Yom Kippur 5770 (2009)

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

word” .


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

from Godliness


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

towards us.


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,

David writes

“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.



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