Yom Kippur 2018: You Should’ve Been There
Yom Kippur is the pinnacle of the high holidays. A time when we completely submerge ourselves in a full day of prayers to Hashem. We reflect on the previous year and take ownership for our sins. We invest our every fiber in begging for His forgiveness and express our embarrassment and remorse. To show an additional level of sincerity, we refrain from various “pleasures” during the holiday. We don’t eat, drink, bathe, don leather footwear, anoint ourselves, or have marital relations. All this in an effort to earn Hashem’s mercy before He seals His judgement of us.
On Yom Kippur afternoon during the Mincha service we read from the Torah and then follow the reading with a haftorah. A haftorah is a section of scripture pertaining to the preceding Torah portion. This haftorah during mincha is very appropriate as it’s a story about teshuva (repentance).
The story of Yona (Jonah) is well known. Briefly, the story goes as follows: Hashem came to Yona to have him warn the people in the city of Ninveh of their impending destruction if they did not repent and correct their ways. Yona tried to run away and hide from Hashem’s request. He chartered a boat and set out in the opposite direction of Ninveh in an attempt to flee from Hashem. When torrential storms threatened to capsize the boat, the crew drew lots to see who was responsible. Of course, Yona’s name came up, he confessed that he had been fleeing from his G-d. Yona advised them to just throw him overboard to which they reluctantly obliged. He was then swallowed by a massive whale (or fish). He spent three days in its belly davening to Hashem and asking for forgiveness and to be given another chance to fulfilI His word. The fish spat out Yona and he carried out Hashem’s wish and the people of Ninveh repented successfully.
As entertaining as it truly is, what lesson might you think should be learned from this story? Perhaps the lesson of teshuva and its importance. Or maybe the fact that nobody can actually “run away” from Hashem.
In truth there is one lesson, in my opinion that really does justice to the whole story and puts a very meaningful spin on the Yom Tov of Yom Kippur.
When the ship Yona was aboard was on the brink of capsizing and threatening to take the crew with it, Yona understood without the slightest doubt HE was the reason. He knew that it was because HE tried to escape from Hashem that he and everyone on board were going to perish as a result. He looked at the situation and did not blame anyone else, instead he recognized and acknowledged HIS culpability.
Have you ever attended a class or a lecture where at the end you or your friend said, “Wow, that was great! I wish So-and-So was here they really needed to hear that.” Often, we look at a situation and immediately remove ourselves or see someone else as the problem. We are quick to find other people's flaws and focus on them. When we should actually be focused on ourselves.
Yet we are taught that every experience we have or even just hear about has some kind of lesson embedded in it for us to learn from. We need to understand clearly, that Hashem wanted US to be in that class or lecture so that WE could hear the message and for US to make a positive change.
Yom Kippur is the happiest day of the year because after all our heartfelt prayers and after all our fasting and our effort to show Hashem how sorry we are, He wipes away our misdeeds and forgives us as if they never happened. This brings with it a fresh new start and true happiness!
G’mar Chasima Tovah!
Have a wonderful Yom Tov and an easy and meaningful fast!
Maverick V. Peters