Synopsis of a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, from Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (volume #4), translated and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Goldberg, via CrownHeights.Info.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe said in this talk:
1. There is an argument in the Talmud regarding the atonement for our sins on Yom Kippur:
Opinion #1): The Rabanan (Rabbis) say that Yom Kippur only atones for those who do Teshuvah (repent).
Opinion #2): Rebbi says that even if did not do Teshuvah Yom Kippur atones for him, because “the day itself atones for him – Etzoomay Shel Yom Michaper”.
The Halachah (law) follows the opinion of the Rabbis .
2. The Rebbe now explains this argument:
The Rabbis, who hold that one must repent in order to be forgiven, are not arguing that “the day itself atones for him”; the Rabbis just say that in order to tap into this great level of “the day itself atoning for you”, you must do Teshuvah. And Rebbi holds you don’t have to do anything for “the day itself to atone for you”, you are automatically tapped into this great level.
In other words, both the Rabbis and Rebbi agree that “the day itself atones for you”, they only differ in how one reaches this level; the Rabbis hold that you must repent and then you are granted this great atonement which you would not be able to reach if it were not Yom Kippur, and Rebbi holds you don’t have to do anything to be given this great level of atonement.
3. The Rebbe now begins discussing the concept of atonement:
Atonement does not only mean that a person is not punished for the sins he committed; atonement means that any damage that one may have done to his Soul is now fixed and any “dirt” which the Soul may have collected because of the sin is now washed away .
4. The Rebbe now takes the meaning of atonement a step further:
We can even go a step further and say that atonement means that ones previous sins are actually now considered merits !
5. The Rebbe now discusses the logic behind the atonement discussed in number 3 (sins being washed away):
When a person regrets what he did and feels bitter about it, he tears away the passion with which he did the sin and puts it into Holiness. Therefore, through this repentance of feeling bitter, his Soul is now cleansed from any “dirt” it may have incurred from the sin .
6. The Rebbe now discusses the logic behind the atonement discussed in number 4 (sins being considered merits):
Since this feeling of regret and bitterness about the sin brought this person to have a thirst for Hashem, the sin can now be considered as a merit for the person .
7. The Rebbe now asks a question based on the abovementioned logic:
Question: If the reason why one is forgiven and cleaned from his sins is because he had regret and was bitter about it, how can the day of Yom Kippur atone for him? He did not remove the passion of the sin and he did not have a great craving to be closer to Hashem!
8. The Rebbe now answers the question through discussing and analyzing the connection of a Jew and the one above:
There are three levels/types of connection between a Jew and Hashem:
1): The first level of connection is a revealed connection where a Jew connects to Hashem through doing His Mitzvos (Commandments) and accepting the yoke of Heaven upon himself.
2): The second level of connection is the inner connection which a Jew has with Hashem, and this is higher and deeper then the first level of connection.
This inner connection expresses itself when a Jew goes against the will of Hashem (Heaven forbid) and throws off His yoke; when this bothers him and tears him apart, we see that his connection to Hashem is not only because he was fulfilling Hashem’s Commandments, it is even when he went against Hashem’s rules.
And because of this inner connection, a Jew has the strength to fix any damage done to the lower type of connection, the revealed connection of fulfilling the Mitzvos, through Teshuvah .
However, this inner connection is still limited because the connection is measured by the amount of Teshuvah the Jew does.
3): The third level of connection is where the essence and core (Etzem) of a Jew is one with Hashem’s essence (Etzem).
This level of connection is above any limitation and cannot be expressed in any way; even Teshuvah does not express this deep connection. Now, since this level of connection is above any limitation, it cannot be made by a Jew’s work, because a person is limited. And just like it cannot be made, it cannot be destroyed; this level of connection is so deeply rooted in the Jewish Soul that nothing can alter this connection, even sins do not damage this level.
9. The Rebbe now answers our question based on this information:
Now we can understand how “the day itself atones for the person”: On the day of Yom Kippur the third level of connection between a Jew and Hashem is revealed; the level where Hashem and the Yidin (the Jewish people) are one is revealed. And because sins do not reach this level and do not damage this level in any way, when this level is revealed a Jew is totally clean because at this level there was never sin to begin with!
Now we can fully understand the argument in the Talmud between the Rabbis and Rebbi:
The Rabbis hold that one must do Teshuvah in order to be a vessel to receive the great level of “the day itself atoning”- the revelation of Hashem’s core and the Jewish people’s core being one, and Rebbi holds that the level of “the day itself atoning”, the revelation of Hashem’s core and the Jewish people’s core being one, shines on you whether you did Teshuvah or not and you are completely forgiven.
10. The Rebbe now adds that based on all of the above we can understand something else:
The Torah tells us that when the Kohen Gadol (the High Priest) went into the Kodesh Hakadashim (the Holy of Holies) no one else was allowed to be there. The Jerusalemite Talmud explains that even the Holiest of Angels could not be there when the Kohen Gadol did the Service.
According to the abovementioned explanation of Yom Kippur we can understand why the Kodesh Hakadashim was so Holy when the Kohen Gadol did the service that even the Holiest of Angels could not handle this great energy:
As we said earlier, the day of Yom Kippur reveals the deepest connection between Hashem and the Yidin, the level where Hashem and the Yidin are one (Atzmoos). Now, since no other being has this high of a connection with Hashem, they cannot handle this level and must leave the Kodesh Hakadashim.
11. The Rebbe now explains how we have the Service of the Kohen Gadol nowadays:
Just like the level of Hashem and the Yidin being one expressed itself when the Kohen Gadol went into the Kodesh Hakadashim and did the Service, we have something nowadays which expresses this level of connection:
Unlike any other day of the year, we Daven (pray) five Tefilos (prayers) on Yom Kippur: 1) The Mariv (evening) service on the first night of Yom Kippur.
2) The Shacharis (morning) service the next morning.
3) The Musaf (additional ) service.
4) The Mincha (afternoon) service.
5) The Ne’ilah service just before Yom Kippur ends.
These five Tefilos (prayers) correspond to the five levels of a person’s Soul:
1) Nefesh. 2) Ruach. 3) Neshamah. 4) Chaya. 5) Yechidah.
Now, we see from this that the Ne’ilah service corresponds to the highest level of a Jewish person’s Soul- Yechidah. This makes perfect sense because:
The literal meaning of the word “Ne’ilah” is “closed” and the simple meaning of this is that we are now closing off Yom Kippur with the last prayer. However, the deeper meaning of “Ne’ilah” is that all gates and doors are closed and no one can enter, only a Jew and Hashem can be here now because at this level the unity of Hashem and the Yidin is revealed.
12. The Rebbe now explains that generally speaking this level of unity permeates the whole day of Yom Kippur:
The actual wording used to describe the prayers on Yom Kippur is, “The day that has the obligation of five prayers”, so we see that the whole day is permeated with all five prayers, including the fifth prayer of Ne’liah, the prayer when the unity of Hashem and the Yidin is revealed.
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