A Drash for Yom Kippur 5770
by Marc Mangel
In Proverbs 20:09, we read
“Who can say ‘I have made my mind clean; I
am pure from sin?’ “
and the answer, of course, is nobody.
Why would I tell you this on Yom Kippur of all
days? Because I have very good
news for you, that’s why.
The Sidra of V’ayakel begins with Moses
assembling the Israelites to repeat to
commandment of Shabbat to them.
Rashi, the Talmud, Midrash and Zohar all agree
that this assembly takes place the day after
Yom Kippur and that this was the day when
God said “I have forgiven according to your
This was forgiveness for the sin of the golden calf.
If God was able to forgive that generation – which
experienced liberation and numerous
miracles – for a great, great sin,
then the news indeed good for us –
God will forgive us.
And that is the message of these days of awe. There
is the real possibility of return, of coming home.
However, the first step must be taken by
people. How do we do that? How do we
lead to a year “written and
sealed for good”?
The answer is in the Machzor:
Teshuvah, Tefillah and Tzedaka.
Teshuvah means to return, not to repent for which there
is a different word in Hebrew (charatah).
We are to return and find the essence of
goodliness in ourselves and in others –
and goodliness is one letter away
Tefillah means attachment; not prayer for which there
is a different word in Hebrew (bakasha)– that
means supplications or requests. Tefillah
means to attach ourselves towards
Tzedaka means righteousness or justice, not charity
for which there is a different word in Hebrew
(chesed). We give Tzedaka because it is
our duty – our possessions are entrusted
by God to us and we must act
towards fellow humans the way
that we ask God to act
We ask God for blessings even though God is under
no obligation to us. Consequently, we are bound
in justice and reciprocity to give to others
even though they are not in our debt.
Tzedaka is so important that when it is our time to be
judged, Rashi teaches, that our acts of Tzedaka
become an entity and our charity defends us
before the Divine standard of
During Elul and these days we read Psalm 27. In it,
“One thing I ask of Adonai – for this I yearn:
“To dwell in the House of Adonai all the days of my life
“To behold God’s beauty, to pray in God’s Sanctuary”
How can we dwell in God’s house? Through
Teshuvah: Seeing goodness
Tefillah: Seeking attachment beyond
Tzedaka: Giving freely and generously
May the rest of your fast be easy and meaningful.