Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Realistic is Relative (Kol Nidrei 5767)

Often times, in a moment of inspiration and clarity, we vow to better ourselves. When the moment fades and we find ourselves basically back where we started, we can barely imagine how foolish we were to have thought that we could sustain such a high and actually hold to the levels we aspired and committed to. So we get depressed thinking that we are failures, unable to solidify what we believed were genuine feelings of conviction and clarity.

At the start of Yom Kippur, we know “good and well” what may transpire over the course of the next twenty-five hours. We will be moved. Our souls will be tugged at. We will yearn to be better and to reclaim our rightful place as children in their Father’s embrace. We may throw caution to the wind and say, “I don’t care about my limitations! I need to come home! There is nothing that is too much!” And we will invariably commit to something very lofty or pledge to never or always do something, setting ourselves up for failure as soon as Neila is over. While we must never condemn these kabalos (resolutions) for they are the product of the most authentic moments of a Jew’s life, we must still be prepared to successfully navigate the aftermath when we rediscover our limitations.

This is the idea behind the Kol Nidrei service. Nullifying vows is a rather odd way to start off the holiest day of the year. But in light of the aforementioned, we are not really annulling the promises that we’ve made during the previous year; we did that on Erev Rosh Hashana already. Rather, we are invalidating the vows that we are going to make on this Yom Kippur, as many versions of Kol Nidrei say explicitly, "מיום כפורים זה עד יום הכפורים הבא עלינו לטובה" – “From this Yom Kippur until the next.” We value those moments of "ernstkeit", sincerity and authenticity, where we summon the deepest parts of ourselves and demand perfection and drastic measures; we are going to make those commitments no matter what. We won’t be able to help it; that is the most “realistic” part of us. But, like Rebbe Akiva entering the Pardes, we must be נכנס בשלום – we must enter into this endeavor with a wholesome approach, at peace. We must be cognizant of having to face the morning after and we can thereby be יצא בשלום – we can leave in peace. Hopefully we will make good on some of those promises. By exiting Yom Kippur at peace with our accomplishments over the day and knowing who we will have to face in the mirror the next morning, we will be able to work on the more realistic, viable goals. And we will definitely also benefit immeasurably by being able to recall those truest moments of longing and closeness and those memories will give us the fortitude and courage requisite to push through the more challenging seasons of the year.

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