Liberates One from the Shackles of the Yetzer
Through the process of teshuva (repentance) a person is liberated from the shackles entangling him, and his soul is able to reveal itself freely, for teshuva is the desire for Divine freedom, devoid of the least bit of enslavement (Orot HaTeshuva 5:5; 7:4).
Customarily, a person is drawn after his ‘yetzer’av ha’ra’im’ (evil inclinations), such as greed and pride, anger, envy, laziness and conceit – because they offer him quick gratification; once drawn to them, however, one becomes enslaved. And although a person’s inner self still longs for truth and goodness, he finds it exceedingly difficult to realize his good intentions because he has become addicted to having his urges satisfied, and his soul remains confined and tormented in its shackles.
By means of teshuva, man is liberated, and is able to reveal his true will. His soul is released from the bonds of his ‘yetzer‘, begins to illuminate his path, and empowers the life-force within him. This is the meaning of our Sages statement: "For man is never more free than when he occupies himself with the study of Torah" (Avot 6:2), because the Torah instructs a person in the path of truth and goodness, through which one can fulfill all of his good aspirations. Yom Kippur
is a Day of Liberty
Yovel and Yom Kippur
We can learn a similar lesson from the mitzvah of Yovel (Jubilee). Customarily, as a result of laziness, greed or other troubles, from time to time people were forced to sell their fields, and sometimes, even had to sell themselves into slavery. In His great mercy for them – and in particular, their families – God determined the mitzvah ofYovel, that on the Yom Kippur of the fiftieth year, all slaves are freed and all fields return to their original owners, as it is written, "Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month, on Yom-Kippur, you are to sound a blast on the shofar; you are to sound the shofar all through your land;
and you are to consecrate the fiftieth year, proclaiming freedom throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It will be a yovel for you; you will return everyone to the land he owns, and everyone is to return to his family" (Leviticus, 25:9-10).
The Order of Liberation in the Yovel
The day set by the Torah in which slaves are freed and fields return to their original owners is Yom Kippur. As the Rambam wrote: "FromRosh HaShanah until Yom Kippur, servants would not be released to their homes, nor would they be subjugated to their masters, nor would the fields return to their original owners. Instead, the servants would eat, drink, and rejoice, with crowns on their heads. When Yom Kippur arrives and the shofar is sounded in the court, the servants are released to their homes and the fields are returned to their owners" (Laws of Shmitta and Yovel 10:14).
Blowing the Shofar
at the Close of Yom Kippur
to Remind Us of Yovel
Rav Hai Gaon wrote that the custom of blowing the shofar at the conclusion of Yom Kippur comes to remind us of the blowing of theshofar for Yovel. And though the basis of this shofar blowing is merely a minhag (custom), it symbolizes the culmination of Yom Kippur, for on Yom Kippur the Jewish nation merits release from enslavement to freedom, resembling the Yovel.
Freedom from enslavement to evil inclinations is analogous to the emancipation of slaves to freedom, and the return of the body to the soul parallels the field returning to its owner. For when a person is drawn after his physical inclinations, his body disconnects from his soul and becomes enslaved to foreign desires, thus handing over his powers sinfully to foreign forces. But by means of teshuva on Yom Kippur, the body returns to the soul, rejoicing together with it in the joy of a mitzvah, and reveals God’s intention in the world. In this manner, a person merits a good life, filled with blessing.
The Main Service is in the Holy of Holies
The basis of teshuva is rooted in the most exalted reality, and consequently, the main service of Yom Kippur is performed in theKodesh HaKodeshim (Holy of Holies). The Holy Temple is the place where all Divine values are revealed, and from it, they flow to the entire world. In the ‘heichal‘ (sanctuary) termed ‘Kodesh‘, rests the ‘menorah‘ symbolizing all categories of wisdom; the ‘shulchan‘ (the Golden Table) signifies parnasah (livelihood); and the Mizbayach Haketoret (incense altar) denoting prayer and the longing for closeness to God. On a higher level in the Kodesh HaKodeshim, the foundations of Israel’s beliefs and teachings were revealed. Therefore, in the Kodesh HaKodeshim rested the Ark containing the Tablets and the Torah, and above it, two Cherubim which symbolized the bond of ‘brit‘ (covenant) and love between God and Israel. Out from the Kodesh HaKodeshim flowed life to the entire world, hence its’ supreme importance, to the point where anyone who entered it is deserving of death by Heaven, and only the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) entered it on Yom Kippur on behalf of all Israel, so as to connect the entire world to its source, and draw atonement, forgiveness, and life to the whole world.
Since the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile, the sanctity of the Kodesh HaKodeshim is revealed in the world through the Jewish nation’s desires and yearnings that "God’s name be sanctified on His people Israel, and on Jerusalem His city, and on Mt. Zion the abode of His majesty, and on the kingdom of David His chosen one, on His site and sanctuary, and that God reigns alone over all His works." This is the essence of our prayers on Yom Kippur.
Awakening to the Study of Torah
As a continuation of the service in the Kodesh HaKodeshim on Yom Kippur, it would be appropriate for every man and woman, elderly and young, to accept upon themselves on Yom Kippur in preparation for the New Year, to increase and deepen their study of Torah. This is especially worthy for people engaged in yishuv’o shel olam(settlement of the world), and the fitting time for additional study is on Shabbat. Thereby, we will merit drawing insight from the Kodesh HaKodeshim into our daily lives. And this should not be taken this lightly, for the perfection of the world (tikun olam) and its redemption depends on it.
Establishing Blessed Jewish Families
When the Beit HaMikdash existed, at the conclusion of the service of the Kohen HaGadol in the Temple, the daughters of Jerusalem would dance in the orchards, in this way, find their future husbands. Seemingly, one could ask: how, on the sacred and awesome Day of Atonement, could they engage in matters of finding their spouse? However, the creation of Jewish families is connected to the Holy of Holies, as our Sages said about a husband and wife who are worthy of being faithful to one another, that the Divine Presence abides among them (Sotah 17a). And by means of such a relationship, divine unity is revealed in the world; consequently God commanded his name be erased in order that peace is made between husband and wife (Nedarim 66b). Similarly, the Ari HaKadosh said that the mitzvahto "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18), concerning which Rabbi Akiva said "it is a great rule in the Torah" (Safra, ibid.), is fulfilled in its entirety between spouses.
Moreover, the connection and union between a couple is symbolic to the higher bond between God and Israel, as it is written, "and God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom with his bride" (Isaiah 62:5). Therefore, ‘Shir HaShirim‘ (the Song of Songs) is considered kodesh kodeshim (holy of holies) (Tanhuma Tetzaveh 5). We also find that the form of the Cherubs placed on the Ark in the Holy of Holies was in the shape of a man and woman fulfilling the mitzvah of conjugal relations. This teaches us that holiness does not diminish life, but rather, empowers it. And when Israel ceased to do the will of God, the Cherubs separated from each other, turning their faces outwards (Bava Batra 99 a).
Think and Pray about Matchmaking
Today, indeed, we do not engage in matchmaking on Yom Kippur. Perhaps the reason is that currently we are not worthy of doing so when the Temple is destroyed. In any case, seeing as the sanctity ofYom Kippur is connected to that of the Jewish family, it is appropriate for all single men and women to think and pray about finding their partner. Often, the negative character traits of pride and greed prevent a person from finding a suitable match. On Yom Kippur when one’s pure soul is revealed, one can consider more accurately the aspirations in his life and about a truly suitable match, someone with whom he can fulfill the Torah and mitzvoth, and together, increase joy and life. Teshuva
and Prayers of Married Couples
Married couples should also do teshuva on Yom Kippur over not having properly loved and made each other happy, and pray they merit reuniting with love and joy, that the shechina (holy Presence) dwell among them, and that they merit raising sons and daughters engaged in Torah and mitzvoth.