RAV KOOK ON YOM HAKIPPURIM: THE DAY OF AT-ONE-MENT
“In the depths of the human soul the voice of God calls ceaselessly. The tumult of life can confuse the person so that most of the time they will not hear this voice.” (Maamarei HaRayah, p.113)
Yom HaKippurim-The Day of Atonement is our best yearly opportunity to hear this voice. In ‘Kol HaNevua-The Voice of Prophecy’ Rabbi David Cohen -Ha Rav HaNazir ZT’L, Rav Kook’s main student explains the Kabbalistic understanding of Yom Kippur:
“On the holy day, on Yom HaKippurim- we eat and drink from our holy inner voices of understanding. The fast is connected to the secret of inner eating and drinking.” (Kol HaNevua p. 249)
On Yom Kippur we are invited to step away from engagement with the material daily world and enter our inner Holy of Holies. Just like the Cohen HaGadol/High Priest entered the Holy of Holies 5 times during the Yom Kippur Temple service, we are invited to reflect that process and experience through our Yom Kippur prayers.
The act of fasting enables that process.
The liberation from pursuing our material sustenance frees us to tap into our spiritual wellsprings. Interestingly the numerical value of ‘עינוי-affliction’ (the things we desist from on YK), ‘צום-fast’ and ‘קול-call,voice’ are all 136. This is a hint to the reality that our fasting and separating from the physical allow the spiritual to come forth.
With this perspective we experience Yom Kippur not as a harsh day of suffering and deprivation to expiate us from our sins but as a glorious day of being in the Divine Presence more intensely and joyously than at any other time in the year.
A major theme in Rav Kook’s writings is the understanding that our capacity for communication with the Divine is deeply imbedded in our being:
“Waves from the higher realm act on our souls ceaselessly. The stirrings of our inner spiritual sensibilities are the result of the sounds released by the violin of our souls, as it listens to the echo of the sound emanating from the divine realm…All our endeavors in Torah and science are only to clarify whatever comprehensible words it is possible to distill from this divine voice that always reverberates in our inner ear.” (Orot HaKodesh 2:346)
Elsewhere, he writes:
“Understanding from within our own consciousness is the higher expression of spiritual progress. All that is learned by study is absorbed from the outside and is of lesser significance as compared with what is thought through within the soul itself. All that is acquired by study is only a profound strategy as to how to draw on what is hidden in the heart, in the depths of the soul, one’s inner understanding, from the knowledge within.” (Ibid, 1:188)
The Cohen Gadol/High Priest performs a very special and unique divine service on Yom Kippur. It is described extensively in the day’s liturgy. Rav Kook explains that each of us has an inner high priest and Yom Kippur is our opportunity to tap into it and enhance our unique personal divine service:
“Every person must know that they are called upon to serve according to their distinctive comprehension and feeling-according to the promptings of their own soul. In that world, which embraces endless other worlds, will they find the treasure of their life.
Be not confused by suggestions streaming into you from alien worlds which you do not properly comprehend, which you are not conditioned to introduce into your own pattern of life. Those worlds will find perfection in their own place, among those especially suited to establish and perfect them.
Each person must concentrate on their own inner worlds which are full of everything for them and embrace everything.” (Ibid, 3: 221)
This is a great blessing.
The Divine Imperative is for each person to hear and amplify the Divine Call within:
“The greater a person the more they must seek to discover themselves. The deep levels of our soul remain concealed from us so that we need to be alone frequently, to elevate our imagination, to deepen our thought, to liberate our mind. Final our soul will reveal itself to us by radiating some of its light upon us.
Then we will find our happiness.
We will rise above all lowliness.
We will elevate ourselves above the flux of events by submitting to and uniting ourselves with the events…
Then we will recognize every spark of truth, every spark of equity, wherever it makes its appearance in the world.
All all be drawn to us, without hostility, jealousy and rivalry. Peace and courage will dawn on us, compassion and love will shine in us. A zeal for accomplishment and work, a desire for action and creation, a yearning for silence and inner contemplation will join together in our spirit.
We will become holy.” (Ibid 3:270)
May we be blessed this Yom HaKippurim (and always) to shine in the light of our inner illumination and bring true holiness to all life.
G’mar Chatima Tova-
May we be sealed in the Book of Life.
Prepared by Rabbi Itzchak Evan-Shayish, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.haorot.com