Yom Kippur: Bigdei Kodesh

5778. The New Year.  Out with the old, in with the new.  We have wished each other a shana tova; we have davened for ourselves, for our families, for our people, for our land, may we all be inscribed and sealed for a gut gebentched yuhr; we have beseeched the Almighty for a year that is only sweet and always good.  While the verdict has been written, it has not yet been sealed. 

On these holy days of the year, on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we declare with complete and perfect faith that תְשׁוּבָה תְפִלָּה וּצְדָקָה, repentance, prayer and charity מַעֲבִירִין אֶת רֹעַ הַגְּזֵרָה, erase the evil decree

Through repentance, we have the power to erase past deeds, turn misdeeds into merits, change the people that we are, and receive a clean slate for the new year. 

As the Rambam teaches:

אַל יְדַמֶּה בַּעַל תְּשׁוּבָה שְׁהוּא מְרֹחָק מִמַּעֲלַת הַצַּדִּיקִים, מִפְּנֵי הָעֲווֹנוֹת וְהַחַטָּאוֹת שֶׁעָשָׂה.  אֵין הַדָּבָר כֵּן, אֵלָא אָהוּב וְנֶחְמָד הוּא לִפְנֵי הַבּוֹרֵא, וּכְאִלּוּ לֹא חָטָא מֵעוֹלָם; וְלֹא עוֹד אֵלָא שֶׁשְּׂכָרוֹ הַרְבֵּה, שֶׁהֲרֵי טָעַם טַעַם הַחֵטְא וּפֵרַשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ וְכָבַשׁ יִצְרוֹ

A repentant should not consider himself distant from the level of the righteous, because of the sins of his past.  For this is not true!  Rather, the repentant is beloved and dear before Hashem, and it is as if he has never sinned in his life!  And not only that, but his reward is very great, for he is the one who tasted the taste of sin, and distanced himself from it by conquering his evil inclination (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuva 7:4). 

Through charity, we demonstrate to G-d that we are compassionate and giving with others; hence, He will surely be compassionate and giving to us.  As the Sages teach, במדה שאדם מודד בה מודדין לו – the measure (the way in which) man measures others (treats others), so he will be measured (treated) by heaven in turn (Sotah 8b).

And through prayer… through prayer, whose precedent was set and established by our forefathers (Brachos 26b), we come close to G-d, we pour out our hearts before Him, and we stand before Him, pashut – simply as we are, like paupers and beggars knocking at the door (Selichos prayers).

R’ Soloveitchik zt’l was once visited by a student who served in the IDF, who asked the following question: He worked in the tank division and his job was cleaning and maintaining the tanks.  Often, his uniform would get covered in oil and grime.  Did he need to change clothing before reciting the afternoon prayer, since the donning of proper attire is a prerequisite for prayer?  He emphasized that it would be possible to do so, but it would be quite inconvenient and difficult.  The Rav looked at him in amazement and replied, “Why would you need to change?  You are wearing bigdei kodesh, holy clothes!” (Chumash Masores HaRav, Bamidbar, p.245)

This week we lost IDF soldier First Sergeant Avinoam David Cohen, 22, of J’lem, and IDF Lieutenant Avshalom Armoni (a cousin of Naama Henkin HY”D), in a training accident in the Golan Heights, z’l. 

This week we lost border policeman Solomon Gavriyah, 20, and civilian security guard Or Arish, 25, a resident of Har Adar, HY”D, as well as civilian security guard Youssef Ottman, 25, from Abu Ghosh, may his memory be for a blessing, in a shooting attack at Har Adar. 

In their bigdei kodesh, their holy clothing, they fell while serving our people and our Land. 

וַיָּבֹא֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם לִסְפֹּ֥ד לְשָׂרָ֖ה וְלִבְכֹּתָֽהּ…

With grief and tears, with shock and unspeakable pain, Avinoam David Cohen’s family eulogized him. 

His father, Shimon, said: “Today the IDF lost one of its best soldiers, a commander in the Israel Defense Forces. Today, the Jewish People lost a pure soul, between [Rosh Hashanah and] Yom Kippur. For 22 years, we received a gift, and we need to return it – and we have returned it. It hurts, it hurts, it hurts. But we accept it.

“Everyone here, if they can do something small for the smooth passage of his soul, another drop of mitzvah, another drop of tefillin, one Shabbat, two Shabbatot. And whoever is secular – it doesn’t matter, take something upon yourself. I think he would be very happy.”

His brother, Sagi, said: “The Torah that you have learned touched you deeply, you have risen in a chariot of fire to heaven, without suffering, on the holy days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. You leave us with the forces of your soul. May they always remain.”

The ways of Hashem are hidden from us, the pain of our people remains ever-present, the fate of our nation is one we cannot escape.

And yet, it is a destiny we embrace, a nation we are proud of, and a Torah we cling to, for it is our life and the length of our days. 

And all the while, we pray for mercy, like paupers begging at the door.

My grandfather, Yitzchak ben Moshe a’h, wrote in his Holocaust memoirs, “Yom Kippur (in Budzin), when we came from a hard day’s work, we quickly went in to the barracks so that the Ne’ila could still be davened with a minyan, yet for us heaven was closed.  However, all of us together vigorously pleaded for help.”

May Hashem’s infinite, boundless, all-encompassing Mercy be aroused this Yom Kippur, as we are written, inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.  May it be a year that is always good and only sweet, for our entire nation and our holy Land. 

בברכת גמר וחתימה טובה,


  • vicky klipper
    Posted at 11:15h, 28 September

    Amen, Amen. Thank you for your uplifting messages, and your very delicious recipes. Gmar Chatima Tova.

  • vicky klipper
    Posted at 11:18h, 28 September

    Amen,Amen. Thank you for your uplifting messages, and for your recipes.

  • Shirley Schulman
    Posted at 19:48h, 28 September

    Thank you for your beautiful words.
    Your thoughts inspire me and all the people that read them.
    Have a easy fast and a happy