Cleansing our World (Extract)

By DOV LINZER
September 28, 2008 11:45
3 minute read.

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

Extract from an article in Issue 13, October 13, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. Yom Kippur is observed on October 9 "For on this day he shall atone for you to purify you; that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord." (Lev. 16:30) This verse appears at the end of the Torah reading for Yom Kippur, when we leave all of our this-worldly pursuits behind, even food and drink, for a day that is totally devoted to God and a day we are promised atonement for our sins. The reading describes in great detail the service of the High Priest in the Temple on this day - the sacrifices, the ablutions, the burning of the incense, the sending of the scapegoat to the desert. Teshuva, or repentance, is not mentioned as part of the service of the day. According to the verses, it is the sacrificial rites that cleanse the Temple and achieve atonement for the people. But what is the significance of Yom Kippur when the Temple and these rituals are absent? The Rabbis of the Talmud, in their affirmation of the timeless relevance of the Torah after the destruction of the Temple, declared that in the absence of sacrifices, the day itself achieves atonement, provided that it is accompanied by teshuva (Bavli, Yoma 85b). The "he" of the verse who atones for us is no longer the High Priest offering the sacrifices, but God Himself, who provides atonement on this day to those who undertake the process of teshuva. After the Temple, it is teshuva which takes the place of the sacrificial rites of the day. For the last two thousand years, the dominant theme of Yom Kippur has thus been teshuva - the work of improving our behavior and transforming our character. And yet, the Torah reading remains Chapter 16 of Leviticus. Rather than hearing moral or religious exhortation - undeniably the theme of the haftarot of the day - we are treated to the minute details of the rites of the sacrifices. These Temple-based rites, while seemingly irrelevant to our contemporary concerns, can teach serious corrective lessons regarding sin and repentance. It is widely believed that sin affects the spiritual well-being of the soul and that teshuva is a process devoted wholly to the repairing of the soul. This is only partly true. The sacrificial rites of Yom Kippur tell another story. "And he [the High Priest] shall make an atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the Tent of Meeting, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation" (Lev. 16: 33). It is first and foremost the Temple that must be cleansed, and only afterwards is the atonement of the people achieved. The Torah assumes a basic metaphysical reality - sin pollutes. When the Children of Israel have sinned, the Temple itself becomes impure. This understanding of sin holds for us even today. When we sin, we hurt not only ourselves, we pollute our environment as well. If we have not respected our parents or our spouse, if we have betrayed a trust or hurt others physically or emotionally, then our sin has damaged others and injured our relationships. If we have not honored Shabbat or the holidays properly, then the sanctity that these times hold for us has been diminished. The process of teshuva requires that we recognize that improving ourselves is insufficient; we must also cleanse the reality that we have polluted. Rabbi Dov Linzer is head of the yeshiva and dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, New York. Extract from an article in Issue 13, October 13, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Cookie Settings