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The Road We Travel

By: Mrs. Bracha Krohn

This week’s parsha, Acharei Mot, includes the procedure for entering the kodesh kodashim. Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Kohen hagadol would enter the innermost chamber of the mikdash to atone for Bnei Yisrael. At the end of the section describing the service and the korbanot, the Torah tells us that on this day – the 10th of Tishrei – each year, Hashem will atone our sins and purify us (see 16:30). What is the difference between atonement (kapparah) and purification (tahara)?

In Al HaTeshuva, a collection of Rav Soloveitchik’s “teshuva drashot” that he gave in Boston during Aseret Yimei Teshuva in the 1960’s and 1970’s, The Rav explains that every sin has two results: the punishment that the Torah said would befall us and, in addition,  a general rift in our relationship with Hashem. Both are natural consequences in the wake of sin – we deserve a punishment (after all, we were warned not to commit that sin!) and the damage to the relationship is to be expected. We did not listen, thus showing apathy about our role as a Jew.

The gift and “magic” of Yom Kippur is that not only does Hashem grant us kapparah , whereby Hashem foregoes /forgives the debt we owe for the sin we committed , i.e. whatever punishment is due our way, but there is a  tahara as well - a reconnecting with G-d after the relationship was damaged.

The difference between the two, however, is that kapparah is given – atonement is granted – for way less effort than the tahara is achieved. Bnei Yisrael bring korbanot, the Kohen hagadol represents the nation, and kappara is granted. Punishments are lifted. (Although, as Rambam explains in Hilchot Teshuva, there are some grave sins for which Yom Kippur is not sufficient). Mending our relationship with G-d, however, just like in our human relationships, takes more effort. We must not only regret our sin, confess and vow never to do it again, but we must also leave the derech chotim, the path of sinning that we are on.

Sometimes we are with people or in a situation or environment where we have not technically done anything wrong yet, but if we continue down this path, we will surely sin. We must catch ourselves before this happens. The way we show Hashem (and ourselves) that we are committed to the relationship, that we are sorry we breached the covenant, that we DO want to be involved daily with our responsibilities as a Jew is to recognize the paths we travel that take us to destinations that are not indicative of that commitment to Torah and Mitzvot and that do not reflect and represent a loyal relationship with Hashem.

Yom Kippur allows us the chance to think about the paths we are on – what the future holds for us down these roads – and make a decision to leave one road and get on another. If we do that, then Yom Kippur will be for us a day of tahara in our overall relationship as well as kapparah for specific sins.

Since we are at a half-way mark in the calendar year – 6 months since Yom Kippur and another 6 to go - we can use this week, as we read the parsha, to check in with ourselves and see where we are “in our travels”. May we always be on a path that takes us to more Torah learning and better Mitzvah observance, and may the people we travel with be good companions who strengthen and encourage us along the way.

Shabbat Shalom.




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