Erev Yom Ha-Kippurim 5771
In appreciation of all your support and gratitude for all those who generously donated in memory of my father, Itzhaq Aizik Dov Ber ben Shimon ha-Kohen, zatza”l, I am pleased to offer this brief teaching for Yom Kippur.
Ordinarily we experience a world that we consider overwhelmingly real. But Sefer Yetzirah teaches us that the ephemeral world of our ordinary experience can be better understood as ASHa”N (smoke and mirrors). This smokiness doesn’t mean that the world and everything in it is not real. It’s just that its true reality is concealed from us and manifests as Olam, Shanah, Nefesh(ASHa”N), space, time, and the perspective of an individual, ego-centered mind and consciousness. Because of the lack of clarity inherent in our ordinary existence, we find life problematic, blaming ourselves, others, and what we think of as “God” as responsible for our dissatisfactions. But the Torah which comes to reveal what is deeper and truer, beyond the smoke of our limited and conditional understanding, offers us an answer, teshuvah, by means of which we can break through the karmic barrier that crystallizes during the course of each yearly cycle and forgive ourselves and everything else. This answer, the practice of teshuvah, implies returning to our source, through stripping off the smoky overlays of all the levels of who we think we are and what we think the world is.
The very power of The Day itself At-ones
Teshuvah is something that can be practiced at any time and for some highly evolved people it is a constant practice of readjusting, remembering, and retuning oneself to the very source of manifest consciousness, Shomer Yisrael (“Guradian of Israel”), the ever-awake divine consciousness that watches over and witnesses all that manifests. But even the most commendable and diligent practice of teshuvah cannot match the power of Yom Ha-Kippurim (The Day of At-onement), which thegemara calls Yuma, “The Day” with a capital “T.” The efficacy of The Day is one of the greatest secrets of the Torah and defies comprehension by our limited, uni-perspectival, ego-centric minds. Generally, when we practice some form of teshuvah, the results are proportionate to our efforts, and despite even our very best efforts to “do teshuvah” a piece of independent existence remains operative. But Maimonides teaches in his Hilkhot Teshuvah (How Teshuvah Works) that (The very power of The Day itself At-ones).” As human beings who are the smoky expressions of the underlying divine fire, we have to feel regret for all of the shortcomings that we associate with ourselves, the actions of others that sadden us, and basically everything we feel that is related to a sense of not having fully succeeded in playing our divinely deployed roles and the world not having yet achieved its full potential. But that regret and remorse most commonly associated with “repentance” is only the most external aspect of teshuvah. The Heart’s remorse is itself a sign of the inner divine presence, since conscience is itself a divine quality and its inner expression is an intimation of divine love and devequt (non-separation from the divine source). But the power of the unique Light that is disclosed only on “The Day” is so great that such a superficial awareness of devequt is only a mere awakening and this Light has the power to attract us beyond all our manifest forms until we reach the level of transparency alluded to in Leviticus 16:30, “For on This Day, at-onement occurs beyond all manifest forms of individuated self, to purify you of the weight of remorse for all you think of as your misdoings. In the very consciousness of the Totality, you will be purified.”
What then is the “secret” of this amazing teaching? In general, all our experience can be understood as “ratzo ve-shov” (actively striving to progress towards the “omega point” of evolution’s telos and re-centering ourselves again and again in the very source from which the evolving manifestations of ASHa”N emerge). On “The Day,” however, everything is “shov,” returning to the Light itself before “the smoke” even appears. That all-attracting Light is the secret of the (the 13 Qualities of Divine Compassion). The unveiling of this Light ultimately elevates consciousness beyond our individuated, self-centered perspective that is called (bechirah free-will) to the level in which there is a merging with the higher consciousness and Divine Mind of the Totality, called (Yedi’ah, Divine Knowledge).
From this perspective it is clear that everything all-together is always already integrally moving according to the Will of the Totality and the very nature of existence itself IS the evolutionary process (Tikkun Olam). And this is the very Heart of (Emunah, “faith”) and (Ahavat Olam, Divine Love). From the perspective of the higher consciousness (Yedi’ah) ofthe Great Light of the 13 Qualities of DivineCompassion, the very basis of all existence, it is clear that “you” as a manifestation of the totality cannot possibly have done anything wrong (even though there are karmic consequences). Or more correctly, you could not have done anything other than what the Will of the Totality (Retzon Ha-Shem) required of “you.” And the realization of this At-onement is in itself the secret of divine pardon. The Great Mind within which “you” are a dream and a thought loves its creation and covers over what on the ordinary level of consciousness (bechirah) we consider our faults and shortcomings. From this higher perspective we recognize that (even our intentional misdeeds are considered as merits). (YHVH) loves and blesses every one of us for the mere fact of our existing!
May we all have the merit to realize this on The Day of the great pardoning, The Day of At-onement.
May we all have the merit to bask in the purification of the 13 Qualities of Divine Compassion. May the new creation of 5771 (Tav SHin Ayyin Alef) Tehiye SHenat Ahavat Olam: a year of Ahavat Olam, of limitless, endless divine love for the entire world and all beings that inhabit it.