Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Yom Kippur
To dedicate this lesson

Eretz Yisrael and the Yom Kippur Liturgy


Rabbi Moshe Ch. Sosevsky

One might have expected that the Yom Kippur liturgy should be permeated by the themes of forgiveness, man’s iniquity, and his inherently precarious status before God on this awesome day of repentance. Yet this is not at all the case. With the exception of the Mussaf liturgy, an integral part of which revolves around the penitential sacrifices of the day and the High Priest’s dramatic role in seeking out forgiveness for his and the nation’s sins, the general "Al Chait" recital first finds its way into the liturgy in the aftermath of the Amidah. Even on this awesome day signifying the culmination of the ten-day process of pardon and forgiveness for both the individual and the nation, the essence of our prayers focuses on our longing to return to Zion and Jerusalem. Our eschatological vision is one of national forgiveness and full reunification of God and His people.

Hence it would seem logical that today, when for the first time in twenty centuries we are fully free to choose to return to Zion, we should feel somewhat uncomfortable reciting the Yom Kippur liturgy, should we willingly choose not to participate in the process of the return to our land.

I recently shared this observation with an acquaintance, who responded somewhat kiddingly and uncomfortably: "Well aren’t there many things that we say in the "Al Chait" that we don’t really mean?" Yes, but we are not talking about our individual shortcomings, but rather the essence of our longing and prayers on this Holy Day as formulated by Chazal. Do we really not mean these either?

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