Rabbi David Aaron
Excerpt from “Inviting G-d In”
Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement which is defined by love and forgiveness. On Yom Kippur we get a glimpse of ourselves, our choices, and our relationship to Hashem from another perspective-Hashem’s perspective-and come to recognize how inseparably close we are to Hashem. This is the transformative power of Yom Kippur. There is a cryptic verse in the book of Psalms: “The days were formed, and one of them is His.” Our sages say this day is Yom Kippur. There is one day-Hashem’s day-when we get a glimpse of the way the world looks from His perspective and everything changes in how we see ourselves. On Yom Kippur we see our lives from the perspective of the World to Come, where we’ll get to see the whole picture. The Talmud teaches that in this world, when something good happens to us, we praise Hashem: “Blessed is He who is good and does good.” But when something bad happens, we must say, “Blessed is He who is a true judge.” However, in the future we will say, “Blessed is He who is good and does good” even about the misfortunes in our lives. In other words, when we will look back and see the whole picture, we will realize that every bad thing that happened to us contributed to Hashem’s plan, which is to bring upon us ultimate goodness. This is also true about every bad thing that we did.
According to the Kabbalah, although we have the free choice to do other than Hashem’s will, Hashem is always in control. In other words, even when we can do other than Hashem’s will, we cannot oppose His will or undermine His plan. Therefore, when we have done wrong and are sorry for that, we must realize that no matter what we have done, it can all be recycled back into Hashem’s plan and contribute to the ultimate good of the world. Of course, this does not mean that we can just go ahead and do wrong. The path of transgression removes us from Hashem. This dis-tance causes us feelings of alienation and spiritual anguish, which may become manifest as physical ailments. However, it is important to remember that if we sincerely regret our wrongdoings and resolve never to do them again, then we are forgiven and our past will be recycled and put toward future good.
Yom Kippur is an amazing day of transformation when our darkest deeds from the past turn into light. This is because the light of the World to Come, so to speak, is shining into our world on this day. We can receive this light and be transformed by it if we connect with the expanded consciousness of Yom Kippur through the proper acts, prayers, and thoughts prescribed for the day.
Rosh Hashanah is a day dedicated to understanding ourselves and Hashem in the light of monotheism. Yom Kippur, however, celebrates how everything looks in the light of panentheism, which is the perspective of the World to Come.
Monotheism means that there is one Hashem, one King, and we are not Hashem. Panentheism (which should not be confused with pantheism) teaches that Hashem is not just the one and only ruling power and there are no other Hashems, but that Hashem is absolutely the one and only real-ity-there is nothing but Hashem, and we exist within Hashem. That does not mean that you and I are the Almighty. However, we are souls-sparks, aspects, and expressions of the Almighty. We do not exist apart from Hashem; rather, we exist within Him.
As the Kabbalah explains, in the beginning of Berashis, Hashem created a space within Himself, so to speak, and within that space, He created beings other than Himself. This self-imposed limitation is called tzimtzum, the constriction or withdrawal of divinity. Hashem withdrew and limited His endless being to create a space and a place for beings other than Himself-free beings who can do other than His will.
We exist within Hashem much as an idea exists within the mind of the thinker. The difference, however, is that an idea has no free choice. We have free choice but, mysteriously, any choice we make still remains within the context of Hashem’s being and the confines of Hashem’s will. Therefore, we are free and yet, ironically, Hashem is still absolutely in control. We are free to disobey and do other than Hashem’s will, but we are not able to oppose Hashem’s will or undermine His plan. This, of course, is a paradox that cannot be comprehended by our rational minds.
What difference, then, do our choices make?
Our real choice is whether to become a conscious partner with Hashem in the making of history or an unconscious tool in His plan. We can choose to do Hashem’s will and contribute to His plan in an active, conscious way and thereby experience the ecstasy of the unchangeable truth that Hashem is one and we are one with Hashem. Or we can choose to oppose Hashem’s will and, ironically, through our own choices, fulfill Hashem’s plan without even knowing it. When we do this, however, we deny ourselves the joyous knowledge of our inseparable connection to Hashem and instead suffer pains of alienation and separation from Hashem.
We choose to disobey Hashem’s will only when we mistakenly think that we exist as separate from and independent of Hashem. When we do that, we support and nurture illusions about ourselves. The truth is that our wrongdoings are actually our punishment. They make us feel disconnected, alienated, and isolated from Hashem, who is actually the ground, context, and essence of our very existence. In other words, our choices create our own heaven or hell.
If we knew deep in our hearts that Hashem is one and that we are one with Hashem, then even though we could do other than Hashem’s will, we would not want to.