Yom Kippur



Yom Kippur: Realm of Olam Ha’Ba              The Ramah paskens that we do not make a bracha on besamim as part of Havdalah after Yom Kippur.  As the source for this, the Gra points to the statement of Rashi that it is the neshama yeseira, the extra soul that enables a person to eat more and take in all the extra pleasures of Shabbos, and the loss thereof necessitates smelling sweet spices.  The implication of this, seemingly, is that on Yom Kippur there is no neshama yeseira. However, there is a difficult question on this.  The Ramah says that we do not say Nishmas on Hoshana Rabbah.  As the source for that Halacha, the Biur Ha’Gra points to the Rashbam’s statement regarding when Yomtov falls out immediately following Shabbos; when that happens the reason we do not include making a bracha on besamim as part of Havdalah is because on Yomtov there is also a neshama yeseirah, and thus no need for besamim after Shabbos. The implication of this Biur Ha’Gra is that only on Shabbos and Yomtov is there a neshama yeseirah, but not on Hoshana Rabbah or any other day of Chol Ha’Moed, and that that is the reason why we don’t say Nishmas then; because Nishmas is only said on days that have a neshama yeseirah. This apparently comprises a contradiction, because we do of course say Nishmas on Yom Kippur, but if there is no neshama yeseirah on Yom Kippur, then why do we say it?!

The answer lies in a statement in the writings of the Gra which provides another understanding of the function of the neshama yeseirah.  Shabbos is akin to Olam Ha’Bah.  In order to appreciate and experience this elevated status, the person must be raised to greater spiritual heights.  The neshama yeseirah provides that boost, allowing him to enjoy the taste of Olam Ha’Bah in Shabbos. However, the distinction of Shabbos is only a mei’ein, a likeness of Olam Ha’Bah, and can only be realized with the advantage of the neshama yeseirah.  Yom Kippur, on the other hand, elevates the actual physical body to the point at which we can enter Olam Ha’Bah as physical beings.  Shabbos has a taste of Olam Ha’Bah, but Yom Kippur literally is the realm of Olam Ha’Bah! It is like being in Olam Ha’Bah for twenty-four hours.  This is something that every Jew cannot help but feel!  We don’t eat or drink or engage in the other physical activities, just like in Olam Ha’Bah these things are absent. During Neilah you have to pinch yourself to make sure that you are still there.  A mere few hours after Yom Kippur is over, if you try to recall where you were then, it feels as if it was a different world…because it was a different world; and already the next day, Yom Kippur feels so far away. And that is also why we don’t smell besamim after Yom Kippur.  After Shabbos, we smell besamim to help us cope with the loss of our neshama yeseirah, but leaving Yom Kippur is an exit from a state of being a neshama, being in Olam Ha’Bah, and for that, besamim just wouldn’t help! Some people feel depressed that the day after Yom Kippur they feel like they have no connection to it anymore.  But I say, on the contrary, that’s the biggest indication that you were occupying a totally different realm on Yom Kippur, and now it feels so distant because we’re not in the same world anymore! (From numerous talmidim)


An insight into the halacha of “daber davar”              The question has been raised, why isn’t it assur to talk about matters pertaining to eating (on motzaei Yom Kippur) throughout the duration of Yom Kippur? After all, the prohibition of “daber davar” (not discussing matters that are forbidden to do on that day – ed. -) certainly applies to Yom Kippur! The answer is as follows. Regarding Shabbos, the Torah forbids any activity that is a derivative of the 39 melachos which are, in essence, activities that belong to the six work-days of the week. If one violates this prohibition, then, what he is effectively doing is profaning Shabbos by treating it as if it was a regular, mundane, work-day. Mi’divrei kabblah (meaning, from the Neviim – ed. – ), there is an extension of this prohibition to not profane Shabbos even just with speech. Mi’d’Oraysah, an act of melacha constitutes a profaning of Shabbos (by treating it like a mundane, work-day), and mi’d’Rabbanan even just talking about melacha constitutes a profaning of Shabbos by treating it like a mundane, work-day in the way he is talking. There is an even a concept – albeit not a statutory obligation – to not profane Shabbos through thought by thinking about doing melacha. When it comes to the prohibition against eating on Yom Kippur, though, it is a totally different matter. The Torah says that on Yom Kippur we have to do inuy (self-denial/affliction). Te’anu es nafshoseichem. Someone who violates this by eating or drinking is transgressing the mandate to fulfill the mitzvah of inuy. However, that has nothing to do with “treating it like a mundane, work-day”. There is nothing chol (mundane/work-day related), per se, about eating and drinking. Therefore, there is no basis to posit that speaking about one’s eating plans (for after Yom Kippur) on Yom Kippur is a negation of the specialness of the day. (From Reb Avrohom Twersky).


Learning on motzaei Yom Kippur             Having a solid learning seider on motzaei Yom Kippur is very important.  It is the “makeh-b’patish” that ensures that one gets a proper kinyan on the benefits of having just gone through a Yom Kippur.  The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva would tell bachurim that they should only return home for bein hazmanim the day after Yom Kippur rather than travel immediately after the fast and lose the opportunity to learn, even if that means having to forgo getting a private ride and needing to use public transportation instead. But what about the Ramah says that one should ideally start building his sukkah on motzaei Yom Kippur?  That we can fulfill through the vehicle of u’n’shalmah parim sefaseinu…take out Maseches Sukkah and learn some of the ugyos of Sukkah!” (From numerous talmidim)


How one goes back to regular life following Yom Kippur          For many years, Rav Twersky would always conclude his motzaei Yom Kippur shiur with the following message: “I know we say this every year, but we say it every year because it is worthwhile to say it every year. After describing the process of brining korbanos that a nazir is obliged in upon completing his course of nezirus, the pasuk concludes by saying, ‘and afterwards shall the nazir drink wine’.  There is a basic, straightforward question on the wording of this pasuk: why does it still refer to him as a nazir at this stage?  He just finished being a nazir and is now going back to normal life! The answer is that a nazir goes back to drinking wine the way a nazir goes back to wine.  In other words, he doesn’t lose the moment and simply revert back to his old self, as if nothing happened.  It’s not like being on a diet and then binging the day after.  The nazir, because of his experience as a nazir, is a changed man and takes his new self into his return to the routine of life. So too, we go back into the new year from a Yom Kippur – we go back to our food and our lives – as a Yom Kippur Jew goes back to his life.” (From Reb Mickey Dov Lebovic)



“The Gra says that the first nine days of Aseres Yemei Teshuva correspond to the first nine of the 13 middos ha’rachamim, Yom Kippur corresponds to all of them together, and the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos correspond to the final four of the 13 middos ha’rachamim. That means that the tremendous flow of rachamim from Shamayim that we experience on Rosh Ha’Shana, Aseres Yemei Teshvua, and Yom Kippur does not stop at the close of Yom Kippur; it continues into these four days!”



“My first month in Yeshiva did not go so great.  I was homesick and overall not very happy.  That Elul, I was the only Kohen in the Yeshiva, so for Rosh Ha’Shana and Yom Kippur, I was assigned a seat near the front so I could have easy access to the place where I would perform Birchas Kohanim.  Well, that seat assignment placed me right next to Rav Twersky, with whom I was still unacquainted. 

“Before Kol Nidrei, Rav Twersky turned towards me and asked me a few questions about myself.  You know, “what is your name”, “how are you faring in Yeshiva”, etc.  A general “getting to know you” conversation. 

“He explained to me that it is commonly accepted practice that before one takes a long plane ride, you get to know the person sitting next to you. He then said to me, ‘Now we are about to take a plane ride…to Shamayim.’

“Suffice it to say that it was one of my better Yom Kippur davenings.  My overall Yeshiva experience got better after that too.”

(From a talmid)


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