Yom Kippur 2015 Morning Torah Portion Readings
Yom Kippur Morning Torah Reading Summary
Yom Kippur Morning Haftarah Summary
Yom kippur Afternoon Torah Reading Summary
Yom Kippur Afternoon Haftarah Summary
Quote of the Day for Yom Kippur
A Reminiscence at Yom Kippur
|1||Kohen||Leviticus 16:1 – 16:3|
|2||Levi||Leviticus 16:4 – 16:6|
|3||Shlishi||Leviticus 16:7 – 16:11|
|4||Rivii||Leviticus 16:12 – 16:17|
|5||Chamishi||Leviticus 16:18 – 16:24|
|6||Shishi||Leviticus 16:25 – 16:30|
|7||Shivii||Leviticus 16:31 – 16:34|
|Maftir||Numbers 29:7 – 29:11|
|Haftarah||Isaiah 57:14 – 58:14|
Yom Kippur,The Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year when Jews move closest to G-d. The traditional reading for Yom Kippur morning focuses on the service performed by the High Priest in the Temple in Jerusalem, and the offerings which he brings forward to G-d as atonement. The High Priest must first seek penance for himself, followed by amends for his household, and only after that can he bring the offering on behalf of the community. The instructions for these rituals are carried forward into the Avodah service in the Musaf prayers. (AK)
There is a most interesting interplay between the ritual of fasting at Yom Kippur and the choice of this text by the ancient Rabbis. Essentially, the reading suggests that, on this most important fast day of the Jewish calendar, G-d does not merely want fasting, as He considers fasting alone to be insufficient without a proper moral and ethical foundation to the ritual action. Isaiah takes to task those who go through the motions of religious observance while at the same time committing sins and promoting corruption. He stresses that the worship that pleases G-d includes the desire to live an upright life, to help the poor and oppressed, and to set aside the Sabbath as a time to worship and delight in G-d. No summary of this reading can do true justice to Isaiah’s words: to that end, the following portion of the text is included.
“Loosen the fetters of wickedness, untie the bands of perverseness, send the oppressed free, and break every oppressive yoke. Offer your bread to the hungry, bring the wandering poor into your home. When you see someone naked, clothe him . . . Then you shall call and G-d shall answer, you shall cry and He shall say, ‘Here I am.’ . . . G-d will always guide you and satiate your soul with radiance; He will strengthen your bones and you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never cease…” (AK)
Leviticus, Chapter 18 is read at the afternoon Mincha service. The text details the proscription against incest, and other sexual activity considered as deviant at that time. (AK)
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Yom Kippur Afternoon Haftarah Summary, Book of Jonah and Micah 7:18-20
There are two explanations for the choice of the Book of Jonah by the ancient Rabbis as the second reading on the afternoon of Yom Kippur. Essentially, Jonah demonstrates that no one is beyond G-d’s reach as described by Jonah’s failing endeavours to escape G-d’s providence, mirroring the notion that we too are unable to evade divine justice for transgressions we may have committed. Secondly, Jonah’s story illuminates G-d’s forgiveness in sparing the people of Nineveh despite an earlier decree that they would be destroyed because of their evil ways, and at the same time demonstrating that regardless of our behaviours of the past, G-d’s compassion and clemency awaits if we whole-heartedly repent.
Jonah’s story is deceptively simple. God commanded Jonah to preach to the city of Nineveh. However, Jonah refused, and set sail for Tarshish (in the opposite direction). Jonah’s boat was blown into stormy weather and the sailors on board, believing Jonah was cursed for having gone against G-d’s will, feared they would perish in the storm. To save themselves, the sailors threw Jonah overboard. G-d spared Jonah from drowning when he was swallowed whole by a “Leviathan”, and regurgitated three days later on dry land when Jonah prayed to G-d to be spared. G-d once again commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach. This time Jonah obeyed. Jonah broadcast G-d’s word that Nineveh would be overturned in forty days: the people then fasted, repented and the divine decree was annulled.
The Haftarah concludes with a brief portion from the Book of Micah, describing G-d’s kindness in forgiving the sins of His people. The portion closes with G-d remembering the pacts He made with the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (AK)
“No sin is so light that it may be overlooked. No sin is so heavy that it may not be repented of.”
Moses Ibn Ezra, Spanish Poet
Moses Ibn Ezra (born c. 1060, Granada, Spain-died c. 1139), Hebrew poet and critic, one of the finest poets of the golden age of Spanish Jewry (900–1200).
Rabbi Debra Orenstein, award-winning author, a seventh generation rabbi and spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Israel of Emerson, New Jersey, suggests that Ibn Ezra is essentially asking each of us to understand that no matter how vast, timeworn, deep-rooted, recognized, or consistent an offence might be, one can shed that burden through sincere and honest repentance.
For several years, while still a young boy attending the Jewish People’s School on Waverly Street, I had the cherished annual responsibility of escorting my beloved Bubbie Sheindel to and from Kol Nidre at the B’nai Jacob shul on Fairmount on the eve of Yom Kippur, and to return the next evening to escort her back home after the fast. It was my special job, and one so meaningful to me that I sometimes wish I could physically re-experience the emotion and the richness of those times, and not merely play the Technicolor version in my mind.
Bubbie Sheindel was a special, unique, wisp of a woman whom I towered over even at eleven years of age. She had withstood hardships and pogroms in her small hometown of Ostrapol, a cholera epidemic so severe that raged through her village with the arrival of Petlura’s Cossack armies that it took the lives of most of the villagers along with her parents, and then difficulties of integrating into a new land, culture, and language in Montreal in 1919. She was extraordinarily well read (in Yiddish and Russian), followed the news of the day with an unquenchable need to understand the world better, gobbling up the Jewish newspapers I would buy daily at Ben’s Mom and Pop corner store down the street. She was of the product of her upbringing. She koshered her meat in the bathtub. She made impossibly delicious “retchene mehl” (buckwheat) varenikes stuffed with sweetened cottage cheese. She lit Shabbat and memorial candles for all those who passed away before her, but above all that, she was wise in a way totally indescribable in words. She seemed to have an answer for everything, regardless of the topic. She would recount stories of home, and pepper them with an encyclopaedia’s worth of proverbs, sayings, and witticisms. She taught me the Jewish songs of her home, and the Russian songs of her youth, and when I was very young she crooned lullabies in a language I had never heard before or since. My enduring love of Yiddishkeit and Zionism and quest for doing right was sparked, and then nurtured by her, every single day of my life, and even now if only in memory.
Each year, as the Shofar blew to signal the end of Nilah, I stood at the foot of the tall staircase into the shul, peering at a sea of little old ladies, most the same size as Bubbie, all dressed in black, all with black hats, and black gloves, and black slippers, wending their way down the crowded steps into the New Year, each filled with hopes and aspirations of health, happiness, and prosperity for their families and kol Yisroel. I always worried that I would somehow miss her in the melee when invariably I would feel a tap on my shoulder, and a whispered voice, dry from the fast, “Avremeleh, shoin tzeit aheim tzu gayn… it’s time to go home, …dip an apple into honey… and have a glass of tea” as she put her arm in the crook of my elbow and I proudly escorted my Bubbie home.
One particularly hot and humid Yom Kippur night, with but few open windows in the huge shul trying to catch a cooling breeze, the air outside the main doors as they were opened a miasma of perspiration and the acrid smells of snuff, damp woollen suits, and ammonia pills (smelling salts they called them) brought by the men to ward off their faintness and hunger pangs of the late afternoon. I asked Bubbie how she could sit for so many hours in the stifling balcony that served as the women’s section, holding my Zaide’s old, heavy, yellowed and brittle all-Hebrew Machzor, passed on to her as a cherished memento when Zaide passed away several years before. I knew that she could not read the Hebrew, nor likely understand “Lashon Kodesh” the holy language of the services and I knew she’d had no instruction back home, constantly asking me to do my Hebrew homework with her watching over my shoulder so she could also learn. “Don’t you go to pray”, I asked almost incredulously, imagining the difficulty of sitting for so many hours, in an environment so different, not really understanding what was happening. “I do Avremeleh,” she answered, “like I do every Erev Shabbos when I kindle the lights.” “You know the Shabbos stuff”, I blurted, “but you don’t even know the Hebrew words for Yom Kippur. How can you be praying?” Bubby withdrew her arm from my elbow, reached up on her toes, bent forward, kissed my forehead and answered. “Mein tyerer yingele, vest a muhl farshtein,” she said, “My dear little boy, one day you will really understand. I don’t need to know the words to pray. I don’t need to know the Hebrew. I come to shul on Yom Kippur to talk to G-d. I come to apologize to G-d for the things I might have done wrong during the last year. I talk to G-d about the things I need to do to make our home a “Gan Eden”, a paradise of love and caring, and the help I need from Him to do that. I come to shul to ask that you, and your mother, and your brother be well, and do good in school, and be polite and caring children. I don’t need a Machzor for that. I don’t need Hebrew for that. G-d understands my Yiddish. G-d knows what’s in my heart. G-d listens. That’s why they blow the huge blast at the end of Nilah. The sound splits the heavens and carries all of my words directly to G-ds ear. ”
Bubbie had an important message for all of you reading this today. I understand now, and she was absolutely right! I now fully appreciate what she meant that night so long ago. I have been going to High Holy Day services for more than fifteen uninterrupted years. I’ve learned how to daven, to pray over the many years I have been coming to Shabbat services, and unfortunately, the many years of coming to recite Kaddish on the passing of loved ones and recalling them at yahrtzeit. I know that rhythm of the High Holy Day services are different and challenging to all of us with the many ups and downs and ark openings and closings unfamiliar to most. I know we are anxious to greet friends and acquaintances we may not have seen since last Yom Kippur services. I know that the Machzor is heavy, literally and figuratively, and the language is archaic, both in Hebrew and Aramaic, and replete with horridly stilted English translations, and text of the communally-read responsive prayers in the English handouts lack very much meaning in the twenty-first century: all of that can make it hard to “pray”. So I borrow a page from Bubbie’s book, find my seat, put on my tallit, listen in awe to the chazzan and the special Yom Kippur liturgy, close my eyes… and talk to G-d. I beat my breast in the Vidui, the confessions, and I talk to G-d. I talk to G-d about my failings, and I talk to G-d about how I might have disappointed others with my behaviour. I talk to G-d about how great my family members are and how they need to be inscribed in the Book of Life, and granted health and happiness. I do a lot of talking to G-d, in English. I do a lot of singing to G-d too, in Hebrew with the chazzan. I in fact, for a person who likes very much to talk, am almost out of words as the gates are closed at the end of Nilah, and the huge Truah Gedola, the last long great blast of the shofar is trumpeted. I smile inwardly, confident that G-d has listened to my words carried on high, and hurry home to have an apple dipped in honey and a “gleyzele tay”. Bubbie was right! At the end of the day, I will know that G-d was indeed hearing my voice, my thoughts, and my words. I will understand that I have truly prayed, albeit Bubby Sheindel style.
Tradition calls for us to express regret at this time for errors we may have committed against others. So for all who know me, or have worked with me, or interacted with me, allow me to take this opportunity to apologize to you for any harm, trouble or difficulty I may have caused you over the past year: real or perceived, actual or accidental. Please accept my sincerest expression of regret and allow me to wish you and all your loved ones the best for the New Year and that you and they be inscribed in the Book of Life. Shana Tova Umetukah. Shabbat Shalom, Avram Kay.