Friday, October 07, 2011

Yom Kippur 5640 First Ma'amar

It is a mitzvah to eat and drink on the day before Yom Kippur in preparation for the fast.  Chazal teach us that whoever eats and drinks on the ninth of Tishrei is considered to have fasted on both the ninth and tenth of Tishrei.[1]  It is certainly a good idea to eat before a fast.  But why is this not simply good advice?  Why is it actually a mitzvah, a biblical requirement?  A mitzvah implies that the activity has value in and of itself.  What value does the activity of eating on Erev Yom Kippur have aside from preparing for the fast?

Chassidic masters[2] write that eating on Erev Yom Kippur rectifies all the eating of the entire year.  The masters are not referring to eating non-kosher food.  Rather they are referring to eating kosher food.  Why does our eating need rectification?  Chazal tell us that this world is likened to a hallway leading to a hall.[3]  Chazal teach us that we need to prepare ourselves in the hallway of this world in order to merit entering the hall of the next world.  We need to use this world to prepare for entering the next world.  Eating and drinking are essentially neutral activities.  Our intent imbues the activity with meaning.  If we partake of the pleasures of this world represented by eating and drinking, for the sole purpose of preparing ourselves for the next world, we’ve performed a mitzvah.  If we partake of this world’s pleasures merely to satisfy our desires and lusts, we are using this world in an inappropriate way and we have sinned.

The Sfas Emes explains that this physical world enclothes the next world, which is spiritual, similar to the way our physical bodies enclothe our souls.  Just as our actions affect our souls, physical activity in this world has spiritual ramifications in the next.  We find, for example, a pasuk in Iyov (27:17), “יָכִין וְצַדִּיק יִלְבָּשׁ .../(The wicked) will prepare and the righteous will wear it …”  This refers to the gross physicality that enclothes the spirituality of the righteous.  Our sinful actions therefore require rectification.  They have caused damage that needs to be and can be fixed. 

Eating and drinking with improper intent require rectification.  In order to help our repentance on Yom Kippur we need to reenact the deed by eating and drinking on Erev Yom Kippur.  Why?  Chazal teach us that repentance is denied the one who sins rationalizing that he will eventually repent.[4]  The Sfas Emes explains that this is because the repentance is flawed.  The sin is in the repentance itself.  During the act of the sin, the sinner is thinking about the eventual repentance.  From this we learn that the opposite is the case as well.  Thinking about the act of the sin during the repentance rectifies that act.  We reenact the activity of the sin with proper intentions in order to remind us of the sinful act during repentance.   

Yom Kippur represents the next world.[5]  Just as in the next world so too on Yom Kippur there is no eating or drinking.[6]  Eating and drinking on Erev Yom Kippur in preparation for Yom Kippur reminds us that we are supposed to partake of this world’s pleasures to prepare for the next world.

The act of eating and drinking in preparation for the fast reminds us of the correct approach to eating and drinking during the entire year and in fact rectifies the eating and drinking that we did during the year merely to satisfy our desires.  Experiencing the proper approach to eating and drinking on Erev Yom Kippur is a powerful tool to ensure a complete repentance on Yom Kippur.  May we merit it!

[1] Yoma 81b
[2] Tiferes Shlomo 43a
[3] Avos 4:16
[4] Yoma Mishna 8:9
[5] Shelah Pesachim 110 in addendum
[6] Brachos 17a

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