Himself is directing this action, it most certainly rises to the highest point and effects a unity of “heaven” and “creatures” — the lowest corporeality with the loftiest spirit of spirituality.

This is the nature of Yom Kippur. The Jew stands in his physical existence and at the same time is compared to an angel (by not eating, etc.). Similarly, the oil and honey symbolize the secrets of Torah, the loftiest esoteric levels and it is drawn down to the simplest form — corporeal honey and oil.

3. There is an interesting connection between Rambam and Yom Kippur. Of the Rambam our Rabbis have said, “From Moshe to Moshe none has risen like Moshe.” The source of this approbation is of course the Rambam’s magnum opus, which he called Mishnah Torah. Just as the Torah was given to us by Moshe — so was Mishnah Torah given to us by Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon. And since Yom Kippur commemorates the giving of the second tablets, which were given to us mainly as a result of Moshe’s prayers, pleas and actions, we can see a parallel between Yom Kippur and the Rambam’s works. The forgiveness of Yom Kippur also depended on Moshe’s intercession, as G‑d said to him, “I have forgiven them as you have requested.” (Shmos 33:11)

This year there is an additional connection between Yom Kippur and Rambam in that we study the section of Mishnah Torah dealing with the Laws of Yom Kippur and we will see that in the first halachah of each of the three chapters in today’s study section the Rambam teaches us the underlying nature and theme of Yom Kippur.

In the first chapter of Laws of Yom Kippur the Rambam enumerates all the sacrifices brought on Yom Kippur and says:

Thus we find that on this day all the animals sacrificed totaled 15. (Laws of Yom Kippur 1:1)

Since the Rambam was careful to be clear and concise in his language, it seems strange that he would put in the word “all the animals.” Having named all the offerings, we know they were all animals — here he could have sufficed by saying “all the sacrifices totaled 15?”

However, here we see the Rambam’s inference that Yom Kippur brings a unity of the loftiest and the nethermost.

On Yom Kippur we effect: “Before G‑d (Havayah) you will be cleansed of all your sins.” (Vayikra 16:30)

The Chassidic interpretation of this principle is that the atonement emerges beforeHavayah, from the first part of the Tetragrammaton, the letters “Yud” and “Hey” — which add up to the numerical value of 15! This esoteric and supernal 15, from the essence of the Tetragrammaton is drawn down to the lowest state of 15 animals — for when the salvation comes from Havayah, then:

Man and beast You deliver, O L‑rd, (Tehillim 36:7)

man and beast are equalized.

In the second chapter of Laws of Yom Kippur we find:

All the regular sacrifices were done on this day by the Kohen Gadol. (Laws of Yom Kippur 2:1)

This day being the holiest day of the year, it is only appropriate that the Kohen designated to be the holiest among men should perform all of the regular functions in the Bais HaMikdash on that day.

Thus, too, in every individual, on Yom Kippur even those aspects of Divine service and worship which are done habitually should be carried out by the soul level of Yechidah.

Consequently, the second chapter adds this thought: We convert 15 animals to 15 sacrifices and we raise them to the esoteric source of “15”; all this must be done exclusively by the “Kohen Godol,” who stands on the level of Holy of Holies.

Now, the third chapter of Yom Kippur Laws will introduce another immeasurably higher concept to the first two chapters. Here the Rambam writes:

There were two lottery chips — on one of them was written “LeHashem” (For the L‑rd), and on the other, etc. (Ibid 3:1)

A lottery is outside the realm of human knowledge; we cannot know the result in advance. There is a parallel here to the case of tzedakah discussed earlier; beyond knowledge (pg. 5). Here the service of Yom Kippur diverges from all other sacrifices. Normally a sacrifice needed human thought, it must be intentionally and knowingly designated as “holy.” The actual offering of the animal must also be with the positive knowledge and dedication of the owner.

On Yom Kippur, however, the “one unique day of the year,” we find a sacrifice which is chosen and designated without human knowledge — through a lottery — and G‑d decides its fate.

Whereas in the first two chapters of the Laws of Yom Kippur the Rambam showed us how a Jew can rise higher in his Divine service and raise his world with him to the point that he attains the level of Levi, and Kohen, and even KohenGadol in his G‑dly worship, now the Rambam informs us that there is a loftier state, beyond description, more than the Holy of Holies; it is the lottery. At this point one must reach complete subservience to G‑d’s will and complete self-nullification of the individual. Even if he had previously attained the level of Kohen Godol he now rises above all human knowledge!

Some uncertainty remains. Why did they need the second lot (chip) which was not for the name of G‑d, but went to Azazel. We are dealing with “Your people,” “who are all righteous,” after Elul, the month of repentance, and after Selichos, Rosh Hashanah and the Ten Days of Repentance. It would be more appropriate to deal with a level of bringing the “righteous to repentance,” (the level of true Tzaddikim). Is there room in such a state and at such a time for a second lot (chip) that is not dedicated to G‑d?

We are therefore forced to say that in fact the second lot also refers to a level of holiness. How? Let us first examine a strange concept regarding the times of Mashiach. In counting the mitzvos of the Torah the Rambam states the rule that we do not include those mitzvos which will not apply in the future. This raises the question, if, when Mashiach comes the world will be all good, pure, holy, true and correct, etc., then why the need for all the negative commandments (then and now). The answer is that when Torah speaks of “turning from evil,” its intention is really the state of holiness and goodness which emerges from converting the evil to good. Hence, when we list the negative commandments we are really dealing with greater levels of good. As the Baal Shem Tov interpreted: “turn the evilinto good”; first, abstention and then, conversion of the bad to good. In fact, this creates a whole new category of “good deeds” — even higher and more plentiful than the original positive commandments.

In this context we may understand the two lots of Yom Kippur. Having completed the repentance of Elul and the lofty accomplishments of Rosh Hashanah, when G‑d was crowned as King, and having reached up to the essence of G‑dliness, when we now come to the two lots of Yom Kippur, we see them in the framework of the positive and negative commandments, as they will be in the time of Mashiach, two paths in the realm of holiness.

This was the difference between Bais Hillel and Bais Shammai, the positive route of kindness, and the restrictive route of severity — but both in the realm of holiness! And on Yom Kippur when the Kohen Gadol chose the two lots he, in effect, united these two approaches; just as the two approaches appear side by side in Torah as they emerge from the infinite essence of G‑d’s existence.

In the galus every Jew has the potential to carry out the function of Kohen Gadol. As the Prophet tells us: “So we will offer the words of our lips instead of calves.” (Hoshea 14:3)

We can effect this substitution when we devote ourselves to serve G‑d with our “lips” and other physical powers — then we will create the 15 spiritual powers corresponding to the 15 animals.

This action will provide a preparatory action for the promise, “Arise and sing ye who dwell in the dust.” (Yeshayahu 26:19) Then Aharon and Moshe will rise “with the Kohanim in their service, the Levites on their stages, the Israelites at their stations.” All together in the Third Bais HaMikdash, in our Holy Land where:

The eyes of G‑d your L‑rd are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year. (Devarim 11:12)

With the complete Jewish nation, “our youth and elders...sons and daughters.”

All of them will be in a condition of “a great company shall return there.” The Yechidah will be revealed and permeate the individuals.

Mashiach who is the general soul of Yechidah of the Jewish people will accomplish this and he will reveal the Yechidah in every individual Jew.

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4. The ultimate redemption will be complete when the Jewish people receive all their material needs in a manner of perfection. The Rambam states that in the times of Mashiach the Jewish people will benefit from perfect comfort so that they will be able to devote all their time to Torah. As we see in Tehillim:

And gave them the lands of the nations ...that they might observe His statutes and keep His Laws. (Tehillim 105:44-45)

While we are still in exile we also need all the physical comforts, so that we will be able to accomplish our responsibilities in our Divine service. This is the primary purpose of all the promises of material reward in Torah, that we will have the time, ability and peace of mind to fulfill our G‑dly mission.

On Rosh Hashanah the blessings are bestowed in a general fashion and during the Ten Days of Repentance we have to fill in the details. All the blessings of G‑d begin with letters of the alphabet, and they are engendered and extended by the blessings and benedictions bestowed by one Jew on another — especially when we stand, as the Kohen Gadol did on Yom Kippur and blessed the people with the Ineffable Name. This is certainly effective when it is pronounced by the community in a synagogue.

As the agent of the community I will now pronounce one blessing starting with each letter of the alphabet (in reverse order) — and each one encompasses all the benedictions which begin with that letter.

May it be, and it will be, a year of Teshuvah, which includes a year of Torah and a year of Tefillah — prayer.

A year of happiness and joy, Simchah (rejoicing) and sason (gladness) — so that we will serve G‑d with joy and gladness of heart.

An uplifted (Romemus) year; after being in galus we will be uplifted.

A year in which “I will lead your walking with your headsheldhigh (Komemius),” after having been in galus.

A year of Tzedakah. In addition to our tzedakah, G‑d will give us tzedakah from His full, open, holy and abundant Hand; this will cause all things to be in abundance.

Then automatically it will be a year of Redemption from all matters which confound and disturb. To the state of “redeemed my soul in peace,” which is connected to the liberation through Chassidic teaching, through the Nesi’im of Chabad: the Alter Rebbe, the Mitteler Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, the Rebbe Maharash, the Rebbe Rashab, and the previous Rebbe, the Nasi of our generation; they all revealed the fountains of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings.

This will lead to the peaceful redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

A year of strength (Oz) that every Jew after the galus will stand with great fortitude.

A year of Heavenlyassistance. In addition to our own actions there is assistance from Above.

A year of Miracles, revealed miracles, far beyond nature and even beyond the wonders of the Exodus.

A Lofty year, so that every Jew is carried above the high places of earth and even higher than that.

A year of Study, success in all aspects of Torah study.

This should extend to the point:

To labor in the study of Torah, to strive to make progress in it daily.... (Zohar I, p. 12b)

And it should be commonplace to study and excel in Torah, which will happen when it will also be; the year of AbundantProduce and a year when “we will be forgiven all iniquities.” (Hoshea 14:3) The year of the “UniqueOneoftheworld,” when the Jew reveals in himself with the Yechidah of his soul, that the whole year is dedicated to G‑d.

Then it will automatically be: the goodyear, without restriction or limitations.

The year of Life (chayim) on all levels,

A year of Merits as it says:

The Holy One, Blessed be He, wished to make the Jewish people meritorious; therefore He gave them Torah and mitzvos in abundant measure. (Makkos 23:2)

Each year the Torah is expanded with the new teachings of the assiduous student.

Then it will be a year of gatheringasone, and we will accomplish the indwelling of the unity of G‑d in the diversity of the world.

A year of SplendorandGlory, with “honor and beauty,” for each Jew in a spiritual way, and certainly also materially, which will come about because he takes extra care (hiddur) in his observance of Torah and mitzvos.

The year of Dovid King Mashiach connected to a year of ExuberantJoy, and mainly the year of redemption from all disturbing matters and the ultimate and complete redemption through Dovid, our righteous Mashiach, speedily and truly in our time.

Then we will have the year of understanding:

For the world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the sea. (Yeshayahu 11:9)

And the year of Light — Torah is light which will reveal the source of light in Torah which is connected with the Yechidah of the soul — connected with the essence of G‑d. Then it will be the year of the Master (Alufo) of the world.

These letters reveal all the blessings beginning with all the letters of the Aleph-Bais.

We started from Tav to Aleph, from below upwards. Then all the blessings are drawn down from above, from Aleph to Tav. From the Aleph of Anochi the Alufo of the world. Through Berachah — till Tav, — the goal of all the devolution of the spiritual worlds into the physical heaven and earth, where we will see that “In the beginning G‑d created the heaven and earth,” Divine Providence in every detail, for the world is recreated every moment, ex nihilo, just as it was the first time.

This is the aspect of truth, “the truth of the L‑rd is everlasting” (Tehillim 117:2). The word truth, emes, is the signature of G‑d, for it has the first, last and middle letters of the Aleph-Bais.

Then the truth will be revealed, that Moshe is truth and his Torah is truth — the seal of the Al-mighty G‑d is truth. May it come speedily and truly in our days with joy and glad hearts.

And then we will truly be able to do the commands of G‑d in the Third Bais HaMikdash on the Holy Mount, in Yerushalayim, the Holy City, where:

The eyes of G‑d your L‑rd are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year;

Eretz Yisrael is destined to encompass all the lands in the world. May it come with joy and gladness, speedily in our time, and with a Gemar Chasimah Tovah, so may it be.

Blessing to the Students of Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim

5. G‑d spoke to Moshe, telling him to speak to Aharon and his sons saying:

This is how you must bless the Israelites. Say to them: May G‑d bless you and keep watch over you. May G‑d make His presence enlighten you and grant you grace. May G‑d direct His providence towards you and grant you peace.” [The Kohanim] will thus link My Name with the Israelites and I will bless them. (Bamidbar 6:22-27)

May the Sovereign of the universe help and bring success to each of you among all Israel with all of the blessings spoken of after Minchah. The Talmud tells us that Minchah time is auspicious for:

A man should always take special care about the afternoon prayer. For even Eliyahu was favorably heard only when offering his afternoon prayer. (Berachos 6b)

And this is especially true when the day is a time of special mercy, being Erev Yom Kippur, the ninth of the month, close to Yom Kippur, the “one unique day” of the year.

But even more than the earlier blessings, you should find success in carrying out your unique mission and purpose as yeshivah students, and especially students of Tomchei Temimim, to be “illuminating lights,” in the realm of “a mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light.” (Mishlei 6:23)

Your duties should be carried out with joy and glad hearts, for then they will be “words that stem from the heart will penetrate the heart” and will accomplish their goal. This is particularly true when you show a living example in your action, speech and thought, for a person’s mind is often revealed by his manners and speech.

Of primary importance is diligence in Torah study — revealed and esoteric — with the enthusiasm of “all my bones shall say.” (Tehillim 35:10) For then the knowledge of Torah is protected and blessed. This year being a leap year, it is called a “complete year,” which enables us to accomplish all matters of Divine service in a complete and perfect way.

The concept of a “complete year” (temimah) is connected with the theme of Yeshivah Tomchei Temimim and the students who were called “Temimim” — by the previous Rebbe and the Rebbe Rashab.

This wholeness also applies to the role of “illuminating lights,” to impress upon others with the light of Torah and mitzvos in a way that learning brings action. Your influence on others should start with other yeshivah students and then also include all other Jews: “And all your children shall be learners of the [Torah of life] L‑rd.” (Yeshayahu 54:13) This should include prayer and Torah study and the dissemination of the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside.

It is of these efforts that we are promised, “if you will try you will find,” even more than you had expected. And in this effort the Holy One, Blessed be He, assists you. This is particularly true in the area of G‑d’s Torah, which unites with the person who studies it and thereby he unites with G‑d. Yom Kippur is the anniversary of the second tablets, when G‑d said, “I have forgiven them as you requested.”

In this respect there is the constant upward movement in Torah for scholars and students of the esoteric teachings of Chassidus, as taught by the Previous Rebbe, our Nasi.

All this should be done joyfully as in all aspects of Torah and mitzvos. For “The statutes of the L‑rd are right, rejoicing the heart” (Tehillim 19:9). This joy will burst beyond any restrictions in your diligence and assiduousness in Torah and in loving your neighbor as yourself — the great important rule of Torah. You must be illuminating lights, by increasing your study of Torah, Chassidus and care in the observance of the mitzvos, together with Ahavas Yisrael in a manner of continual increases.

This will speed the fulfillment of the inner and essential blessing — that “everyone of them appears before G‑d in Tzion,” (Tehillim 84:8) the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach. Then “they will all know Me from the smallest to the greatest” (Yirmeyahu 31:33); they will know the essence of G‑dliness.

May we speedily celebrate the Season of Our Rejoicing of 5746 in our Holy Land, with our youth and elders, sons and daughters every Jew gathered and carried to Eretz Yisrael on the clouds of heaven, to the “expanded” Eretz Yisrael, in the Holy City on the Holy Mountain, in Yerushalayim in the Holy Bais HaMikdash.

May this all combine with “A Kesivah VaChasimah Tovah” and a “Gemar Chasimah Tovah,” for a good and sweet year, materially and spiritually and instantly. And may we have light in these last days of galus.

And we will dance with true joy to greet our righteous Mashiach and then, with him we will greet the Shechinah, which will return with us — speedily and truly in our time — to our holy, complete and expanded land.

May G‑d bestow peace in the land now, in the final days of diaspora. Then we will walk with our heads held high, together with our Torah and mitzvos — the Yechidah of our soul with the Yechidah of Torah — the inner, esoteric Torah, with the exoteric Torah, with joy and gladness, in our time, to our Holy Land, Amen, so may it be.