A Drash for Yom Kippur 5772
by Marc Mangel
Today, we get a taste of the world to come – we ignore food and drink, we dress like the angels, and think and talk about spiritual things. But tomorrow we have to live in the material world. The great challenge is to negotiate the two.
About the world to come, Isaiah said (30:26) “the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun” – meaning that the moon will have its own, internal source of light.
From this, the last Rebbe taught that there are three types of light connected to Judaism
Receiving light from elsewhere– the Toah
Reflecting light – the Mitzvot
Generating light from within – Teshuvah
Torah is always the giver of light and we are always the recipients since we add nothing to it, although we strive to understand, in each generation, what is in the Torah that is meaningful for us.
Through mitzvot we both receive and give light — we turn simple material things like parchment, wool, and wax into holy objects. The mitzvot only function if there is a partnership between people and God. The mitzvoth are God’s way to search for us. The mitzvot are like the light of a lamp in which wick and oil are turned into flame and light (well, maybe tungsten and electrons that are turned into heat and light).
Today is special, because today God answers when we call.
But the mitzvot are still reflected light. However, when we do true teshuvah, we return to God because of a flame within ourselves. By teshuvah we can make holy our entire past life – even that part lived in sin. This is the power of teshuvah – it sanctifies not only a part, but the entire human experience.
Today is the peak opportunity for embarking on teshuvah, which is a path of return as much as a state of being returned. The warm up was Elul and although any day is a good day to start, the entire period from Rosh HaShannah to Simchat Torah is a reminder to embark on the return.
And what kind of return should it be? Clearly, none of us know what is Tesuvah for somebody else, any more than we know that is a legitimate spiritual experience for somebody else. But the Al Chait gives us a sense of where to look. We can do
For internal tesuvah, we can look inside ourselves to our thoughts and to the way that we treat our bodies and our souls and see how we missed the mark in the past. Recognizing that we cannot change everything at once, we should focus on that which distresses us the most and use the remaining time of this season to begin to make the past holy through teshuvah.
For external tesuvah, we can think about how we have interacted with other individuals poorly (and the Al Chait gives plenty of suggestions for that too). Again, recognizing that we cannot change everything at once, we should focus on that in our behavior with other people that distresses us the most and aim to change it and to return to a godly path.
As we go through the rest of today, I encourage you to think hard about your internal and external teshuvah, so that all of us will glow with the light of redemption
And to jump start both internal and external teshuvah, I suggest giving some tzedaka tomorrow.
An easy fast.