A Drash for Yom Kippur
by Marc Mangel
Yom Kippur 5771
We have already said, and will say again, confessionals of sin – both silently and aloud. Surely, none of us has done all of these. But also surely, all of us have done some of these.
Meil Shumel writes that “a confession without the heart’s agreeing not to sin again is a waste”. But, how can we move ourselves in the direction of not missing the mark in the coming year?
The Fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, in a drash given 102 years ago, provided an answer.
Repentance is about guilt. But guilt about our errors last year often does not move us forward because guilt is as much about the shame of possibly getting caught as it is about the act of wrong doing. That is, we are less upset about having done something wrong than about the chance of being caught at it.
Rather, Reb Shalom DovBaer says, teshuvah – returning to God – is about distress and discomfort. We should feel a sense of distress – a discomfort, a painful feeling of self-reproach because we know of our errors and our abilities to prevent them. It is this discomfort which will help move us forward.
King David wrote in Psalm 118 :“From out of distress I called to God; God answered me with abounding relief”.
From that sea of distress David called and God answered him. What about us?
It is out of distress — not guilt – that we call for help.
And today there is particularly good news: today it is a two way call. When we bring our spiritual distress to the shofar blasts of Tekiah Gedolah it excites a return answer from God, who provides the energy we need for relief of our distress.
Thus, as we go through the rest of our prayers today, let us bring a sense of personal distress to them and at Neilah when the shofar is sounded, we will be given the energy needed for great improvement over the next year.
Our discomfort must be private, but even our silent recitation uses the plural. About that the Ari-Zal said that we say “We have sinned” rather than “I have sinned” because all Israel is one body and we are all responsible for one another.
Harold Kushner puts it in a slightly different way: If the “Help Others” section of book stores were bigger, the “Self help” sections would surely be smaller and the world a better place.
By looking back on our failures last year with a sense of distress about the errors we made and a resolve to avoid those errors and help others, we can leave here today improved and make the next year much better
An easy fast.