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8 Tishrei 5769 - October 7, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Kabbolos For Yom Kippur

[An excerpt from Toda'ah (Parshas Vayeilech, 5754)]

In the short time remaining between Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur, it is fitting to study the ways of our mentors, who illumine the generations, the geonim vetzaddikim. Let us examine their behavior during the holy day of Yom Kippur, and perhaps by doing so we will learn something that we can adopt so as to influence our own behavior on Yom Kippur.

It is told about the Noda BiYehudah, "On Yom Kippur, from beginning to end, he did not move from his place. But he neither rested nor did he stand silently; his eyes did not close; he would constantly entreat Hashem with a loud outcry" (Introduction to Drushei HaTzlach). The Radal cried so profusely that for several days after Yom Kippur his eyes still ached (Toldos HaRadal, note no. 9).

The spiritual avodoh of the gedolei Yisroel during Yom Kippur was amazing, and also frightening. They would weep endlessly, with terrifying cries, clinging devotedly to Hashem. We will give a brief sketch of the behavior of these tzaddikim, as it is recorded in Uvechein Tzaddikim (chap. 27):

The Aderes: "Even since my youth, during the seder HoAvodah and Ve'eileh ezkeroh (about the asoro harugei malchus) my heart melts as I say the piyutim, and in the abundance of my anguish the tears pour like water" (Nefesh LeDovid).

"People far away were able to hear the roar of the Brisker Rov's davening on Yom Kippur during the avodoh of Musaf — all the way to the Zichron Moshe neighborhood" (Toras Zeev, p. 30).

People have testified that although R' Tzvi Hacohen of Rimenov was naturally bold-hearted and not inclined to cry, yet on Yom Kippur during the avodoh he would cry excessively, in an indescribable fashion, before the entire congregation.

Before Ne'ilah, R' Yitzchok Blazer zt'l (R' Itzeleh of Petersburg) was accustomed to say, "Even those people whom Heaven has decreed culpable can do teshuvoh at the last minute and change their sentence!"

The Aderes writes in Nefesh Dovid (p. 132), "During Ne'ilah, from the beginning of Kaddish, I was always heartbroken and tears overflowed from my eyes. I felt exceptionally chagrined and many times I achieved complete repentance."

"Maran R' Eliyahu Lopian zt'l would remind us not to forget to take kabbolos upon ourselves during Ne'ilah. It is impossible to go through the Day of Judgment safely without taking upon oneself some sort of determination to improve one's deeds, so that they will be better than those of the previous year. He was accustomed to advise people, in the name of the Alter of Kelm, to take on a kabboloh during Ne'ilah to the effect that any kabboloh made during the entire year will be retroactively included in his kabboloh of Yom Kippur at Ne'ilah. By this tnai one insures that any kabboloh made during the whole year will have the kedushoh of Yom Kippur attached to it. During the year, when R' Eliyahu Lopian would speak for the va'adim (small groups gathered for more individual and intensive mussar guidance) about takonos and kabbolos, he would always remind us to be aware that our kabbolos have Yom Kippur's power of kedushoh" (Lev Eliyahu, I, intro., p. 36).

Maran R' Yechezkel Levenstein zt'l, the mashgiach of Yeshivas Ponovezh, would say, "It is known, on the authority of the gaon R' Yisroel Salanter zt'l, that during all of Yom Kippur one must constantly seek ways to uphold the kabbolos taken upon oneself during Yom Kippur" (Or Yechezkel, Sichos Elul, p. 123). In addition he said (Ibid.), "I know that the Alter of Kelm zt'l used to say that taking on the determination to learn mussar is a good way to remember, during the year's mussar study, all the new kabbolos taken on during Yom Kippur."

About R' Tzvi Shapira it is attested (Tzvi LeTzaddik, p. 40) that "during the days when our judgment is being passed (Aseres Yemei Teshuvoh) he would adopt preventive safeguards to his conduct. It is evident from his holy writings that he would decide during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvoh which safeguards to take on. When he wrote them down he alluded to them in hints so that the next year he would be able to consider whether he had in fact succeeded in holding tightly to his kabbolos" (from Pirkei Hashonoh).

Eat Your Bread Joyously

There is a special halocho, cited in the Ramo (chap. 24), teaching us how to act directly following Yom Kippur: "We eat and are joyous on Motzei Yom Kippur, since it is a kind of yom tov." This is based on the midrash, which tells us, "A Bas Kol goes forth on Motzei Yom Kippur and says to man, `Go and eat your bread joyously, for Hashem has accepted your deeds.'" In addition, the Shulchan Oruch writes (Ibid.) that those who are meticulous about their deeds start immediately on Motzei Yom Kippur to build a succah, in order to let one mitzvah lead directly on to another one, as written, "they go from one strength to another" (Tehillim 84:8).


Here are some anecdotes showing the customs of gedolei Yisroel immediately following the conclusion of Yom Kippur.

The Aderes once said, "In the last several years I cried excessively during Ma'ariv of Motzei Yom Kippur. My heart melts like wax when I remember that I am departing from this sacred place and day, where for an entire day we cling to avodas Hashem. Yom Kippur is the ultimate, out of the whole year, of unlimited spiritual delight in enjoying Hashem's closeness, and now we have to be separated from it for a full year!" (Nefesh Dovid, p. 132).

It is told about the Netziv zt'l, "On Motzei Yom Kippur he returned to his studies [immediately] after the night meal" (Eitz Chaim, p. 237). In Toldos HaRadal (sec. 9) much the same is told of the Radal: "When he returned from the beis haknesses he ate a little after havdoloh and slept about an hour. Afterwards he compelled himself to get up and study Torah as was his custom."

Of R' Yitzchok Elchonon zt'l, the Rav of Kovno and eminent poseik, it is reported, "Who can possibly imagine his rejoicing and happiness of soul on every Motzei Yom Kippur? His countenance gleamed, gladdening all members of the house. In the fullness of his heart he would repeatedly say: How precious are the moments of this Holy Day; how fortunate we are on this distinguished day! He was fortified with pleasure in Hashem, and seemed as if dancing before Hashem in abundance of happiness" (Toldos Yitzchok, p. 15).

About the Brisker Rav is written (Chukas Olam, p. 32), "Whoever did not see his happiness on Motzei Yom Kippur never saw happiness in his life."

R' Eliyahu Lopian was accustomed to request the yeshiva students, on the day following Yom Kippur, to sit down and learn a little before their trip back home, so as not to allow the Satan the opportunity to complain to Hashem that after He annuls their sins they just run away from the yeshiva without learning. He alerted them to this by saying that we should not forget that the "Days of Justice" continue until after Hoshanoh Rabbah, and the decree can, chas vesholom, be changed during these days. He explained that these are times when Hashem tests man to see if he really was sincere in what he promised when asking forgiveness. If he does not fulfill his promises, it is possible that the forgiveness will be canceled and the decree will be changed. He used to tell the famous story about Maran the Chasam Sofer, who said on the night of Simchas Torah of the year when he died that he had gone through Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur well, but on the night of Hoshanoh Rabbah they threw him out of the celestial community" (Lev Eliyahu, I, intro., p. 43).

How can a person know whether he has merited forgiveness on Yom Kippur? R' Yitzchok Blazer used to answer: "Our sages said `Sin stupefies a man's heart' (Yoma 39). If so, when sin is removed, obviously man's spiritual stupor will also disappear. If, therefore, a man feels himself clean, without spiritual stupor, that is a sure sign that his sins were forgiven. But if, choliloh, his heart remains as it was before, with the same stupor, then it is obvious that his sins were not absolved (Kochevei Or, p. 266).

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